Tag Archive | "Nigeria"

War and Displacement – A Nigerian Story

Photo Credit: Vibe.com

Photo Credit: Vibe.com

In 1903, the Sokoto caliphate in Northern Nigeria, Niger, and southern Cameroon fell, placing the preceding areas under British control. After the British took control, some of the Muslims in these areas expressed their resistance to Western influences. In 2002, Mohammed Yusuf formed Boko Haram, which in loose translation means western education is a sin. The United States has designated Boko Haram, whose primary goal is to create an Islamic state, as a terrorist organization. Since its conception in 2002, the organization is responsible for thousands of deaths.

In 2009, Nigeria’s security force killed Mohammed Yusuf, and Nigeria thought it had seen the end of the organization. However, the organization reorganized under Abubakar Shekau. Under Shekau’s leadership, the organization has led indiscriminate, targeted attacks against school children, police, religious leaders, politicians, and civilians. These tragic crimes led Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a state of emergency almost three years ago in May, in the three states where Boko Haram is the strongest—Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa.

Unfortunately, Boko Haram continues to gain traction. In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 Chibok school girls and released a video stating that the girls would serve as their personal slaves or be sold off. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has been working with President Goodluck Jonathan, to find the children and stop the Boko Haram. Ki-Moon stated that “the targeting of children and schools is against international law and cannot be justified under any circumstances”; therefore, the Nigerian Government has been urged to “take all necessary measures to ensure [the children’s] safe return and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Among the tens of thousands of people that have been killed, injured, or kidnapped, there are hundreds of thousands of people that have been displaced due to the violence in their countries. According to the National Emergency Management Agency-Nigeria (“NEMA”), 250,000 people have been internally displaced, and over 61,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. By the end of 2012, there were 17.7 million internally displaced persons in the world, and only 1.5 million returned to their place of origin. Most internally displaced persons never return home. In the first half of 2013, over 5.9 million people are refugees within or outside of the borders of their countries. The United States resettles less than 80,000 people each year. Could the United States be doing more? Could every country do more to save people and lower the hurdles of resettlement?

It has now been over 670 days since over 200 Chibok school girls were kidnapped. In September 2015, news emerged that negotiations were underway and there was a dim light shining to the girls’ release. However, Boko Haram has still not returned the girls to their families. Unfortunately, this story has fallen silent in the public eye. The United Nations set aside October 11 to be International Day of the Girl Child, but is this new international day of recognition enough to save future girls, or any individuals for that matter, from being used to send a message?

This article only covers one current war, in one part of the world, affecting millions of people all around the world. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, stated “[e]very child, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, social status, language, nationality or religion, has the right to education and to live without fear of violence.” Children should not be used as pawns or soldiers in wars and millions of people should not have to lose their home. To learn more about how to be involved and continue to raise awareness on this issue, follow #BringBackOurGirls.

 

Cheyenne Moore is a 3L at the University of Denver and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Unanticipated consequences of an outbreak: Ebola in West Africa, 1 year later

It was May 25, 2014 when the World Health Organization (WHO)

An MSF health worker in protective clothing holds a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center in Paynesville, Liberia, October 2014. From (Doctors without borders)

An MSF health worker in protective clothing holds a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center in Paynesville, Liberia, October 2014. From (Doctors without borders)

reported its first documented case of Ebola in Sierra Leone. Since then, other countries like Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria have been incessantly fighting the eradication of the deadly virus and preventing its spread to other countries, diminishing the risk of a world-wide pandemic.  Today, after a hard fought battle, Ebola cases have significantly declined in Sierra Leone and Guinea, and Liberia and Nigeria are now Ebola-free. However, the fight to eradicate this deadly disease comes at a price for both Sierra Leone and Liberia; they both have tanking economies, staggeringly expensive healthcare systems, and rates of rising preventable illnesses neglected during the Ebola crisis.

Many working families have since been economically affected by the outbreak of Ebola. The height of the outbreak occurred during the farming season, making farmers some of the most affected by the deadly virus. In addition, strikes conducted by health workers in Liberia forced farmers to flee their land and threatened to bring the country’s food supply to a halt. Ebola not only debilitated their workforce, but also devastated their crops. Their farmlands have since become wastelands. Other measures taken to quell the spread, such as restricting trading hours and keeping citizens under quarantine during the night, diminished opportunities for citizens to conduct business with one another, catalyzing financial troubles.

