Posts Tagged 'CRC'

Boko Haram, Chibok and our responses

By

Henry MGBEMENA

Regardless of their divergent views on several socio-political issues in the country and irrespective of their religious affiliations, most Nigerians now wish the Boko Haram saga is a bad dream which they long waking up from. It is a plague that has bedeviled them, the blame game era is obviously over and they now demand nothing but focused efforts that will lead to instantaneous demise of the group. Reechoing President Goodluck Jonathan’s Democracy Day speech, all the gains of the past 15 years of democratic governance in our country are threatened by the presence of international terrorism on our shores. It is time for all Nigerians to emulate the Americans after 9/11 and rally round the national flag, bring patriotism to the fore and ensure good prevails over evil.

 

The US National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) recorded Boko Haram as the third most lethal terrorist group in the world between 2009 and 2013 with over 801 attacks and 3666 fatalities. Taliban in Afghanistan and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were the only two groups ahead of Boko Haram out of over 480 terrorists groups studied. On Nov 13, 2013, the US Department of State announced the designation of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and placed a $7m bounty on its leader Abubakar Shekau. On 22 May 2014, the UN added Boko Haram to the al Qaeda sanction list—in effect confirmed it as an al Qaeda affiliate.

 

Regardless of the beliefs of Shekau and his infamous cohorts, their callous acts of terror contravene national and international laws and they are solely liable and will be brought to justice for every single life lost in their attacks. Similarly, the Nigerian government has the responsibility for securing the lives and properties of the entire citizenry and if they fail in that role, no doubt about it, Mr. President and everyone else in government are answerable to the populace that elected them into office. But their failures and inactions in no way exonerate the perpetrators of the act.

 

Nigerian security agencies are receiving a lot of criticism from within and outside the country, especially since the kidnapping of over 200 innocent school girls in Chibok by Boko Haram. In as much as one would like to sympathize with them for facing the wrath of public opinion, I think their public relations strategy is way off the mark! Every young officer in the military is taught that one of the principles of Internal Security operation is winning the heart and mind of the populace: I think the Generals may have forgotten their basic tactics and allowed the terrorists to achieve their ultimate objective of instilling fear in the population. I am convinced Shekau and his troops do not in their wildest dream believe the Nigerian government will succumb to their demands of implementing sharia law in the country, especially when a notable Islamic cleric like the Sultan of Sokoto and the Organization of Islamic Countries have termed their actions unIslamic. They have however, through their carnage succeeded in causing anger, frustration and dissention which can create chaos in the country if not properly managed. In fact, I think Nigerians have been very civil in their approach to the whole issue because there haven’t really been violent anti-government demonstrations which would have been the case in several countries in the world.

 

My intention is not to query the capabilities of the Nigerian security forces because terrorism is a global phenomenon that has challenged even the best militaries in the world, including the United States and their allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having also personally experienced the complexities of the war on terror in Afghanistan and Somalia, it will be unreasonable to belittle their efforts. Nigerian military officers are battle-tested and highly regarded for their peacekeeping roles all over the world. Nobody is expecting them to perform miracles overnight when it comes to fighting terrorism which is a global bane that requires concerted international efforts. Thanks to the fact that the government finally agreed to accept international assistance which I must confess I initially felt was not immediately necessary, but with the recent developments, I now agree it’s was a good call by Mr. President.

 

What is obvious however, and must be said is that Nigerian security agencies are losing the battle of words. Propaganda is a key instrument of warfare and every military outfit in this present Information Age should strive to influence and swing public opinion in their favor, but need to do it the right way, no need to lie because you will surely be exposed!. Not all Nigerians are soldiers that obey the last command— Am not even sure that still applies!. They have the constitutional right to ask questions and query the performance of every public servant paid with their taxes. Come to think of it, who says the military cannot have a civilian spokesperson? Nigeria is a country awash with seasoned public relations practitioners who see things from the point of view of the streets and not the barracks— is there a law that prohibits civilians from heading military public relations outfits? Why can’t they just fight and let the experts do the talking?

