Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
Guest Host: Susan Page
Outrage over the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by an Islamic rebel group has grown worldwide. What began with small street protests by distraught parents and activists has been amplified with the help of social networks, where more than a million messages — including one by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama — have been tagged with the demand “Bring Back Our Girls.” Nigeria has now accepted international offers of help to locate the girls. But some analysts warn they are likely scattered to neighboring countries. Guest host Susan Page and a panel of experts discuss the search for Nigeria’s missing girls and what can be done to find them.
- Jacob Zenn analyst, African and Eurasian Affairs, The Jamestown Foundation
- Carl LeVan Nigeria specialist and assistant professor at the School of International Service, American University
- Robin Sanders former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria (2007-10) and the Republic of Congo (2002-05).
- Michelle Faul Nigeria bureau chief, The Associated Press
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Tuesday. Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said today that finding the nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels would be the beginning of the end of terrorism in his country. Joining me in the studio to talk about what led to the kidnappings and what's keeping the girls from being rescued, Carl LeVan of American University.
MS. SUSAN PAGEAnd we'll be joined by phone this hour from Abuja, Nigeria, by the former U.S. Amb. Robin Sanders and by phone from Hanoi, Vietnam, by Jacob Zenn of the Jamestown Foundation. And we're going to take your calls and questions later in this hour. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter. First, though, joining us by phone from Lagos, Nigeria, is Michelle Faul, the Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press. Michelle, thanks so much for being with us.
MS. MICHELLE FAULThank you. Hello, Susan.
PAGEPlease tell us the latest developments in this unfolding story.
FAULWell, we're hearing government confirming reports of yet another attack, a border town in Cameroon. The residents are saying about 300 people killed. This happened on Monday night. The news is very slow to get out. And the same night, two villages were attacked near the border and 11 children kidnapped, these younger than the big group. These are kids age between 12 and 15 years old. And, of course, this comes right after the leader of Boko Haram's threatened to sell them into slavery.
PAGEWhat is the message that's intended by these attacks on the villages?
FAULNot so much the attacks on the villages, but specifically the abductions of girls is telling them that they should not be going to school, and they've also attacked schools for this reason. They say girls are supposed to be married and at home. In some of the attacks, in one example, they went to a girls' dormitory, did not attack the girls, told them to go home, do not come back to school. Go home and get married. So it's not a consistent approach that they're using.
PAGENow, this story was slow to command the kind of attention it deserves here in the United States and around the world, but that has changed -- a lot of attention now. What's the impact of this swelling worldwide concern about what's happening with these girls and their abduction?
FAULI think partly what it's done is spurred Nigeria's president and his government into action. You know, they've been accused of being insensitive to the plight of the girls. President Jonathan hasn't even met with the mothers of some of the missing girls, so at least two of them went to Abuja, the capital, to join the daily protests to demand, bring back our girls.
PAGEWhy has the government been as, at least from here, it looks so slow to respond and for a time, apparently, reluctant to take international help?
FAULI'm not sure what would be the reason for that, Susan. I think that President Jonathan gave us a hint in a media chat on Sunday. He was asked, have you asked for -- and he said yes, he had. He had asked Britain and the United States, China and France. And he said he had actually spoken with President Obama on the phone.
FAULAnd I think that must be referring to general help to fight Boko Haram because this conversation must have taken place before the girls were kidnapped. And he sounded rather angry because he said that President Obama had responded with allegations of military abuses in the fight against Boko Haram. And I'm wondering whether that might be part of the reluctance, whether there might be pressure from the Nigerian military who are accused of gross human rights abuses talking extrajudicial killings of the people in this state of emergency fight.
FAULThis Islamic uprising, many of them believed to be innocent people who just got caught up in roundups of suspected young men who might belong to Boko Haram, so that could be one reason. Why the Nigerian military has not been able to find the girls is a puzzle. I spoke to parents in Chibok who, when they -- and helpless.
FAULThey put money together, bought fuel for motorcycles, and they, themselves, went into the very dangerous Sambisa Forest to search for their girls. And they say they came within two miles of the camp where the girls -- this is the day after the abduction, so that would've been April 6. They said they were told by a herder, a man herding cattle there -- and there was fork in the path.