The outbreak comes after decade-long civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Empty roads in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Empty roads in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Since the end of their wars, both of these countries have struggled to keep commodities prices stable. Neither have been able to implement a healthcare infrastructure effective enough to react to rising rates of malnutrition, implement necessary HIV prevention measures, or effect required child immunizations. When Ebola surfaced these countries were making progress at piecing together their fragmented health systems by increasing immunizations in children and preventing citizens from malaria infection.  However, The outbreak of Ebola not only exposed their lack of healthcare surveillance measures, but also the lack of resources needed to handle an endemic of this magnitude without neglecting other rising health issues. The rates of malnutrition, malaria infections, and infant mortality due to cholera, typhoid and other illnesses continue to rise. Ebola has drained their healthcare systems of resources necessary to deal with these illnesses. The progress that they had steadily seen in the last years quickly vanished. Doctors without Borders have reported more deaths due to Malaria than to Ebola since the outbreak.

As some of these countries continue to struggle to eradicate the Ebola virus, governments continue to suggest methods to improve their healthcare infrastructure and surveillance programs; however, resources are needed in order to train health workers and to build the facilities needed to detect dangerous diseases. The World Bank announced an additional $650 million toward rebuilding these Ebola affected countries. The World Bank continues to be the leading contributor to the fight against Ebola amongst International Institutions. The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, will hold a conference in July to get countries and institutions to pledge even more.

The road to recovery from this deadly disease that affected many countries around the world is slow and costly. The pledged resources will be used to build a healthcare system in these affected countries that will be resilient and can withstand the effects of a major endemic without collapsing the health system and economy. In addition, this system, with Liberia as its main developer, will be a model healthcare system for other developing countries in order to provide adequate response in a time of crisis by increasing trust, investing in the country and promoting growth.

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Critical Analysis: R2P – Whose responsibility is it?

Nigerian Refugees in Minawao, Cameroon. Credit: DW. http://www.dw.de/stranded-near-the-nigerian-border-a-visit-to-the-minawao-refugee-camp/a-18275323

Nigerian Refugees in Minawao, Cameroon. Credit: DW. http://www.dw.de/stranded-near-the-nigerian-border-a-visit-to-the-minawao-refugee-camp/a-18275323

On April 14, 2014 the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls began trending on Twitter as the abduction of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in Chibok flooded news outlets around the world.  The Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and, with the exception of a few victims who have since escaped, the majority of the girls whereabouts are still unknown. According to UNICEF, in the year since the Chibok abductions, 1.2 million people in northeast Nigeria have been displaced due to Boko Haram-insurgency. Schools have been a target for Boko Haram since its militant operations began in 2009. In the past three years over 300 schools have been destroyed in the northern region of Nigeria, depriving 10,000 children of an education.

Perhaps the most troubling trends since Boko Haram’s reign of terror began have been the increasing number of the displaced being subject to human trafficking and Nigeria’s lack of effectiveness in preventing it from spiraling out of control. According to the Global Slavery Index an estimated 800,000 people are enslaved in Nigeria. However, by the Nigerian government’s own admission, 8 million children are currently subject to human trafficking. Many of those trafficked children are forced into labor, marriage, and prostitution. The displacement camps and their surrounding communities have had their access to humanitarian aid cut off by the violence, rendering them ineffective in supporting the overwhelming amount of refugees flooding their streets. The overcrowding, lack of food, and fear for safety has forced many young girls into prostitution, and young boys into joining the recruitment of Boko Haram in the armed conflict.

These atrocities have not gone unnoticed by the international community.

Hundreds of Nigerian Refugee Tents in Minawao, Cameroon. Credit: DW.

Hundreds of Nigerian Refugee Tents in Minawao, Cameroon. Credit: DW.

#BringBackOurGirls was tweeted 3.3 million times in the month following the kidnappings in Chibok, and UNICEF has responded by supplying 60,000 children with psychosocial support and by raising an estimated $3.84 million to further its efforts during 2015. Yetdespite worldwide awareness of the crisis in Nigeria the international community has done little. Similar to its inability to address the plight of the Palestinian refugees, international humanitarian law has yet again proven to be inefficient in address humanitarian crises in an urgent and effective manner. While intergovernmental organizations and state commenters have been in favor of implementing a Responsibility to Protect in these situations, they have yet to do so.