 

Not recounting all the previous blunders, I think it is inexcusable for the military spokesman to give a wrong figure of the number of girls that are missing and even reporting them released when that wasn’t the case. Worst of all,  I think it is a very poor tactical appreciation for a Chief of Defense Staff to address the public and say they know where the girls are because of criticism that the security agencies are not doing enough. That announcement whether true or false is a grave mistake that can cost the girls their lives, or at best retard all progress so far made in freeing them. Ok, let’s even assume it was intended to push the terrorists into a hasty decision of moving the girls, thereby exposing their position, is it a risk worth taking knowing how irrational terrorists are?  The main objective of every hostage negotiation is to buy time and gather intelligence for tactical operations. And if the hostage takers succumb to the psychological strain they are subjected to by a seasoned negotiator and decide to release the hostages in the process, all well and good. I am sorry but I think it’s either the Chief of Defense Staff was ill-advised by his public relations officers or he became too emotional and took his eyes off the ball by his statements. Criticisms will definitely come and you must learn to accept it and make corrections where necessary. Actions speak louder than words; capture or kill Shekau today and you will become a hero, before then, your statements don’t count much so save them, except when necessary and well thought through.  Essential norm in hostage incident management discourages top managers from having direct involvement in tactical negotiation strategies or making public statements. Everything should be left in the hands of the experts, especially the press releases which are supposed to be carefully crafted to reflect what you want the hostage takers to hear.  I think the ball has definitely been fumbled severally, …..but still in play. What is required now is for the military big wigs to remain focused until results are achieved.

 

On a bigger picture, one question that should also be asked is why Nigeria’s borders cannot be fenced. Even if it’s just the Northeastern borders so as to deny Boko Haram the freedom of movement and access to supplies in that area, why can’t we just do it? Border control is one of the most effective security mitigating measures that has been tested in countries like Israel and America that we should copy. Recognizing possible opposition from selfish individuals, since a state of emergency has been declared in the Northeastern states, is fencing the borders not akin to a tactical security measure that the Commander-in- Chief can task Nigerian Army Engineers to directly implement without any further legislative reviews? That way, we will avoid squabbles and over-inflated billions of dollars contracts by corrupt government officials. In January 2013, Israel finished building the main portion of its borders with Egypt. The 16-foot high fence, which is made of razor wire and reinforced by military surveillance, including motion sensors and cameras, aimed at keeping out both illegal African migrants and terrorists operating in the Sinai. According to the most recent quarterly figures published by the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, only 36 people have been caught trying to enter the southern border since January as against 10,440 that were caught in 2012(Reuters, Jan 2013). This shows that insurgents and illegal migrants completely avoided the borders knowing they would not be able to penetrate the new barriers.

 

Military might is not enough to defeat terrorism recognizing that most terrorists long for martyrdom. I want to believe the government is still in dialogue with the right parties that have access to Boko Haram high command and can exert influence.  Concessions are sometimes inevitable in negotiations but I think it is the prerogative of Mr. President as the Commander-in-Chief to deal or not to deal.

 

I see the willpower in our government and security forces to free the Chibok girls and end this Boko Haram menace. What is now critical is how the situation is handled until when that happens. It took the US about a decade to track down Osama bin Laden but focus was maintained and successes and failure along the way were well communicated to rally support of the citizens. And of course there were several disparate voices along the way.  That is what every Nigerian wants from the government in general and security forces in particular. Not someone whose judgment will be beclouded by the need to defend every criticism….Keep your eyes on the ball Generals, we shall overcome!

 

Henry MGBEMENA

hmgbemena@gmail.com

Frame and Focus – #ReturnOurGirls

By

Noel Ihebuzor

The   campaign has been a huge success in calling the attention of Nigerians and the international community to the abduction of Nigerian school children from their school in Chibok. Thanks to this campaign and to its organizers, the world is now aware of what, in reality, is a savage affront to human dignity, decency and freedoms, symbolized by this act of terrorism against innocent and defenseless school girls!  Global reaction to this dastardly act by Boko Haram, a group born from religious extremism and bigotry has been one of shock and outrage. President Obama expressed that sense of outrage and shock clearly in his TV interview on the abduction. Expressions of shock and outrage continue to be heard from all around the world, and understandably too. The abduction and continued captivity of the girls are in utter violation of all international human rights conventions. They also violate all the provisions regarding the protection of civilians in general, and women and children in particular, in situations of conflict. The abduction shocks. The continuing captivity  of these innocent girls is both agonizing and sickening. Their captors should hear this loud and clear – all well meaning Nigerians are united with the rest of the world in wanting these girls returned, safe and sound

