Firstly let me join in the condemnation of Boko Haram in this matter. Non-combatants cannot be used as human shields or bargaining chips in struggles which claim to be legitimate. Boko Haram activists appear to have kidnapped the girls and these girls should be returned. There can not be any justification for the kidnapping of the girls.
There are however structural problems in northern Nigeria within which this matter has arisen. failure to contextualise the problem will make us miss key issues. The people in the north of Nigeria have been left behind by the Nigerian federal authorities – since independence- and it is this cesspool of anger and frustration that is the recruiting sergeant for Boko Haram. Those porous colonial borders are such that people do not respect them because families, communities and tribes have crossed these areas since time immemorial before the colonial pen caused national divisions. Virtually every state in Africa is complicated by the issues in every neighbouring country. To solve the problems posed by Boko Haram requires not a military or security solution but the development, and re-imagining,of the post-colonial states in the region. It also raises questions about the foot-soldiers of Boko Haram who often are poor Muslim boys, from northern Nigeria and the neighbouring countries,who had left home for the only schooling that is available to them i.e. the Quranic school. These facilities are so poorly resourced and under such pressure that these youngsters are easy prey for Boko Haram. This is the same type of target for the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan and al-Qaeeda in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. It is not spying and reconnaissance missions but building schools, clinics, hospitals, libraries and houses whilst fighting poverty and disease and helping people to put food on the table that fights these issues. Boko Haram is a lens for under-development not lack of intelligence, rendition and torture.
Might I add that the Ugandan warlord Joseph Koney and his Lord’s Resistance Army had kidnapped many young girls and boys, hundreds of them. There has not been such an outcry of bringbackourchildren. Why? Where was the outcry?
When kidnapped women and girls return they are often pregnant and in our societies the stigma of rape and not being a virgin any more leads to social isolation. Not many men want to marry women who had been victims of war crimes. The children, the girls and women suffer alone whilst the rest of us move on to the next issue. This happens in every conflict zone. It even happens in our townships every day. Where is the outrage.
And for those who want to always whip up sectarian fights to the last drop of other peoples’ blood let me add that women, girls and young boys are kidnapped and raped in every war zone. Be careful when you make your comfortable speeches calling for people to fight fee sabeelillah and then let me say with a huge amount of shame in front of Allah that this crime is committed by all sides especially if the other side has been demonised as worse than animals. Their women, girls and young boys are kidnapped and raped. Their unborn are announced to the world in a red, messy way. That is war, jihad, chimurenga. In Latin America people are still looking for “the disappeared”. Who “disappeared” those who opposed the foreign sponsored coups and dictatorships? The very people who now lead the way against Boko Haram of course. Every major power that is sending assets to help to #bringbackourgirls has done and is doing the same thing. The Israelis have thousands of Palestinians in their prisons who have been languishing without charge, many of them are children. The industrial scale of the extraordinary rendition programmes is not different from the criminality of Boko Haram.
In Europe the EU Commission on Human trafficking has indicated that almost ten thousand women and girls are trafficked in the EU per annum. Many of the victims are, as elsewhere, from poor and marginalised countries. The kidnapped girls in Nigeria should not put Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The politicians from the EU should sweep in front of their own doors before rushing to make things worse in Nigeria. Look at Libya, it is an island of stability.
We must be careful what we wish for in our struggles. It is important to know who our enemies are and also their allies. Any time when one has Israel involved one must take another look. The day that Israel treats Palestinians as human beings worthy of dignity equal to that of a Jew then I will be prepared to welcome their support. Until then they and Boko Haram are part of the same problem.
Moosa Arendt is a political commentator based in the home counties in the UK.