BPAF (Press and leadership briefing, May 15, 2014, at the Community Information Center at 516 Warren St. Roxbury). The Speaker is former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, and Mrs Arese Carrington.
Those attending included, beside WRJ, Joyce Hope Scott, Mimi Jones, Alex Asare, Robert Johnson, Reginald Jackson, Helein Simmonds, Christle Rawlin-Jackson, Bill Owens, and BCIC host Sadiki Kambon . No press representatives came.
BPAF President, Joyce Hope-Scott, welcomed the guest speakers, and attendees, and reported on the BPAF Annual Meeting of the previous evening, in which the principal speaker had been Mr. Oscar Sierra, the Deputy Consul for Boston, from Venezuela . She mentioned that a Press Statement had been drafted by Walter Carrington, and a press release had been sent out and press representatives had been invited by the Center.
Walter Carrington: thanked the BPAF for this meeting and attempting to call attention to the issue of the abduction of school girls in northern Nigeria. Much has happened since the statement he drafted for the BPAF had been sent out. By now, US reconnaissance planes are scouring the area where the abductions occurred. There has now been a response not only by the US, for which we are grateful, but also the UK, and even China. He hopes that this will light a fire beneath the Nigerian Government to do more and be more effective in freeing these hostages.
It is regrettable that it was three weeks before the story got picked up by the press. The President, Goodluck Jonathan, even held an event in the North, soon after the episode, without making any public statement about the abductions, and his wife had even had a protester arrested. The world wide protests have now moved the Nigerian Government to (appear) to care and do something.
W. Carrington feels that there would have been no chance to find the girls without outside (especially US) involvement. However, there will likely be many killed if there is military intervention.
He noted that negotiation is still an option on the table. Despite the general admonition “never to negotiate with terrorists,” Carrington noted that even Isreal has done so. The Nigerian Government recently brought home its own most experienced negotiator, the Nigerian Ambassador to Australia. However, President Jonathan says he will not accept the condition the Boko Haram has mentioned (exchanging the captives for BH leaders being held in jail).
The BH video was meant to show that at least some of the abducted girls are still alive. Carrington asserted that BH is NOT a branch of the Al Qaeda. It is a local organization. He believes that AQ has no command and control over BH. They basically want to make Nigeria an Islamic state, a la Taliban style.
Mainstream Islamic spokespersons and organizations have condemned the BH actions, and have made no statement of support for them. Instead, the BH is more isolated, even among the Islamic world.
It was the BH itself that did first mention negotiation (but on terms not acceptable by the government).
Carrington does not think that the government should accept the first offer made for an exchange – noting that it was a qualified offer – to free ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE NOT CONVERTED TO ISLAM. The ones shown in the video may be considered by them to have converted, since they had been dressed in Islamic garb.
The situation is still fluid, with negotiation perhaps possible to get most of them back. Carrington feels the need to see the whole video to really understand what the offer really was – there is not much change since it was first shown (yesterday?) There have been good reports in the NYT, they have had Adam Nossider located in Maiduguri. One of his articles has been picked up by the Boston Globe.
Arese Carrington then spoke. She thanked the BPAF for convening this meeting. Why is this situation so important? – because of the girls themselves. These women were and are disadvantaged. We should all consider them as OUR OWN DAUGHTERS. We should do whatever we can here to get the girls released safely.
We should put the spot-light on the whole issue of the prospects for girls (in Nigeria, Africa, and the world.) There is a problem of them getting an education. We need to act fast — the BH may even have already brain-washed these young girls, making them think that their own society was not as good for them as what the BH offers.
Consider that at least 49% percent of the whole Nigerian population is female. We can’t get development there if we ignore this portion of the population. Some girls are put into (even sold) into marriage as early as 9 years old.
The abducted girls had tried to get out of that framework of life, by seeking a good education. If you can educate such girls, you do promote more general development for the whole country, the continent and even the world. We all benefit. If we fight for the rights of these girls and reintegrate them into society, they may still bear scars from this ordeal.
It will take a long term approach, that goes well beyond even their release.
Keep in mind that ¼ of all African women are Nigerian. We need to do more to get out statements, pointing out not only the moral aspects, but also their ongoing economic needs. We should push for these governments to attend to the needs of their own population.
Walter Carrington mentioned other next steps – promote a better understanding of what kind of assistance the US will give. There can be too much emphasis on the military aspects. We should be careful not to expand the role of the AFRICOM. There is a danger that this will bring the “war on terrorism” into Black Africa.
Consider the case of Mali, which was something of a poster child for the AFRICOM (the US military command unit for Africa, now based in Germany, because no African state, except US oriented Liberia, had agreed to host it.) The US had trained the Mali army, and one of the stars of this project, “our guy” there, wound up leading the coup that overthrew the Mali government, brought chaos, troubles in Timbuktu etc. It finally took French military intervention to reverse this.
It will take proper reconnaissance to locate these abducted girls.
Also, we should push the Nigerian Government to pay more attention to the North in general. And, take note of the differences in the practice of Islam in Nigeria and Black Africa more generally, versus the Arab world and the Middle East. There has been the experience of real democracy in Moslem countries in Black Africa. Good examples are Mali and Senegal.
In Nigeria, the BH is actually active in states that already have Sharia.
But, education and development does lag in northern Nigeria, despite the prominence of the North in the political system (all but two of the Prime Ministers or Presidents have been from the North). And there has been no attention paid to providing education for girls. The North does feel deprived, socially, compared to the South.
We should keep the fire burning at the feet of the Nigerian Government to do what they should be doing. At least, finally, the government is beginning to send representatives to the villages.
Alex Asare pointed out that there is supposed to be “alternance” in the leadership between the North and South in Goodluck Janathan’s own party. He has not carried that through.
W Carrington noted that elections are due a year from now. President GJ has been trying to use this present episode to his own and his party’s political advantage. He says this BH trouble is being carried out in the opposition areas.
The real division, however, is between North and South, not Moslem and Christian (WC notes that in the South the Yoruba are about evenly divided between Moslem/Christian, but that their own historical culture is considered more important that that.)
Helaine Simmonds asked if there is a credible opposition to the present government. WC answered YES, if they hold together, and if the elections are conducted fairly.
Arese Carrington noted that the BH is against western culture, and against education of women – it is a gender issue. We should take note of the Amnesty International report on the abductions. They noted that the government did nothing, even with four days warning before the abductions.
Joyce H-Scott asked “who is financing the BH ? (since they have modern weapons)” She wonders “ who might gain from destabilizing Africa’s largest country?”
Arese was not sure, but noted that they (the BH) have money and resources themselves. Walter also noted that they have demanded, and received, ransom in previous cases. They have resources, on their own, and don’t really need financial outside help. The outside country that might most benefit would probably be China, which wants the Nigerian oil that is now going to the US and other countries.
Respectfully submitted, Willard R. Johnson, BPAF Senior Advisor