Like I said at the start of this write up, the campaign and its hashtag  have been successful but I believe that time has come now for another hashtag  to be added to the existing hashtag. The reason is simple. Both in Framing and Focus, the  hashtag fixes attention and minds on government’s (federal and state, but largely federal) responsibility to do all in its power to bring back the girls. There is also the hint of frustration and anger at government’s slow and ineffective response in the immediate aftermath of the abduction, emotions which are also largely understandable and justifiable. However, the largely government focus of the hashtag takes minds and attention away from the perpetrators of this infamy. It takes attention away from this violation of rights, from this act of sheer terror by a bunch of extremists, the Boko Haram, who are willing to burn and butcher and who will stop at nothing to advance a religious agenda.

It is now time for attention to be turned to and focused on this Boko Haram group too. They invaded and took away the girls. We and the entire world shall hold them together with their sponsors, supporters and apologists responsible for any damage done to any of these girls. They should therefore return them, safe and intact. Returning the girls may even obviate the need for any military engagement and any fire fights that may arise in any efforts to secure the release of these girls.  Military engagement is a strong option in a # mode. Such a mode leans more towards a “search and rescue” mission approach. Such missions have inherent risks of casualties and collateral damage and history is replete with examples of such consequences and societal reactions to them. We want the girls back, safe and alive. Appealing to their captors to return our girls presents therefore a safer option. Incidentally, It is also a strategically more beneficial route for Boko Haram in the long term in terms of image redemption, pardon and possible reintegration into society.

So whilst we encourage our security forces to , we should also frame and focus our tweets on Boko Haram and their sympathisers, sponsors and supporters and ask them to . Let us then adopt this additional hashtag  today and use it not only to appeal to Boko Haram but also to apply pressure on it!

NAI

The Abducted Children of Chibok

By

Noel Ihebuzor

 

The abduction by Boko Haram of children from Chibok is the issue occupying centre stage in politics right now in Nigeria.  Government response to and management of this abduction have not been effective – a large number of the children , we are told, are still with their captors and locating them continues to be a challenge.

Very far away from the scene of this affront to decency and female dignity, especially in Abuja and Lagos, demonstrators and marchers have mobilised under very arresting logos to demand that immediate action be taken to ensure the safe and immediate release of these girls. Dialogues have been held by some of these marchers with government security agencies and a modus operandi for engagement and information sharing was tweeted to have been agreed upon by one of marchers’ spokesperson. But marchers and demonstrators are also using social media to give their cause (and a very legitimate cause for that matter) and themselves considerable visibility. And here they are several steps ahead of government, and whether deliberately or by inadvertence are making government look bad, insensitive and unresponsive.

And this should not and need not be so. Government must join up in these marches and demonstrations, and for two reasons. No wise government should allow itself to be “caught” and cast in adversarial posture to a movement to free children who have been kidnapped by cruel, heartless and scheming persons. So, Government officials, spouses of ministers,  legislators etc should join these marches and protests. Join, ride on the public outrage at this violation of the innocent and channel the outflowing energy to the benefit of your programmes and the peoples. Secondly,  If you are not in a march, your agenda and point of views will hardly ever be recognised nor projected. So Government officials must join up. Strategic considerations suggest joining up.

Joining up will also enable a second and equally important message to be given greater orchestration. “ABDUCTORS, FREE OUR CHIBOK CHILDREN”. This message is just as important as the first which can be summed up as “GOVERNMENT, RESCUE AND FREE OUR CHIBOK CHILDREN”. Whilst the current primary message focuses on the government and therefore presents a good handle for its indictment for its inability to assure the safety and security of persons living within its space, the second opens the way for reaching out to the captors, either directly or indirectly through their community and religious leaders, to free children they have taken captive and hold against their will in violation of all the laws of decent conduct.

Join me in praying for the safe of these children and for purposeful, effective and targeted intervention that would ensure this in the very near future.

Noel


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