Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Boko Haram Isn't a Rock and Roll Band

Those dudes in Boko Haram certainly are a rambunctious lot.

In April they kidnapped somewhere between 200 and 300 teen aged girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria. Then last Sunday they hit the villages of Warabe and Wala, in the same general area of the country. During the raids they went door to door looking for more female hostages. By the time it was over they had grabbed 11 girls, aged 12 to 15.

On Monday, Boko Haram troops, if you want to call them that, overran the border town of Gamboru Ngala. After killing an estimated 300 civilians they burned much of the place to the ground. Nigerian Senator, Ahmed Zanna was quoted as saying, "All economic and business centers have been burnt."

This sort of barbaric shit has been going on for over five years now and its been routinely ignored by everyone who isn't a Nigerian. Let's face it, prior to the mass kidnapping, if you had asked the average American who Boko Haram was, he, or she would have probably told you they were a 60's rock and roll band.

No, that was Procol Harum and they are from Britain. These guys are Muslim fundamentalists who want to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and return it to the middle ages.

The leader of the outfit is one, Abubakar Shekau. He showed up on a low grade video the other day bragging his group had kidnapped the girls. He also threatened to sell them into slavery. Some experts speculate he has already started the bidding. Others think he is selling them directly to his fighters as wives for $12.

How things got this far is a bit complicated, as is everything in Africa. The Nigerian government has been slow to move against Boko Haram. Up until now the prevailing philosophy seemed to be contain, rather than eliminate. The group is hidden out in the Sambisa Forest and the adjoining mountains. It is a foreboding place filled with wild game and poisonous snakes. The local population, while not necessarily sympathetic to Shekau and his crew, are predominantly Muslim and they don't particularly care for President Goodluck Jonathan's administration.

The reason why is brutally simple. When government troops have ventured into the area they tend to act as if everyone is a member of Boko Haram and there is a lot of indiscriminate killing and arson involved in the pacification process. In other words, the guys who are supposed to be good have acted just as bad as the bad guys.

The United States has sent in a team of military advisers, law enforcement types and some people from "other agencies" in order to assist the Nigerians. The British, French, and Chinese have also offered help. Jonathan's acceptance of the aid is being read as an admission he can't get the job done when dealing with the beasts prowling his northeast frontier.

Well, he had to act one way or another. Protesters have been massing in the streets of the capital, Abuja and other cities. They're demanding he do something. In addition huge numbers of people on more than one continent are up in arms. The U.N. has gone so far as to say Shekau will be charged with crimes against humanity if he actually does sell the girls.

In fact, right now the only guy who is, to borrow a phrase, happy happy happy, is Abubakar Shekau. He finally has what he's wanted all these years--the full attention of the world. At this very moment he's, no doubt, bopping himself in the forehead with the palm of his hand while wondering aloud, "why didn't I think of wholesale child abduction before now?"

Indeed, now that he has all this press and even though American involvement is minuscule, he can recruit all manner of monsters from across the globe. Not only will there be a chance to kill some westerners, Boko Haram has a bevy of future wives available at a price everyone can afford.

Jonathan's efforts to find them have been tepid at best. Although he did manage to open up Gamboru Ngala to attack when the troops meant to protect the city were redeployed toward Lake Chad in order to search for the victims. Any advice the Nigerian army might get, either from us, or others still has to be carried out by them. Telling someone you have to plow straight through an ambush in order to break it is one thing--them actually doing it when you aren't there and real bullets are flying about is another altogether.

The truth is the girls have probably been split up into small groups and now they're scattered across the Sambisa in various hide outs. No, there won't be any sort of Entebbe style rescue even if the Nigerians had the means, or will.

The end game could be, Shekau is looking for a big fat ransom. After all, weapons and ammunition cost money. Or, it might be he is just trying to boost the morale of those rowdy guys he commands by providing them with some companionship, no matter how gruesomely coerced it is. The only thing known for sure is, in his twisted mind, he has hit the jackpot. We can look for him to quickly double down. As the song says, when you're hot, you're hot and he knows he is.

This nightmare isn't ending any time soon.


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