FAULThey had taken the girls in that direction, but he told them to wait (unintelligible) you and your daughters, go back and get help. The parents went back to Chibok town where this happened and begged the soldiers there to come and help them, and the soldiers refused. I've spoken with many people who say that they have given information to the Nigerian military about the whereabouts of the girls, and it's not been acted on.
FAULIn this very latest example, the attack on Gamboru Ngala, the residents are telling us that two days before the attack, they went to the soldiers. And they said, there's unusual movement around the town. We think Boko Haram is here. Nothing was done about it, and the residents are saying that if the soldiers had acted on their information, perhaps the town would never have been attacked.
PAGEAll right. Michelle Faul, thank you so much for joining us and bringing us up-to-date. Thanks for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
FAULYou're most welcome.
PAGEMichelle Faul, she is Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press. Well, Amb. Sanders, why do you think the government did not act in these situations Michelle was describing to us when these girls might have been rescued very early on?
AMB. ROBIN SANDERSGood morning. Good afternoon or good morning, Susan. I think that there are a couple of things that they should have done quite differently, and I think we should all see that there was no rapid response system set up for getting information back and acting on it. That hasn't happened, and hopefully with the assistance that's coming in either from the U.S. or the U.K. or China that some sort of 24/7 operation center that has a rapid response capability to really respond to these queries coming in because the human intelligence aspect where villagers will report back something that is atypical in their environment, that's going to be key to finding these girls.
AMB. ROBIN SANDERSI have a huge fear, unfortunately, that by this time many of them may have been moved across the border, either in Chad or Cameroon or in Niger, because a lot of time has passed. But I do think that a lot of missteps were made in the beginning, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they have no systematic rapid response form set up or forum set up that people can get information and they can respond immediately to the information coming in.
PAGESo, Jacob Zenn, tell us about what -- we can only speculate, of course, but tell us what you think is probably happening with these girls. And what does their future hold if they are not rescued?
MR. JACOB ZENNMost likely, Boko Haram has split the 250-some odd girls into dozens of groups of maybe five or six and that a lot of them are now across the border from Nigeria in Cameroon, Chad, or even further. And Boko Haram will likely use them as ransom and want tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the girls, which, if there's still no strategy to prevent this from happening again, Boko Haram can use that money to steal more girls.
MR. JACOB ZENNOr Boko Haram might use the girls as a sort of sick style of compensation for the new recruits that are joining Boko Haram or it may also use the girls as human shields to prevent the Nigerian Air Force from attacking Boko Haram camps. It's also a great propaganda ploy for Boko Haram leader, Shekau, to get on the international stage and pressure the Nigerian government into possible demands that Boko Haram will make on the government.
PAGEAnd so, Carl, tell us, what could Boko Haram be trying to make demands for? What would they want? What kind of deal might they strike to give the girls back?
DR. CARL LEVANThank you for having me on the show, Susan. It's a pleasure to be joined here by Amb. Sanders, Michelle Faul, and my colleague Jacob Zenn. I think the demands of Boko Haram initially were fairly clear. And as time has gone on and as the campaign waged by them has become more and more brutal, it's been harder and harder to discern what it is that they might want. And they have said that one of the reasons why they took the girls is because there are hundreds of their fighters who are being held in detention by the government of Nigeria.
DR. CARL LEVANAnd, in fact, a couple of week ago, that was -- one of those detention centers was the target of a Boko Haram attack. And it's important to note that large majorities of people who are accused of crimes in Nigeria are held as awaiting trial persons. That is, they can spend months or even years in prison without formerly being charged.
DR. CARL LEVANNow I'm not suggesting that Boko Haram has some sort of broader judicial reform agenda, but these deeper problems with the judicial system in Nigeria certainly complicate the solution. And if they are seeking eventually a ransom demand or something along those lines, that would be very problematic because there's no question that that money would be funneled back into the insurgency.
