A Nigerian Nightmare
Unfurling of a Nightmare
Time - 11:30 p.m
Date - 14 April, 2014
Place - Chibok, a small town in eastern Nigeria
In a dastardly act of despicable crime against humanity, a band of foot soldiers of the banned militant outfit 'Boko Haram' swoop on an all-girls boarding school. A few security personnel stationed in the premises abandon their posts and run for their lives, leaving the children in their charge to their fate. A few children manage to escape the clutches of the desperadoes and flee for safety. Nearly 300 children are abducted and carried away.
Chibok Kidnapping Destruction
Nigeria is the top oil producer of Africa. Its population of 170 million is split roughly evenly into Christians and Muslims. A militant outfit by the name of 'Boko Haram' came into existence five years ago with the aim of reviving a medieval Islamic Caliphate in modern Nigeria. Its acts of insurgency have already claimed thousands of lives, both military and civilian. The fate of the abducted children has been hanging fire, with the teams of military men deployed by the Nigerian government to trace the terrorists and rescue the children, having had no success so far. The children are believed to be still in Nigeria, held captive in the Sambisi forests bordering Cameroon.
Boko Haram has released a chilling video showing a group of abducted girls clad in a cloak-like garment called 'hijab' which allowes barely the face and hands to be seen. The children are shown reciting Quranic verses. Most of the abducted children are Christian. According to Abu Bakr Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, who is seen making a speech in the video, all the girls had converted to Islam and would be sold as slaves or married off to his soldiers unless the Nigerian government released all Boko Haram soldiers arrested and held prisoners. He claimed that God had asked him to sell the girls as slaves and that there was a market for slaves.
The international community has expressed outrage at the despicable act of terrorism. The UN Security Council has issued a statement stating that the member-states have expressed an intention to "actively follow" the situation regarding the abducted children and "consider appropriate measures" against Boko Haram. It has sternly reminded the extremists that their act was against international law and was not admissible under any circumstances.
USA and Britain, which have strongly denounced the kidnappings, have rushed military and intelligence experts to Nigeria to help the authorities in their search operations. They have also offered surveillance planes. Israel and some other countries including France and China, are expected to join the efforts to bring the girls home. On its part, the Nigerian government, headed by Prime Minister Goodluck Jonathan, has offered to hold negotiations with Boko Haram, in a reversal of its earlier policy of no talks with terrorists.
Decline in Economy
While the combined efforts of the Nigerian authorities and the Western military and intelligence experts, with the solid backing of the international community, may eventually pay off and the hapless victims reunited with their parents, the security and law and order situation in Nigeria is hardly likely to improve, let alone stabilize. The insurgency operations which have already claimed thousands of lives, are likely to wreak much more bloodshed in the future if effective counter-measures are not immediately put in place. The Nigerian government needs to firmly put down militancy and terrorist acts in a sustained manner so as to avoid recurrence of crimes against the civilian population.
True to its name, which means 'Western education is sinful,' Boko Haram believes that the place of a woman is her home. It advocates women not to get education, get married and raise children. To this end, it has been demanding that Western education be banned forthwith in Nigeria.
The people of Nigeria who have grown tired of their government's failure to bring the kidnapped children home, have been staging protest marches. They have, of late, formed vigilante groups to fight the militants. The militants who have suffered losses, have carried out reprisals.
Fighting terrorism, be it in Nigeria or elsewhere, presupposes a heavy drain on the affected nation's economy in terms of human lives and scarce resources badly required for improving the conditions of impoverished people. Developing countries tend to slide back into sluggish conditions, leading to retrograde economy. In countries which are victims of political turbulence and instability, there is often a high incidence of corruption. The ruling elite, whose very survival in power is in great peril in the face of attacks by armed desperadoes, vie with each other to plunder the country's resources while the going is good for them.
In the instant case, parents of the kidnapped children shown in the video released by Boko Haram, live in a small village which has little electricity and no internet facilities. The lives of the girls who had the prospects of competing with their peers in developed countries with the help of quality education and becoming economically independent and self-reliant in due course of time, are in a great danger of being snuffed out. So is the case with their parents' hopes. In the State's innumerable battles against terrorism, the hapless victims are the people - both innocent bystanders and the security forces.
Wide-eyed innocent children who have the audacity to dream of economic liberation and emancipation from mouldy, procrustean values and become a part of fortunate sections of humanity in their inexorable march to world peace and progress, get caught in the cross wires of terrorism. To the merchants of terror, children do not constitute so much as human lives but mere bargaining chips. Any human life lost, whether man or woman, is a despicable act and should be condemned by one and all in unequivocal terms. When a child is killed in an act of terrorism or meted out a fate worse than death, it is not only the child who suffers, but also the parents, relatives, friends, teachers and members of the society who are even remotely connected with the child, who end up paying an inestimable price in terms of emotions, hopes, aspirations and all the positive values that thousands of years of human evolution have thrown up. The crime verily has ripple effects on humanity as a whole.
Sustained Efforts by the International Community
Right-thinking people of all countries should rise as one and condemn the kidnappings of the children of Nigeria with all the conviction and fortitude at their command. No price or effort is too heavy, nor any sacrifice too small to bring OUR girls home. Abduction and slavery of children call for the waging of a war which must be won for the very survival of humanity.
Nigeria's Need of the Hour
The war-weary Nigerian government should, without further loss of time, engage the terrorists in talks for bringing about a national reconciliation. They should, however, give no quarter to demands for abolition of Western education and revival of moth-eaten medieval beliefs and practices. Nigerian girls should be allowed to choose what they want.
The new Indian government, due to be sworn in shortly, should readily join the international community in its war against terrorism. India herself has paid a heavy price in fighting terrorism on home turf. She should not merely stand up and be counted; but play her role as a regional big power by joining forces with countries like China which have been proactive in the matter; and claim her rightful place among the comity of nations.
© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman