- Pope calls for prayers
Israeli counter-terrorism experts have joined the search for the Chibok girls, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said yesterday in a statement after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Abati said Jonathan was “very optimistic that with the entire international community deploying its considerable military and intelligence-gathering skills and assets in support of Nigeria’s efforts to find and rescue the abducted Chibok girls, success will soon be achieved”.
He said the President accepted the Israeli offer to send a team of counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations.
“The President briefed Mr. Netanyahu on actions already being taken by Nigeria’s armed forces and security agencies to locate and rescue the girls, saying that Nigeria would be pleased to have Israel’s globally-acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations.
“Mr. Netanyahu, who expressed Israel’s total condemnation of the mass abductions, said the team of experts from his country, who will soon arrive in Nigeria, will work in collaboration with teams from the United States and Britain who are already in the country and their Nigerian counterparts to intensify the search for the girls.
“He reaffirmed Israel’s willingness to give the government and people of Nigeria all possible support and assistance to overcome terrorism and insecurity.”
The United States, Britain, France and China had earlier offered to help. The UK and the US team are already in Nigeria, working with the military.
Close to 300 youngsters were kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok, Borno State on April 15. It is believed that 53 managed to escape, but 273 are still missing.
One of the teenagers who escaped from the Islamic extremists has said the kidnapping was “too terrifying for words”, and she is now scared to go back to school.
Sarah Lawan, a 19-year-old science student, spoke yesterday as Nigerians prayed for the safety of the 276 students still held captive. Their prayers were joined by Pope Francis.
Lawan told The Associated Press that more of the girls could have escaped but that they were frightened by their captors’ threats to shoot them. She spoke in the Hausa language in a phone interview from Chibok, her home and the site of the mass abduction.
The failure to rescue those who remain captive four weeks later has attracted mounting national and international outrage. Last week, Nigeria accepted international help in the search, after ignoring offers for weeks.
Pope Francis lent his voice to the ongoing social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.
The Pope asked Catholic faithful to pray for missing Chibok schoolgirls.
The Pope tweeted:
Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) May 10, 2014
Prime Minister David Cameron promised Sunday that Britain “will do what we can” to help find the girls.
He made the comments as he held a sign bearing the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”
Cameron and Pope Francis are the latest high-profile supporters of the social media campaign. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama tweeted a photo of herself with a similar poster last week.
#BringBackOurGirls has become the most popular hashtag in Nigeria this year, with the Twitter trend hitting over a million tweets. The hashtag has gone from a local trend to receiving international attention in the last seven days.
The hashtag is also very popular on Facebook and Instagram, receiving over 150,000 posts on the latter.
It has been posted by a number of global celebrities and personalities, actress Angelina Jolie and singer Chris Brown.
The International Criminal Court said the number and intensity of attacks has risen sharply this year.
It called on Boko Haram to release the girls immediately.
“The troubling phenomenon of targeting females during conflict, this time, in Borno state, cannot be tolerated and must be stopped,” said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “No stone should be left unturned to bring those responsible for such atrocious acts to justice, either in Nigeria or at the ICC.”
CIA Director John Brennan told the TV network Fusion that the United States is doing “everything we can” to determine the girls’ location, a mission President Barack Obama has made a priority.
Worldwide protest continued yesterday. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and at least 200 local residents, and elected officials, all representing a cross section of activists and concerned citizens, took part in a rally in front of the Nigerian Consulate on Saturday afternoon. It was the second such gathering in front of the Consulate.
The New York Mayor weighing in on the issue is significant for a locally elected official in the U.S.
Most U.S. mayors and governors avoid speaking out on a global issue not directly touching their jurisdiction, even one as controversial as the kidnapping of the 200 plus female students in Nigeria.
That mayor de Blasio spoke out, and marched alongside fellow citizens will likely change the tenor of the debate in America’s most international of cities. De Blasio, who addressed the crowd of roughly 200, said the kidnappings in Borno State “should be denounced around the world”. His wife and daughter at the march that assembled in front of the consulate joined the mayor.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, and some members of his National Action Network team in Harlem, took part in the march and rally, bringing further media attention to the issue. Some Harlemites, like Lesha Sekou, marched the five-mile trek from uptown to the mid-town Nigerian consulate. Sekou, an anti-gun violence organiser, led a group of about 50 Harlem residents to the rally. She said that she was there because the 200 plus Nigerian school girls were abducted at gunpoint.
Some Ghanaian women yesterday marched through the capital Accra, to demand the release of the schoolgirls.
They presented a petition signed by over 300 people to the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, saying: “We are just a representative of the swelling voices of Ghanaians and other people round the world who believe that any extra second we spend not finding our girls is one second too many.”
They held placards, which read: “Bring back our girls”; “Release the girls now”; and “We want action now’’.
One of the leaders of the Ghanaian women that marched, Eugenia Techie Menson, Chief Executive Officer of Young Educators Foundation, said: “Girls have the basic right to be educated and to be girls; girls have the inalienable right to be girls.”
The Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Ademola Oluseyi Onafonoka, after receiving the petition, said:”… Let me thank you for your out pouring of emotions, solidarity, for your empathy; I am assuring you as a father that our daughters will be found and brought back to all of us alive and well.’’
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has intensified collaboration with the Federal Government to combat cross border terrorist activities carried out by Boko Haram, ECOWAS Communication Director Sonny Ugoh said yesterday.
Ugoh says the regional bloc is also working with other neighboring regional organisations including the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to improve security in their member states, following the girls’ abduction.
“There is a collective sense that ECOWAS is willing and determined to support the Nigerian government to address this menace, because what affects one member state affects the others; that is the spirit of the ECOWAS Integration project. There is a sense of solidarity [and] the value for the support of each other,” said Ugoh.
His comments follow a U.N. Security Council demand for an unconditional release of the girls abducted by Boko Haram militants.
The chairman of the ECOWAS commission, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, issued a solidarity statement to President Goodluck Jonathan to assure him of the regional bloc’s support to combat the Boko Haram militants.
“There is recognition, both locally and internationally, that this is an unacceptable behavior. And in response to that the international community has risen to support the ECOWAS position,” said Ugoh. “ECOWAS is ready and willing to work with the Nigerian government to see how this [violence] can be addressed, and use the opportunity to also make a point about the need for us to now increase collaboration within West Africa.”
“Some of the terrorism issues that we have to deal with have to do with the situation in the Sahel. So there is a larger issue of the Sahel impact on [us],” said Ugoh. “We are actively working to have a holistic response to these and then working beyond West Africa with our neighbors to see how we can collaborate in responding to the dynamics and the specifics of this in terms of the various manifestation of terrorism in West Africa.”[The Nation]