PAGECarl LeVan, he's a Nigeria specialist and assistant professor at the School of International Service at American University. We're also joined for the hour by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African and Eurasian Affairs at the Jamestown Foundation. He's joining us from Hanoi. And joining us from Nigeria is Robin Sanders. She's the former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and also has served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Congo.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll take some of your calls and questions, 1-800-433-8850. We'll talk about some of the root causes and about what we know about Boko Haram and their actions. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about that terrible story from Nigeria, hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by rebels. Joining me in the school, Carl LeVan of American University. Joining us by phone from Nigeria, Robin Sanders, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria. And from Hanoi we're joined by Jacob Zenn, an analyst from the Jamestown Foundation.
PAGESo, Amb. Sanders, what can the international community do in this situation? How effective can it be? What kind of help is likely to make the most difference?
SANDERSI think there are a couple of things, and most of them have to do with expanded capability and also having more technical assistance in how you deal with situations like this. I think for a couple of things that I would note -- I was in (word?) on Sunday and Saturday. And I think they certainly need better bomb-detection equipment, number one. They need better checkpoints so that they can ensure local (word?) is not attacking soft targets.
SANDERSAnd I think one of the more difficult things to do is to try to coalesce soft targets under better military supervision or police supervision so the people aren't as vulnerable. You have -- unfortunately since I've been here that you have complete villages in the north that have depopulated because of the fear of Boko Haram. Their goals, as they have stated over the years since I was here in 2010, are that they want an Islamic extremist caliphate in Northern Nigeria. And they are doing everything possible to achieve that.
SANDERSAnd I'm just wondering whether this new tactic of abducting these young girls is something that they've learned from outside terrorist groups that are advising them on how to -- you know, how to achieve their goals. They have picked up terrorist tactics in the past from outsiders, and I'm wondering now if they have gotten additional terrorist tactics training from others.
SANDERSWe can also use drones to be able to help the Nigerian government as well as P3 surveillance planes to see if there's still convoys of these young women still trapped together. And we can pick those up on P3 surveillance planes as well. So I'm hoping that all of those resources that we have from the U.S. or from other countries will be used to bear in helping to get these girls back.
PAGEI want to tell our listeners that we're having a little trouble with the phones. We're interested in your comments and your questions. We'd encourage you now to perhaps send them to us by email or on Facebook or Twitter, email address email@example.com. And we'll take some callers as soon as we're able to do so. So, Jacob, tell us a little more about Boko Haram and what their history is. Who are they affiliated with?
ZENNWell, as the ambassador just noted, they do have a number of affiliations with other groups outside of Nigeria. And although they formed as a local group in response to what they perceived as governmental corruption and the corruption of the Nigerian traditional Islamic leadership, they have now expanded from what was a proselytization group in which they were preaching about the ills of Nigerian society. And now they've expanded to Jihad mode since 2010.
ZENNThe turning point was in 2009 when Nigeria cracked down upon Boko Haram's leader and killed him extrajudicially and killed 800 other members. And then this is when the current leader Abubakar Shekau took over and said that he was going to issue glad tidings to al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb, Al-Shabaab and other al-Qaida groups. And it's very likely that some Nigerian Boko Haram members trained with al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb and Al-Shabaab during the time that Mohamed Yusuf, the Boko Haram founder, was still leader before 2009.
ZENNAnd they've since brought back new tactics to Nigeria, especially expertise in kidnappings. This is why we've seen a number of kidnappings of foreigners since 2012. And they might have taught Boko Haram how to execute the kidnappings like we saw today -- saw this past week.
PAGEYou know, Carl, there was a story in the New York Times this morning that said even among terrorist groups, some of them are now posting comments on websites that express concern about this tactic, that it's gone too far, even for some groups that back attacks on westerners.
LEVANThat's absolutely right and that was an excellent piece by Adam Nossiter and David Kirkpatrick. And I think that it's important to keep that perspective in mind in moderation in response to, you know, Jacob's comments because there has been a splintering of the organization over this. And many of the international ties remain fairly speculative. And al-Qaida in Iraq, you know, for example recently split, as the article pointed out, over this question of radical tactics.
LEVANAnd so Boko Haram itself is split over questions of whether to negotiate and the type of tactics that are used. And I think certainly giving the incredible outpouring of domestic and international anger over this incident, I think Boko Haram, you know, will undergo a similar kind of realignment. And I just wanted to go back very quickly to something that Amb. Sanders and Jacobs have been talking about, which has to do with the response of the military and the need to protect these schools, which is absolutely true.
