December 31, 2014 marks the 261st day since a group of Boko Haram militants on the night of 14–15 April 2014, broke into the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok and took away approximately 276 female students, of whom 53 escaped. Houses in Chibok were also burnt down in the incident.
The reaction of the Federal Government of Nigeria has been a mixture of denials, indifference, annoyance and even brutalization of those calling for Government to take decisive action to bring the girls home. The initial reaction of the government was to deny the account of the kidnapping.
Over the 19–20 April weekend, the military released a statement claiming that more than 100 of the kidnapped girls had been rescued. The statement was retracted when evidence surfaced to discredit it. In September 2014, the Nigerian government backtracked after saying the girls had been rescued and were being held in military barracks. The government had, once again, raised and dashed the hopes of the girls’ return.
On 17 October 2014, the FG raised hopes that the remaining girls might soon be released after the Nigerian army announced a truce between Boko Haram and government forces following a month of negotiations with representatives of the group in Chad. But on November 1, a video appeared of the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, saying no ceasefire agreement had been reached and that the girls had converted to Islam and had been married off. Meanwhile, duped into a false ceasefire, the government had ordered its forces, which had been on the offensive against the terrorists, to stand down. This lull enabled Boko Haram to regroup and seize more territory in bloody raids.
The government has been busy pointing fingers everywhere. When the Nigerian government is not complaining about insufficient foreign aid, intelligence and guns, it’s busy intimidating the #BringBackOurGirls movement for continuing to bring daily attention to the unresolved issue of the kidnapped schoolgirls.
The kidnappings also brought to light how utterly compromised Nigeria’s military forces have become. Soldiers without decent weapons and armor, shortchanged financially by superiors, and deprived of able generalship, have been fleeing battles. Several battles have been lost to the questionable calls of ill-prepared and distracted commanders. Soldiers now carry out open mutiny against their generals, and write open letters to media houses.
The Nigeria Military are now seizing newspapers on the streets and denouncing media houses in press conferences. By now, the Nigerian government ought to have been persuaded that it needs to overhaul an institution that is short on motivation and the equipment of modern anti-terror warfare, an institution that is clearly struggling in its battle against Boko Haram.
As the year has come to a close, the happy ending that the whole world is praying for the Chibok girls has not materialized, and it has become clear that the girls will not return as a group since the opportunity for a mass rescue has been lost. Not even the added motivation of an upcoming election has raised any realistic hopes of retrieving the girls.
Beyond the predicament of the Chibok girls and their families, the abduction has highlighted Nigeria’s miserable leadership failure, the crass irresponsibility and uncaring attitude of Nigerian leaders, and the government’s inability to protect its own people. The lingering travail of the Chibok girls and their families is also an indication of our military’s loss of face and trust despite unprecedented offers of assistance from the world’s most powerful governments.
The fate of the kidnapped schoolgirls haunts Nigeria and all its affairs. For this reason and many more, the Chibok Girls are Nigeria Village Square’s People of the Year.
Guest Columnist What does the US really want for Palestine?
By Daoud Kuttab It is not clear why the United States is unable to be the honest broker that it regularly states it wants to be when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The most recent vote in the United Nations Security Council is a case in point. Everyone knew that Washington was opposed to the Palestinian proposed resolution that attempted to put a date to the end of Israel’s occupation to Palestinian territory. The US and other countries repeatedly say they agree to the idea but prefer that it is accomplished in a different way. To prove their point, the US put pressure on African allies specifically Nigeria not to vote in favour of the resolution even though this oil producing African country recognised Palestine and until half It is not clear why the United States is unable to be the honest broker that it regularly states it wants to be when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The most recent vote in the United Nations’ Security Council is a case in point. Everyone knew that Washington was opposed to the Palestinian proposed resolution that attempted to put a date to the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. The US and other countries repeatedly say they support the idea but prefer that it is accomplished in a different way. To prove their point, the US put pressure on African allies, specifically Nigeria, not to vote in favour of the resolution even though this oil-producing African country recognised Palestine and until half an hour before the vote reaffirmed it would favour it. So having flexed its muscles and accomplished its goal of rendering the Palestinian resolution’s defeat, why did the US continue to oppose a resolution the substance of which it says it supports? Why couldn’t the US just follow the example of its European ally Britain and abstain? An abstention would not have changed anything but it would have sent a clear message to all parties that when it can, the US is willing to show that it is an honest broker.
Perhaps this is too much to ask and perhaps it is best that the world, especially Palestinians, give up on the pretence that the US can, even during US President Barack Obama’s second term, show a minimum of self respect and act in the same way as it talks. Abstainning doesn’t mean supporting. It simply means, as the UK representative said after the vote that Britian supports much of the content of the resolution and will work with the parties to reach an accepted resolution. The US is upset that after the defeat of their resolution in the Security Council, they have decided to seek help from another international agency – this time the International Criminal Court. But the US ability to engage and pressure Palestinians has been badly hurt by its unnecessary vote. Imagine if the US representative Samantha Power had simply abstained from voting. It would have sent a message to Palestinians and Israelis that the US has the independence to make its own mind and to state its own position. Abstainning doesn’t mean supporting. It simply means, as the UK representative said after the vote that Britian supports much of the content of the resolution and will work with the parties to reach an accepted resolution. “We are convinced that it is possible, with further time and effort, to secure for the first time ever a resolution which commands full Security Council support.” Instead the US legitimised the perpetuation of the Israeli occupation, ignoring the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry who put the blame of the failure of peace talks squarely on the shoulders of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
By voting against the relatively moderate Palestinian resolution, the US has given encouragement to the policies of obfuscation and delay in the negotiations. A resolution that France and Luxembourg were able to vote for – and the United Kingdom abstain from – shouldn’t have produced an opposing vote by the US.
UN resolution ‘not representative’ of Palestinians
Palestinians are using the most acceptable approach in finding an end to the decades long occupation of their land. The tools available to them have been exhausted and world powers continue to play politics as the suffering of Palestinians continues unabated. When Israel occupied Palestinian and Arab lands in 1967, it didn’t ask anyone’s permission. When the UN Security Council met, they argued in the preamble to resolution 242 that it is “inadmissible to take land by force”. Israeli troops backed by western countries took Palestinian lands in six days and have not left since. It is now more than 47 years since. Giving Israel three years to end this occupation should have been embraced – or at least not opposed by the world’s leading power. The US remains the most powerful country in the world and it can actually help bring peace to the Middle East. However, its one sided vote at the Security Council, when it could have easily abstained without the vote having any different result, has sent the wrong message. Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist, is a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.