Is the lack of any real progress towards the implementation of Responsibility to Protect an indication that it may not be the answer to grave and immediate humanitarian atrocities? In late 2011, multiple states took a stand against a United Nations Security Council draft resolution draft on Syria’s violent response to the protests in Damascus against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. China and Russia vetoed the draft fearing that it would be construed by western states as legitimizing “unilateral sanctions and [an attempt] to forcefully overthrow regimes.” Brazil, India, South Africa, and Lebanon abstained from the vote, with South Africa expressly stating its concern that the resolution may be abused to justify implementation of “punitive measures on Syria.” Brazil, in its comments, stated its belief that “[a] meaningful, inclusive national dialogue leading to reform” was the only answer to the Syrian crisis.

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President-elect, stated in an op-ed piece for the New York Times: “The answer to defeating Boko Haram begins and ends with Nigeria.” This is a unique answer for many states facing seemingly insurmountable issues with terror like that of Nigeria. However, it may very well be the key to effectively staving immediate humanitarian crises in the future. Buhari’s plans focus on Boko Haram’s target – education. Instead of waiting for the international community to accept its Responsibility to Protect Nigerian citizens from the atrocities committed by Boko Haram, Buhari seems prepared to set the onus on his own government, stating:

“My government will first act to defeat [Boko Haram] militarily and then ensure that we provide the very education it despises to help our people help themselves. Boko Haram will soon learn that, as Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’”

It remains to be seen how effective Buhari’s government will be at shouldering the Responsibility to Protect in Nigeria. However, its success could go a long way in solving the conundrum of the international community: “whose responsibility is it?” In the meantime, the international community will continue to grapple with forming a framework in which the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect can adequately address future humanitarian concerns.

Philip Nickerson is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is Managing and Production Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The World is Taking Notice of Boko Haram

With the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls last month, the bombing in a bus station on April 14 that killed 71 and injured 124, and a car bombing on May 1st, the international community is waking up to the horrors of Boko Haram.

A militant Islamist group, Boko Haram was initially founded as a religious organization by radical Muslim cleric Mohhammed Yusuf in 2002. Yusuf set up a complex and school in the northeast city of Maiduguri under the premise that all western education was corrupt and sinful. In fact, Boko Haram, loosely translated from the local Hausa language means “western education is forbidden.” The complex quickly became a recruiting ground for jihadist militants and Boko Haram carried out a series of attacks on government offices and police in Maiduguri. Following a shoot-out with police in 2009, Nigerian security forces reported the death of Yusuf and declared that the group had been disbanded.

The group did not disband, and in 2010, current Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a 25-minute video clip denouncing western civilization and pledging to continue militant attacks. Since then, the group has staged numerous assaults including a bombing of police and UN headquarters in Nigeria. The group has continued to reject any notions of opening a dialog with the Nigerian government. Boko Haram was labeled a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department in November of 2013, and following the group’s public statement vowing to attack the U.S. and Europe last year, the U.S. issued a $7 million bounty for the capture of Shekau.

Parents of the kidnapped girls plead for more help to safely return their daughters. Image Source: Reuters

Nigerian parents of the kidnapped girls plead for more help to ensure a safe return of their daughters. Image Source: Reuters

On April 14 over 100 armed Boko Haram militants stormed an all-girl boarding school in Chibok in the remote north-eastern state of Borno and kidnapped over 200 young girls age 16 to 18. The girls had been called in to sit for their final physics exam when all other schools in the area had been closed due to security concerns. While two groups of girls escaped, recent reports indicate that the remaining kidnapped girls have been taken into Boko Haram strongholds in the Sambisa forest and sold as brides to the militants. Shekau first threatened to capture young women and girls as slaves and brides in video released in May 2013 and it is believed that the group intends to adhere to ancient Islam beliefs that state women and girls captured during war are slaves with whom their “masters’ can have sex with at will. Parents of the kidnapped girls have organized searches into the area, and last week several hundred protesters braved heavy rain to assemble in Abuja, and deliver a letter to the National Assembly complaining that the government was not doing enough to search for the girls. “All we want from the government is to help us bring our children back,” said one parent last week.

Other schools are also in an abysmal situation. At least three professors have been killed at the University of Maiduguri, students have withdrawn and teachers have relocated out of fear and threats of continued violence.

With recent announcement that Nigeria had surpassed South Africa as the leading economy in sub-Saharan Africa, and with the World Economic Forum on Africa set to take place in Abuja on May 9th, the government and President Goodluck Jonathan are struggling to quell concerns over recent violence. While security has been stepped up amid fears that Boko Haram is moving its focus closer to the capital, many are reporting that it appears that the group intends to align itself with similar extremist assemblies in Niger, Mali, and the Middle East. Scholars and members of the international legal and political community are calling for assistance to be given to the Nigerian government.

