Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has reportedly engaged in an effort to broker the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Takfiri Boko Haram militants.
Obasanjo has met with people close to the radical militants in an attempt to negotiate the release of the abducted schoolchildren, AFP reported Tuesday, citing a source close to the talks.
The meeting reportedly took place last weekend at Obasanjo’s farm in Ogun State and involved the relatives of some senior Boko Haram militants as well as mediators, the source added.
“The meeting was focused on how to free the girls through negotiation,” said the anonymous source, referring to the girls who were abducted on April 14 from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno State.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh stated Monday that the whereabouts of the girls had been located but cast doubt on the prospect of rescuing them by force. He further noted that the risks of storming the area with troops in a rescue mission were too great and could prove fatal for the young hostages.
According to the source, Obasanjo had voiced concern over Nigeria’s acceptance of foreign military intervention to help rescue the abducted girls.
Obasanjo is reportedly worried that Nigeria’s prestige in Africa as a major continental power had been diminished by President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to bring in Western military assistance, including by US forces.
Obasanjo, who left office in 2007, has previously sought to negotiate with the Takfiri militants, including in September 2011, after Boko Haram bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.
A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.
The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”
The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:
“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semi-desert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”
In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.
In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”
All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extra-judicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”
Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”
These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)
None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.
The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time, AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.
The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from… Africans.
When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.
Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.
Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americans and (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.
If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).
Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.
A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo Holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.
So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
The neoconservatives are going to extraordinary lengths to try and convince the world (and probably themselves) that ‘al Qaeda’ is a huge complex homogeneous business organisation that deals in ‘terrorism’ through various franchise organisations scattered throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.
In a recent article by neocon writers Josh Rogin and Eli Lake in The Daily Beast it was actually claimed that the leaders of the various ‘franchises’ around the world held a conference call to plan acts of terrorism. According to the report from Rogin and Lake we are supposed to believe that up to 20 ‘al Qaeda’ franchise managers were in on the conference call – a call which ultimately led to the US and some of their allies shutting down embassies in the Middle East and elsewhere. What led the participants of the conference to believe that their calls were not being monitored remains unexplained by the writers and their sources.
According to Rogin and Lake, participants included:
…representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula… The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.
US intelligence official? ‘… hit us in Tel Aviv’? Surely a slip of the tongue; tell me he meant Washington.
Just to reinforce the delusion, Abe Greenwald, a neoconservative propagandist writing in Commentary attempts to paint a picture of ‘al Qaeda in the Sinai’ that’s not so much bigger than life but more from a vivid imagination.
Do these neocons honestly think that any real such organisations would be dumb enough to have such a link-up conference?
Clearly they do because they also think that ordinary folk around the planet are dumb enough to believe their delusional nonsense.
All we have here are neocons perpetuating the myth of a larger than life ‘al-Qaeda’.
(For those interested, there is apparently an ‘al Qaeda’ franchise currently available in the Gaza Strip due to the Israelis defaulting on the franchise fee for one they attempted to start back in 2002.)
By Rafiu Oriyomi | IslamOnline.net | September 10, 2009
LAGOS — Nigerian police have been accused of indiscriminate arrest and harassment against Muslims across the country since clashes with the militant Boko Haram group killed at least 600 people…
In July, Boko Haram, a militant group opposed to anything modeled after the West, went on rampage in three north-western states attacking police stations and other facilities.
A massive security operation resulted in the killing of hundreds of militants including their leader Mohammed Yusuf and alleged financiers.
There have since been reports of constant police harassment of Muslims on the streets across the country.
“What qualified me for this wicked charge is my beard and attire,” fumed Saleh, 29, who met a number of other Muslims at the police station, arrested on the same charge.
“What this means is that all Muslims are members of the Boko Haram,” he stressed.
“And if that is the case, then there is a danger lurking around because we won’t take this from the government.”
The harassment is not limited to Borno or Yobe. Earlier this week, at least 11 bearded Muslims were rounded up by policemen at Ijaiye, a suburb of Lagos, on charges that they are members of Boko Haram.
Sulaiman Idris, one of the detainees who police said will be charged on illegal association and terrorism related charges, told IOL he was going to work when arrested.
“I can’t remember doing anything contrary to the law,” a tearful Idris sobbed, alleging torture.
He said others are going through the same ordeal.
“I have known Idris as a peace-loving Muslim who keeps beard and wears short trousers. His arrest is a slap on fundamental human rights,” said Shakirat Adedo, a work colleague.
“I’m told 11 of them were arrested. I think this is getting out of hand.”
When contacted, Lagos Police spokesman Frank Mba denied knowledge of the arrests and pledged to investigate the matter.
Two Muslim journalists working for the Lagos-based Islamic publication Al-Minbar were arrested last week and are still being detained in Yaba.
The arrest is linked to publishing an article entitled “Every Muslim Is A Boko Haram,” in response to police action.
Money for Justice
What adds insult to injury is that Muslims have to buy their freedom from police custody.
Asked how he regained his freedom, Saleh said his relatives “had to pay through their noses to get me released.”
“This means the Nigerian police want to hide under the Boko Haram incidence to feed fat on us,” he charged.
Mallam Zakari Adamu, Chairman of the Movement of Justice in Nigeria (MOJIN) Yobe chapter, confirmed the ugly trend.
“Our great problem is that if your innocent relation is detained for alleged involvement in Boko Haram, if you don’t have money to give him, you then sacrifice him or her to remain in cell,” he told IOL.
“Even when they have finished their interrogation and find him not guilty, you still have to bribe for him to regain his freedom,” contended the rights activist.
“I know of a boy who was shot; he is an innocent businessman. His father told us that he has spent N240,000 yet he could not even see the face of his son, this is unjust.”
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a countrywide network of Islamic activists, is raising the issue with the government, warning that the clampdown could trigger another bout of violence…
Update - Press TV – December 29, 2009
Thirty-eight members of the Boko Haram extremist group, including their leader, have been killed in clashes with a joint military-police force in the city of Bauchi in northern Nigeria.
Bauchi Police Chief Atikur Kafur told reporters on Monday that one soldier and two innocent people were among the dead in the Zango district of the city. He added that 14 people were also injured.
Twenty suspected militants were arrested, including nine adults and 11 juveniles.
The police chief identified the Boko Haram leader as Malam Badamasi.