Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged on Thursday to find more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, as the hostage crisis overshadowed his opening address to a major conference designed to showcase investment opportunities in Africa’s biggest economy.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) being hosted in the capital Abuja, Jonathan thanked foreign nations including the United States, Britain, France and China for their support in trying to rescue the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school on April 14 by Boko Haram. He thanked delegates for coming despite the danger posed by the militants, then quickly moved on to a speech about creating jobs in African economies.
“As a nation we are facing attack from terrorism,” Jonathan told delegates. “I believe that the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria.” Despite such pledges, Jonathan admitted on national television this week that he had no idea where the girls were.
The kidnappings and numerous other attacks by Boko Haram have totally overshadowed Nigeria’s hosting of the forum, an annual gathering of the rich and powerful that replicates the one in Davos, Switzerland.
France became the latest nation to offer help on Wednesday, saying it was boosting intelligence ties with Nigeria and sending security service agents there to tackle Boko Haram, the militant group which claimed the mass kidnapping. With more than 4,000 troops operating between Mali to the west and Central African Republic to the east, Paris has a major interest in preventing Nigeria’s security from deteriorating and has warned that Boko Haram could spread north into the Sahel.
In the latest big Islamist attack in Nigeria, 125 people were killed on Monday when gunmen rampaged through a town in the northeast near the Cameroon border. A senator from Borno state, Ahmed Zannah, put the number killed at 300, although local politicians have sometimes been accused of exaggerating casualty figures for political reasons.
Either way, the scale and ferocity of the massacre in Gamburu again underscored how far Nigerian security forces are from protecting civilians in an increasingly violent region.
Report compiled with information from Reuters.