LEVANBut one thing that we've learned from communicating with locals in Borno State and elsewhere is that many of the attacks were preceded by a very unfortunate pattern. In Izghe, in Chibok, and most recently in Gomburu, in all of these places, there did seem to be some sort of preliminary warning about suspicious movements in the region.
LEVANFor example, in Izgh, sources have told me that there was a military checkpoint in place for a very long time. And just before there was an attack on a school there, the military checkpoint just a few hours earlier had -- the guards had been changed. And then so...
PAGESo what do you make of that?
LEVANWhat we make of that is that there are problems within the military itself. And if this is a consistent pattern, then it really raises suspicions about the commitment of the military to fighting the problem.
PAGEDoes it mean they're not willing to fight it, or does it mean they're actually in cahoots with the rebels?
LEVANWell, there have been a great deal of speculation about whether they're in cahoots. And, you know, one of the stories along those lines was a Voice of America story a few weeks ago about an unnamed military officer who had received some training. And when he showed up in Sambisa Forest -- that was mentioned earlier, which is one of the likely hiding points for Boko Haram right now -- that he showed up, and he recognized some of his trainers on the other side of the fence, so to speak.
LEVANAnd they were wearing -- and there was a changing of uniforms. And many of the military officers who had been recruited -- soldiers who had been recruited were then, in turn, attacked. So it's all very fussy. And that goes back to, you know, part of the problem of having a rapid response and a clearer control and coordination of information just to clarify what is happening, along the lines of what Amb. Sanders recommended.
PAGEAmb. Sanders, here's an email from Sherry who writes us from Miami. She asks, "Why doesn't the U.N. send in security forces to get these girls?"
SANDERSWell, I think, number one, nobody knows exactly where the girls are. I think I said at the top of the program that it's possible, given so much time, that many of them have been dispersed across the border or in smaller groups that are harder to identify than sort of a group of 300 would be. And I think that that's a challenge. And of course for any kind of U.N. action, you need of course a commitment by the U.N. to -- a vote at the U.N. to do so, similar like we have in (word?) and that we had in Mali.
SANDERSThat hasn't happened yet. It doesn't mean that it will not happen. And it may be to the point that a resolution is presented to the U.N. to do so. But that's the reason why it hasn't happened to date. I just wanted to say something on the al-Qaida-like tactics, whether it's coming from (unintelligible) and in the Islamic Maghreb or other places. Although, yeah, I can't give you details, but I can say with absolute certainty that I know for sure that those linkages are there. And they have been there since the killing of Mohamed Yusuf in 2009.
SANDERSI was actually here when that extrajudicial killing took place, and we followed quite a bit the actions of Boko Haram from that period forward. So there's no question at all that there are linkages. And what they are learning from these linkages is what tools to use and what tools not to use. And I'm wondering -- I used to always compare them a little bit to Afghanistan to the Taliban.
SANDERSAnd they reminded me in their approach of a lot of things like the Taliban would be -- sometimes they were referred to here as the Nigerian Taliban. And the attack that the Taliban did on Malala, for example, is -- this kind of harks back to that attack on girls getting education. So I think those linkages are there. I know they are there and I think that some of these new tactics are coming from those linkages.
PAGEAmbassador, the fact that you say we know that there are these linkages with al-Qaida groups, how does that affect the U.S. response, what the U.S. is willing and able to do in this situation?
SANDERSI think President Obama has said -- and I even know from when I was here -- the offers that we have provided to Nigeria. So I think there's a range of things that we are willing to do because we know that these linkages do exist. And we know that there are cross border challenges for all the countries in the region.
SANDERSAnd so I think that, you know, having -- I know this is a very, very sensitive issue for most Africans, but I think there's a role to play for drones, and providing that we have the right oversight of drone use. I mentioned the P3 surveillance before, but the porous borders that exist between the countries in the region that border Nigeria I think is going to be a bigger problem for the Nigerians to be able to pull under control.
