Friday, May 16, 2014

What Boko Haram Taught Me

By Raakhee Suryaprakash

Image (c) Raakhee Suryaprakash
I pride myself on my geography but the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and the Boko Haram’s atrocity taught me different. I didn’t know where Nigeria was! Blame it on the globe in my room, while Nigeria’s neighbours Chad, Cameroon, even Niger were in all caps while Nigeria alone in northwest Africa was written in title case! This past fortnight I have been bombarded with information about the region and the Boko Haram as I sought to find out how a terrorist organization could just waltz into a government secondary school, burn it down, and abduct 276 teenage girls. I have been educated on the issue and isn’t that a punch in the eye for Boko Haram as I found out that it literally means ‘Western Education Is Sin/Forbidden’ in the local dialect!

I also found out that Nigeria has emerged as the largest economy in Africa overtaking long-time leader South Africa. Thus the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa was hosted in Abuja, Nigeria, between May 7 and 9, 2014. I haven’t bothered to find out who attended although I did hear that the abduction of the school girls and the 276 still in those monsters’ clutches “overshadowed” the summit. Bad luck for Nigerian president Jonathan Goodluck! The participants – economic powers-that-be I’m sure – even observed a moment’s silence as a show of support to the girls. What I don’t get is when world leaders could make such a show of boycotting Commonwealth heads of government summit in Colombo in November 2013 over human rights violations during war then how could some of them endorse this summit in Nigeria? I know because Sri Lanka doesn’t have as much investment potential as Nigeria.

The only constant in international relations is self-interest let me show that how rescuing the school girls and exterminating the Boko Haram and making an example of them is in the interest of the world leaders:  
Let me quote Jacob Zenn first “Boko Haram is an outgrowth of the social, economic, and political troubles in northern Nigeria. The group gained a following under Muhammed Yusuf because he provided a satisfactory explanation for the failures in their society: the cultural corruption that European colonialism brought to undermine their faith in Islam. Yusuf absorbed al-Qaeda’s ideology as well as Saudi Arabia’s brand of Salafism. In turn, Shekau operationalized Yusuf’s thinking into a jihadist insurgency that continues to the present day. ... Shekau and Nur have sought to expand the reach of Yusuf’s ideological influence and focus on those whom Boko Haram believed were directly responsible for northern Nigeria’s “poverty and suffering” i.e. the Nigerian government, Westerners and Christians in the Middle Belt. ... Nigeria would be wise to address the frustrations of Nigerians throughout the country, especially in Borno State, in order to prevent the manifestation of such an ideology in the future. The country and its Muslim religious leaders [should] challenge the influence of Saudi wahabbism. ... The political defeat of the Islamist ideas of Boko Haram would contribute to curbing the influence of Islamism in Africa, and indeed the entire world.

As the Born Free generation in South Africa voted, a major human rights and democratic milestone and achievement for  South Africa and Africa in particular and the world in general the delay in information about the abduction and the Nigerian government and army’s lethargy in rescue efforts are proportionally regressive developments. Like the regressive Khaps in India seeking to keep the fairer sex chained to the home and the Muslim clerics going around issuing fatwas against girl bands – it’s a sin to make music but its ok to abduct young girls ... where are the fatwas against Boko Haram – the growing violence against women and outfits like the Boko Haram are all “Backlash against the Empowerment of Women.” Such regressive movements are just as much a manifestations of misogyny as much as they are reactions to Western ideology. There is a systematic genocide and apartheid on where victims are defined by their sex not race, religion, nationality and the powers-that-be are ignoring the screams of the victims. World leaders say that a nation cannot thrive until its women thrive, but actions speak louder than political rhetoric.

If Michelle Obama sees her daughters in these girls why haven’t Boko Haram been squashed like bugs and the girls rescued? The clock’s ticking – 3 weeks in captivity will add to their PTSD! They are not a flight missing. They are teenagers captive and forced to convert, at the mercy of terrorists. Couldn’t China exercise its emergent soft power in Africa and come into its own as a responsible world power? These young girls who just wanted to learn and get out of the cycle of poverty are the future of Africa. Their psyche has already been indelibly marked; they must be hearing the price that the savage put on them. They shouldn’t learn to think that $12 is their value.

Let them see that the power can be used for good ...let them see good in the world they inhabit. Their family, community, women around the world, powers that be, the world leaders haven’t abandoned them. Better late than never...the world has come to their rescue.

It was heartening to note that at a time where there wasn’t much information the Pakistani Daily Dawn condemned the kidnapping. As per yesterday’s press conference US resources have been tapped in the search and rescue efforts.

Boko Haram has targeted children. Just as Herod and Kamsa sanctioned the massacre of male infants in the quest to pre-emptively eliminate their enemy, Boko Haram is massacring students and kidnapping girls in the quest to obliterate Western ideology. They are a stain on the world conscience.   

This decade has witness the resurgence of the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. To me despite the growing economies, development, cocoa-nomics, the taming of the AIDS epidemic, and Africa’s biodiversity and natural and mineral bounty...until these girls are freed and Boko Haram destroyed as a warning to other such 
nascent misogynistic organisations...Africa will remain the Dark Continent.

“The Real Africa,” David Brooks, World View, The Hindu, Saturday, May 10, 2014, p. 11.
#BringBackOurGirls Social Media Campaign.
“Weak Institutions, Easy Targets,” editorial, The Hindu, Monday, May 12, 2014, p. 8.
“Free Prisoners, Says Boko Haram,” The Hindu, Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
 “Nigerian al-Qaedaism,” Jacob Zenn, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, Vol. 16 (