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2015-01_dc

ing-by pedestrians died because of a sui­ cide bombing in Abuja. In June 2013, Boko Haram was finally declared a terror organi­ sation by the Ni­gerian government. In ­November 2013, the US administration fol­ lowed suit. The Nigerian government had dragged its feet over labelling the sect as a terrorist group because of the north-south divide. A year earlier, it had even success­ fully lobbied the US not to use the tag “ter­ rorist group”. The state of emergency, which paved way for a full-scale military offensive, was initially declared in May 2013. It has since been extended three times, bringing Ni­ geria’s military under intense scrutiny. The same armed forces that had helped to re­ store peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia in a mission run by ECOWAS (Economic Com­ munity of West African States), proved un­ able to quell a home-grown insurgency. Allegations of corruption were made. It turned out that the military had bought sub-standard equipment and embezzled funds. Some observers suspect that the ter­ rorists have supporters in the security forces and other government agencies. Frustration culminated in a mutiny in May this year. Troops shot at a high rank­ ing officer they accused of having deliber­ ately sent them into an ambush in which Boko Haram killed several soldiers. To a large extent, the military has lost its sense of discipline. International non-governmental or­ ganisations such as Amnesty International have accused the security forces of human rights abuse, including torture, indiscrimi­ nate arrests and extrajudicial killings. The military denies everything. Its image, how­ ever, was further damaged when the Hu­ man Rights Commission of Nigeria’s gov­ ernment indicted it for the murder of innocent tricycle operators in Abuja, under the pretence that they were terrorists plan­ ning to infiltrate the city. Meanwhile, Boko Haram continues to launch ever more, in­ creasingly dangerous attacks in various parts of the country. Abuja is being hit more frequently and at shorter intervals. Kidnapped girls The attention of the world turned to Nigeria on 14 April 2014, when the terrorist group abducted over 200 teenage girls from a sec­ ondary school in Chibok in Borno state. The nation was shocked at the ease with which the militants were able to move over 200 girls around in a region supposed to be under military rule. Boko Haram claimed responsibility and announced it would keep the victims as slaves. Nigerians expected their government to act fast. But the steps that followed were disappointing. The day after the abduction, the military announced that it had rescued most of the girls from their kidnappers, but had to retract the statement the same day. Its leaders had to admit they did not know where the girls were, nor could they provide the precise number of kidnapped persons. The Borno state government is led by a party that is part of the opposition at the national level. It threw jibes at the federal government, saying the state of emergency was useless. The Federal Ministry of Edu­ cation claimed that it had advised the gov­ ernors of the three states under emergency rule to close down all schools after a terror attack on a school in February that had left 29 schoolboys dead. As the state government compiled the names of the missing girls from their par­ ents and the school in Chibok, Boko Haram released a video showing the abducted girls. Several of the parents identified their daughters in the video. International media tuned its attention to Nigeria, and the situation became em­ barrassing for the government. It had to ask the international community for help and enlisted the support of the USA, Britain, Is­ rael, Canada and other nations into a joint effort to have the girls released. Human- rights activists started the group #Bring Back Our Girls# to keep up the media heat. The government accuses it of being funded by the opposition. Up to now, the military actions have not been successful. Meanwhile, the plight of the kidnapped girls continues, and so does Boko Haram’s violence against the poor and vulnerable people of Nigeria’s north. Damilola Oyedele is senior correspondent of THISDAY, a Nigerian newspaper, and specialises in foreign affairs and gender issues. She lives in Abuja, Nigeria. [email protected] TonyNwosu/picture–alliance/dpa Soldiers in an armoured vehicle they seized from Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Nigeria.

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