SANDERSAnd so they're going to really need international help to be able to better man their borders, use better technology for bomb detection and have better rapid responses to some of these information systems that are coming into them, that they're not responding in time.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls. In fact, we're going to go to the phones now. They're up and working. Let's talk to Craig who's calling us from Charlotte, N.C. Craig, you're on the air.
CRAIGHello. It seems to me that so far the response from the media and world leaders has been nothing but positive for Boko Haram. I don't think they mind being decried by western world leaders. So my question is, is there something else that world leaders should be doing and maybe even the media should be doing to take steps to solve the situation?
PAGECraig, thanks so much for your call. Well, let me ask our panel. Carl, could we be -- could all this attention really be fueling the rebel groups, to be exact, giving them exactly what they want?
LEVANYou know, that's a matter of debate even within Nigeria itself. And, you know, the Nigerian government has made important progress in other sectors over the last few years. They just recalibrated their gross domestic product and declared themselves the largest economy in Africa and so forth. And so, you know, for them they feel like there's been somewhat of a distraction from these other accomplishments.
LEVANAnd in terms of a law enforcement strategy, you know, there's some concern that I think this is giving Boko Haram the sort of credibility and visibility that they need -- that they seek. But it also, I think, is going to attract international attention and certainly mobilize a new domestic response within Nigeria to a problem that has been nagging at the country for over five years now, almost 12 years, if you go all the way back to 2002 and the origins of the group.
PAGEAmb. Sanders, what about Craig's other question. Are there other things the international community should be doing to -- in this situation?
SANDERSI think helping, again, the neighbors around Nigeria I think is something that -- this is a regional problem in some ways even though the immediate effects are felt here in Nigeria. But we've seen this in other places, not just on the African continent, but the chances for this to become more of a regional issue is really very much on our fingertips right now.
SANDERSAnd if we don't pull that back, then what we see happening in northern Nigeria could happen, you know, in Cameroon. You know, we already had a border attack on Monday, but they could be attracting other elements that live in Cameroon, that live in Niger, that live in Chad. So I think pulling in the neighbors and say this is not just a Nigeria issue. This is a regional issue that we all need to work together to control.
SANDERSHave your intelligence services work together more. Communicate all of these rapid response ideas that have come up. So maybe they need to have a regional rapid response so that information and the dots can be connected. On this emboldened issue, I just want to say the thing that I have been saying when I teach classes on national security studies on visiting -- the Nigerian Defense University.
SANDERSAnd I just said this in my last session was this idea that you're always out there saying you've defeated Boko Haram just emboldens them to show you that you haven't. So let's focus on the capability issue, the resource issue, both human resources and material resources. And really having a united front in all of those areas so that you can move forward. But this constant every two or three days saying you've done X, Y, Z so therefore then we've defeated them, that to me emboldens them more than anything else, to show you that they haven't.
PAGELet's go to Dallas and talk to Saib. (sp?) Saib, hi. You're on the air.
SAIBThank you very much. We are talking about the attitude of the government of Nigeria with this Boko Haram thing. But people do forget that some time ago the president said they have intelligence on the (word?) who are members of his cabinet and who are members of the Senate of Nigeria. And nothing has been done. Not one person has (unintelligible) for that.
SAIBAnd I think the president is dealing with this as a matter of political activity (unintelligible) to study the government. That's why you see things to confront. Recently, a few days ago, his wife came on air and almost -- she started the claim that she doubt that any girls were missing at all. That's because he called them missing, and the wife of the governor of the state wasn't at the meeting. If the president (unintelligible) that this is by his political (word?) and they are just trying to study the government because originally they have intelligence on the sponsors, who are members of the government.
PAGEAll right. Saib, are you from Nigeria yourself originally?
SAIBYes, I'm from -- yeah, and this is a shame this is happening in Nigeria.
PAGEYes, it is indeed. Let me ask the panel about the point that Saib made. Carl, what do you think?
LEVANSaib, (speaks foreign language). Your question about the government of Nigeria is really right on target. And it goes to the question of impunity that not only have the members of the government who could potentially be culpable or at least lax in this issue, not only have they not been investigated, but the human rights violations by the state also have been blanketed by a dark cover of impunity.
