Responding to the moral crisis in northern Nigeria and expecting the unexpected

In this guest blog by Zoe Marks of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, she discusses responses to the kidnapping of nearly three hundred school girls in northern Nigeria, and argues that something can be done. This blog was written on May 6, 2014.

What is a war on terrorism if not the rescue of 276 hostages? Prisoners, forced wives, sex slaves, chattel for market, domestic servants, human trafficking victims – aspiring, diligent, brave young girls.

We are facing an urgent moral crisis and fumbling. More than 20 days have passed since over 300 schoolgirls were corralled onto lorries in the middle of the night, captured by men claiming to be soldiers there to protect them. For three weeks, the Nigerian government has punted, Western governments have stood on the sidelines, and regional allies and the African Union have not even shown up to the pitch. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not call his first strategy meeting until last Saturday (4 May). His military advisory committee was convened only today for the first time (6 May).

When abducted on 14 April, the students were already far from home. They had travelled to Chibok Government Girls Secondary School despite school closures throughout Borno State not to make a political statement, but simply to sit the same high school certificate exams being taken by their peers across West Africa.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram militants. Source: Boko Haram video.

Boko Haram, the al Qaeda-aligned insurgency that has destabilized the region, only claimed responsibility for the kidnapping yesterday (5 May). They released an hour-long video of masked men standing heavily armed and silent while their leader read a lengthy harangue. The girls were nowhere to be seen. He parroted back as threats what the news media has been recycling as fact, raising more questions than answers.

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University of Edinburgh Discontinues Investment in Company Manufacturing US Drone Components

An article in the Guardian newspaper on Sunday reports that the University of Edinburgh has ended its £1.2m investment in Ultra Electronics, a defence company based in England which manufactures components for US drones, on the basis that the investment is not ‘socially responsible’.

US drone

The report states that the decision was made following a campaign by the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA), the student environmental group People and Planet and the human rights charity Reprieve. Ultra Electronics makes navigation controls for the US fleet of Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, the use of which in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia has been criticised as violating international law. The report also notes that the University of Edinburgh was the first university in Europe to sign up to the UN principles of responsible investment.

The full article is available on the Guardian website