Anger in Nigeria after kidnapping 300 schoolchildren: ‘We are at the mercy of criminals’

What is the fate of more than 300 boys who were violently abducted from boarding school in northern Nigeria last Friday? Unrest about that question has kept the country busy for days.

The school, where more than 800 children stayed, was surrounded and shot by heavily armed men. They kidnapped the boys to the nearby jungle. The attack was claimed on Saturday by the terrorist movement Boko Haram, which today also distributed a video showing boys in a forest. Whether that really are the kidnapped boys has not yet been officially confirmed.

17-year-old Usama managed to escape the kidnappers. In the video, he tells you how the kidnapping went:

Residents of the region are furious. In northern Nigeria, attacks and kidnappings have been the order of the day for years. โ€œWe are at the mercy of cruel criminals, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and other hardened criminals,โ€ says activist Balarabe Ruffin during a local demonstration against press agency Reuters.

There is outrage in other parts of the country too: the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys has been a trending topic on Twitter for days.

End of Boko Haram

The frustration focuses on Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria. Although that Friday was near the school where the abduction took place, he decided not to visit the distraught parents. And this while Buhari was chosen in 2015 with the campaign promise to act hard against Boko Haram.

Buhari already claimed in 2017 that Boko Haram had been defeated in practice, but the terror movement continues to emerge. If the group is indeed behind this kidnapping, its evidence that Boko Haram is expanding his field of activity. The school is located tens of kilometres west of the area where Boko Haram normally operates.

Education at risk

The terrorists of Boko Haram are known to be extremely violent. According to government estimates, more than 30,000 Nigerians have died in attacks since 2009, when the movement became active. About two million people fled.

It

is not accidental that Boko Haram often targets schools; their name literally means Western education is banned. The movement wants the country to be ruled according to fundamentalist Islamic principles. Education, especially for girls, perceive them as harmful.

In order to protect other children, the governor of Kanaka decided to close all boarding schools in his state after the abduction. Schools in surrounding states are also closed, to the frustration of human rights organisations. โ€œSchools must be safe places. No child should choose between education and life,โ€ said a spokesman for Amnesty International.

Nevertheless, according to the organisation, that is exactly what is happening in Nigeria. โ€œWe see children who have to quit school after attacks on their village, and teachers fleeing from violence.โ€ The Nigerian Teachers Union is now threatening a national strike and demands that the government do something about the security situation in the north.

Child Soldiers

The slogan BringBackourBoys brings out painful memories in Nigeria of the BringBackourGirls campaign, which followed the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in the city of Chibok in 2014. About a hundred girls are still missing.

That makes the worst fear for the boys from Katsinga. According to a government spokesman, there is contact with the kidnappers and the government is negotiating, but it is unclear whether that is true.

Anyway, time runs out, fear experts. The girls who were abducted in 2014 had to convert from their kidnappers to Islam and were often married off to fighters. Others were deployed by Boko Haram as a suicide bomber. If the terror group is indeed behind the kidnapping of these boys, chances are theyll be recruited as a child soldier.