LEVANAnd that has also become a great recruiting tool for Boko Haram unfortunately. And I think that the comments that Patience Jonathan, the first lady, made a few days ago were unfortunate. And they speak to this need for information control and better messaging that Amb. Sanders was alluding to.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. We're sorry that Amb. Sanders has to leave us. She's in Nigeria for an economic conference. Amb. Sanders, thanks so much for being with us.
SANDERSThank you for having me. Thank you to my panel members as well.
PAGEYes. And when we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Carl LeVan and Jacob Zenn about the situation in Nigeria. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're joined from Hanoi by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African and Eurasian Affairs at the Jamestown Foundation. And with me in the studio, Carl LeVan, a specialist in Nigeria and assistant professor at the School of International Service at American University. We're taking your calls, we're reading your emails. Here's a question I have first, I think, to pose to the people on our panel.
PAGEWe've had unending attention to the missing Malaysian airliner and a huge international effort at enormous costs to search for that missing plane, which I don't begrudge at all, but it took a lot of time, it seems to me. It took a couple weeks for the same kind of focus to be placed on this crisis. Why do you think that is, Carl?
LEVANYou know, I think that frustrations had been building in Nigeria for many months now. And I was in the country when the girls were taken hostage. And I was also in the country in January. And, you know, one of the reasons that there was finally a threshold crossed is because of the governments growing lack of credibility in how they handled the crisis. You know, for example, within a day or so after the girls were initially taken, an official from the Ministry of Defense said that the girls had been freed.
LEVANThis turned out, of course, to not be true. And then there are the comments already referenced by the first lady a few days ago. And then, you know, in addition, the president has tried to shift blame to the governors in the Northeast, who, by the way, you know, are primarily sympathetic to the opposition political party. And, you know, the governors actually do not have control with any security services. Under Nigeria's system all of the security services, including police, are controlled by the federal government.
LEVANSo it's very important to have cooperation of local and regional politicians and officials and communities, but, you know, that has been absent. And so that is what led to women and families taking the matters, unfortunately, into their own hands, and then last week issuing this desperate plea, bring back our girls, and marching in Abuja to the National Assembly on Monday, and then to the Ministry of Defense on Tuesday, which led to a meeting. And then yesterday, apparently holding yet another demonstration. I spoke with some of the protestors just outside the World Economic Forum meeting in Abuja, the capital.
PAGENow, Hillary Clinton, this morning, in an appearance in New York, was critical of the Nigerian government for its handling of this search, saying they've been somewhat derelict. And there was a tweet that Michelle Obama put out that had a photo of her in the White House, looking very serious and holding a white hand-lettered sign that had the #bringbackourgirls. Jacob Zenn, how important has social media been in this crisis?
ZENNSocial media, especially with this bring back your girls hashtag and the support that hashtag has gotten from Michelle Obama and other world leaders, has certainly put pressure on the Nigerian government to react to this, in the absence of any other reactions from the Nigerian government. And this might be one reason why the Nigerian government, with the lack of credibility that it is facing, is beginning to accept more international support from Canada, the U.S., U.K., France, and even China, to combat Boko Haram and help rescue these girls.
ZENNAt the same time, as we mentioned, the international attention to this issue, may also serve Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau's interest, in that it puts so much pressure on the Nigerian government to get back the girls that it might force them into paying some ransoms, probably behind the scenes, to Boko Haram to get back some of the girls and theoretically restore credibility, but not actually doing something about the lack of security in the region, which allows Boko Haram to still kidnap more girls.
PAGEWell, here's an email from -- a comment on Twitter, from Joe. "Boko Haram's source of money? Is there funding from the Middle East?" Carl, what do we know about where this group gets its funding?
LEVANThe longer they are around, the less we know, publicly, at least, about where they get their funding. But for a long time their funding simply came from robbing banks. There's been a massive increase in the banking industry over the last 15 years in Abuja and throughout the county. And for the first several years that Boko Haram was escalating its violence there were periodic attacks on banks. And they were just taking the money.