Former British prime minister and current UN advisor Gordon Brown has called for international military assistance to be offered to the Nigerian government in a hunt for the missing girls. “The International community must do something to protect these girls,” Brown said in an interview last week. “We could provide military help to the Nigerians to track down the whereabouts of the girls before they’re dispersed throughout Africa.” A government advisor to the President said that the government welcomes international assistance in the matter.

Local community protests against the Boko Haram for stealing young school girls. Image Source: BBC/AFP

Local women dressed in red to protest against the Boko Haram for stealing over 200 young school girls and criticized the government’s rescue efforts. Image Source: BBC/AFP

Large-scale pledges are not bringing home the missing 200 girls, and the guerrilla nature of the insurgency requires specialized local measures. “We know where these girls are being held in the forest,” one local Nigerian soldier reported, “[but] somebody high up in the chain of command is leaking up information to these people.” Although officials have long ruled out foreign intervention, many are calling for improved tactics. A representative of the government said that “if countries can help us by way of arming our people through modern surveillance equipment, for defence and all that, it will be most welcome. [But] what Boko Haram is doing is not a formal kind of fight, but a guerrilla kind of fight, and it is only the local people that will tell you how to fight it.”

It seems then, that a two-fold approach must be taken, one where large-scale international assistance is given to the Nigerian government to combat overall strikes of violence and immediate and targeted assistance is given to troops in Chibok in order to bring home the abducted girls as quickly as possible. Whether it be through international intervention, or the systematic arming of local governments, without assistance, the outwardly booming Nigerian government seems to be powerless to quell the continued threat of violence from Boko Haram.

 

Bree Plasters is a rising 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is the Executive Editor-Elect for the 2014-2015 Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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March 14 attack in Nigeria

Critical Analysis: Religiously Motivated Violence Escalates in Nigeria

On Monday, April 7, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will welcome Nigerian human rights attorney Hauwa Ibrahim. Ibrahim has spent her career protecting woman from the harsh penalties meted out under Shariah law in Nigeria’s northern states such as death by stoning and amputations for stealing. Another area of grave concern in Nigeria is the lack of religious freedom, primarily due to attacks by the Boko Haram, a fundamentalist terrorist group that seeks to overthrow the secular Nigerian government and replace it with a theocracy based on Islamic law.

Nigeria is the largest country in Africa with a population of over 177 million people. The country is divided approximately equally between Muslims and Christians. Islam is the dominant religion in the northern states, including the twelve northern states that have adopted Sharia law, while Christianity is most prevalent in the southern states. Interreligious conflicts occur frequently along Nigeria’s central states, or the “Middle Belt” where Christians and Muslims live in approximately equal numbers.

March 14 attack in Nigeria

The March 14 attacks killed approximately 150 people and destroyed 240 homes (World Watch Monitor)

On Friday, March 14, the tragic trend of sectarian violence continued in three villages in the central northern state of Kaduna. At about 11 pm, Muslim Fulani herdsmen raided the mainly Christian villages with guns and machetes. The Fulani are one of Nigeria’s 250 ethnic groups, are predominately Muslim, and have a history of land grievances against Nigerian Christians. The herdsmen descended on the villages and burned 240 houses and three churches to the ground. More than 150 people were killed and the victims were buried in mass graves.

One survivor, Emmanuel Tonak, recounted the attack: “We were fast asleep when we heard gun shots and chanting of ‘Allahu akbar’ [God is great]. Suddenly we came out and saw them advancing and some houses in flames. They came around 11 pm. I escaped into the forest, when they came I started hearing cries and gun shots.” Because the villagers’ homes were destroyed, many other survivors slept in the local primary school and other areas nearby. Sadly, the attack in Kaduna is unlikely to be the last. Since 1999, religiously motivated violence has killed more than 14,000 Nigerians, both Christian and Muslim, displaced thousands, and destroyed churches, mosques, businesses, and private homes.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan commission that monitors global religious liberty and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress, has recommended that Nigeria be labeled a “Country of Particular Concern” for the past four years for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. As USCIRF explains, the United States can play a role in mitigating the sectarian violence in Nigeria including by prioritizing religious freedom in U.S.-Nigerian bilateral relations (which is significant as Nigeria is the eigth largest U.S. aid recipient) and officially designating Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern under Section 402(b)(1) of the International Religious Freedom Act.

 

Bryan Neihart is a third year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Survey Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 

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