LEVANThere are also -- there's at least one or two instances where hostages were taken and ransoms were paid. And so, you know, if there is some sort of exchange as a result of this most recent hostage crisis, you know, that would unfortunately, possibly, I think, fuel a vicious cycle of hostage taking and ransom and ransom money in turn being used to finance the insurrection and the violence, as Jacob has rightly, I think, suggested.
PAGELet's go to K.T., calling us from Houston. Hi, you're on the air.
K.T.Yes, thank you, ma'am. Thanks for putting me on the air. You know that this Boko Haram is mainly for imposing Sharia law in the country. And I hear also there was one fact -- I don't remember the time, year or something, the name is Maitatsine sect. They were also doing the same thing. That is number one point.
K.T.Number two, there (unintelligible) hear other people say that -- caller said that they are actually (unintelligible) with different things. That is correct. But the way they are working mainly is just local type of things. They might have not pre-planned to kidnap that so many girls, but they had something to do some with (unintelligible) and all that and put the havoc in the public, so they do this.
K.T.So that is the -- next point is that they -- the other guy also said they will take some ransom for the release of the girls. And by now, so many girls might have been disposed. I don't know how and this and that, across the border or something. And somewhat they release, they will…
PAGEK.T., thanks so much for your call. Let me ask Jacob. Is Sharia Law the objective of this group?
ZENNI do believe Boko Haram's long-term objective is to carve out some territory within Northeastern Nigeria or the border region that will be a de facto state with some de facto recognition. And that it will use that territory to negotiate with the Nigerian state on a number of other issues. And it could likely allow other militants from around Africa or West Africa to come to that de facto state. This is what the Islamist militants in Northern Mali tried to do in 2012, before France intervened with a coalition.
ZENNAnd what al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen, tried to do in 2010. But I think Boko Haram is not doing this immediately because it knows that if started to implement bureaucratic and administrative procedures and unpopular Sharia Law it could likely lose support, as happened in Mali and Yemen. And this comes from the words of Abubakar Shekau even in the years before Boko Haram became a jihadist group, when he used to give sermons in local mosques.
PAGEWell, I wonder, does it work, Carl? Does it -- if the objective is to get girls to be afraid to go to school, is that likely to succeed in Nigeria?
LEVANI don't think so. And I think that Boko Haram should not underestimate the power of angry mothers. And the demand for education all over Nigeria is overwhelming. In the United States we take education for granted. And in Nigeria, where I have lived twice, a family of modest means will spend an enormous share of their income on sending their children to school. I mean, 40, 50, 60 percent of their family income might go towards school fees.
LEVANAnd this is why -- getting to the long-term solutions -- expanding education, but also incorporating something that respects and accommodates Islamic ideas as part of public education in Northern Nigeria, is probably going to be part of a long-term solution. I did want to go back, if we have a moment, to respond to something that your caller K.T. brought up, which is the imposition of Sharia Law. And I would echo generally what Jacob outlined in terms of the goals of Boko Haram, although there's also some speculation that this is really just part of a broader macro-political game among politicians.
LEVANBut the other backstory on Sharia Law are two-fold. One, that in 1999 and 2000, when I was living in Abuja, 12 out of Nigeria's 36 state legislatures actually passed laws to make Sharia Law the criminal code of the country. Now, the really important thing to know about that is that those criminal procedures were never really implemented in any systematic way. And there was a lot of concern and even hysteria about Nigeria going the way of Sharia. And it didn't really happen.
LEVANAnd one of the reasons why that happened is because there is a strong historical and political and economic undercurrent of moderation that has run through Nigeria over the long term. The first governor to call for Sharia in 1999, within a matter of a year was urging small businesses to come back to his state. Secondly, very briefly, K.T. mentioned the Maitatsine sect, a rebellion that took place in the early 1980s during Nigeria's second attempt at democracy.
LEVANAnd Maitatsine was a little bit different in the sense that they had a stronger anti-technology message, that there was an almost Luddite sense of what they were trying to achieve. So, for example, the leader of Maitatsine would refuse to wear a watch, would refuse to ride a motorcycle. And motorcycles have, in fact, turned out to be one of the tools that have been very useful for Boko Haram. But the government crackdown on Maitatsine was devastating and it insured that Islam and Islamic radicalism became a recurring issue in the years that followed.
PAGEJacob, here's an email from Dorothy. She writes, "Why is no one talking about arresting the buyers of these girls? I mean, especially if they've been dispersed and are being sold." Is that a realistic possibility, another way to get them back home?
ZENNI do think that is another way to get them back home, is to focus on where they've gone and through what criminal or trafficking networks they might have been passed on through. However, it's also possible that the large majority of these girls have been passed on to Boko Haram members or supporters themselves. And it might not be so simple as just finding the buyers, especially if those buyers are armed, like Boko Haram.
ZENNAlthough, it would be important to trace patterns of trafficking. And I've heard from some colleagues who are experts in trafficking in Africa, that the typical routes could send a girl, like these ones that were kidnapped, up through the Sahel into -- as far as Tunisia or Libya. And for those who are working on saving the girls, they should be focusing on any new patterns or new signals that these girls are coming through typical patterns and upsetting that at the source.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've been taking your calls, reading your emails. Here's another email that we've gotten from Texas. "The question or theory that everybody seems to be tip-toeing around is that males in the Nigerian government secretly sympathize with Boko Haram in their attitudes toward women. The same exact scenario exists in Pakistan, with their unstated alliance with terrorist organizations." Carl, what do you think?
LEVANYou know, there's undercurrents of chauvinism in all cultures. And that's why I think it's important for people like myself who -- to really listen to the message that's coming from Nigeria's women right now. You know, the overall participation of women in politics within Nigeria has actually declined in the last 10 years. So within the National Assembly and within many of the key bureaucratic positions there's been a decline in the number of women.
LEVANYou know, whether that has to do with a cause and effect, I really am not sure, but, you know, I strongly believe that expanding the participation of women in politics and increasing their representation would be constructive in Nigeria, because it would change, you know, many of the policy emphases and I think it would add another perspective.
PAGEMary has asked us to discuss this, she says, "Back in September or October, the same group massacred young boys in a dorm and no one has brought that up. Why aren't we talking about that, too?" Jacob, can you tell us anything about that?
ZENNIndeed, there have been several massacres of boys in their dorms in Yobe State and Adamawa State, where, unlike these girls, which were taken for ransom, the boys were just killed. And we're talking numbers about 40. And they were young University students. And that highlights one of the issues related to Boko Haram that we've been discussing in this program, and that is that massacres and various forms of human rights abuses and even kidnappings of girls have happened for months before the most recent mass kidnapping in Chibok.
ZENNBut the Boko Haram issue did not gain mass international attention until now. And it's only now that the international community is really beginning to put their minds together and find a solution. One reason that we may have ignored these other massacres in the international media is that this is a remote area of Nigeria, not many people speak English in Borno State. And most of the media focused on other issues around the world, like the Arab uprisings or Malaysian airliner.
PAGEAll right. Let's -- we're almost out of time. I want to close with a question that Sally, from D.C. has sent us. She says, "Is there any age group working with the families that people can send donations to or some way to tell the families that we sympathize with them or give them some kind of emotional support?" Any suggestions to our listeners, Carl?
LEVANYeah, that's a great question. And like a lot of the decentralized social media movements that emerge, you know, that is an evolving question. For those of you in Washington, D.C., there will be a demonstration tomorrow, 12:30, Friday, at 17th and I at Farragut Square. It's just a few blocks from Michelle Obama's house, so perhaps she'll show up with one of the bring-back-our-girls signs.
LEVANYou know, some of the groups that have organized the protests in Abuja and that visited internal displaced camps in Benue State and elsewhere, and helped get this on the international agenda are the Women Environmental Program, based in Abuja and also the Center for Development and Democracy, CDD, in Abuja. But there are many other groups and you'll learn more about them from the Facebook page, Bring Back Our Girls.
PAGECarl LeVan, he's the author of, "Dictators, Democracy and African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria." Thanks so much for being with us this hour.
LEVANThank you, Susan.
PAGEAnd our thanks, also, to Jacob Zenn from the Jamestown Foundation for joining us from Hanoi. Thanks for your time, sir.
ZENNYou're welcome, Susan. My pleasure.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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