Buhari's First Challenge: Military Mass Killings

 nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

NIGERIA - Amongst the feeling of hope and a fresh start in the air from President Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration, Nigeria was slammed this week with a report from Amnesty International that claims the Nigerian military is tied to over 8,000 deaths in the country.

The research for the report has been conducted since 2009, in alignment with the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency. While the rise in violence by the military was driven by Boko Haram, the report finds that the majority of those 8,000 deaths have nothing to do with Boko Haram members.

This process was started through widespread rounding up of boys and young men, over 20,000 of them, based on often unreliable informants and poor intelligence. The report states that one could be arrested based on the word of a single unidentified informant. Upon arrest, the thousands of prisoners were placed in detention centers where they were commonly cramped into overcrowded cells in abysmal condition.

Many died from starvation, dehydration, suffocation and preventable diseases, as the prisoners were kept from adequate water, food and basic hygiene and sanitation. In one case, a detention center survivor told Amnesty, they were denied water for two days and 300 inmates died. In these dire situations, they were often forced to drink urine.

Those who were able to survive these terrifying living standards were still at risk of the brutal treatment by the military commanders, which included extrajudicial killings, torture, electrocution, and a myriad of other horrifying tactics. On March 14, 2014, after a Boko Haram attack on the Giwa barracks (and detention center), the military killed at least 640 men and boys who were imprisoned there. Satellite analysis has confirmed the presence of multiple mass graves in the area shortly after this date.

More worrisome is that this system of detainment and mass murder was widely known through all levels of the Nigerian military, including senior officials, Chief of Army staff and Chief of Defense Staff who regularly received reports of military activity in these regions of war-torn Northern Nigeria.

As stated in Amnesty's report, "A high ranking military officer...further said: '...people were not strong enough to stand...They keep them to die. They are deliberately starved. The effect is devastating. You have massive deaths. I believe close to 5,000 [in total] have died like that. It increased after the state of emergency.'" This behavior indicates that the Nigerian military's strategy to fight Boko Haram included murdering thousands of boys and young men without giving them fair trials or even the slightest confirmation that they were tied to the terrorist organization. Through this tactic, they managed to make the Boko Haram insurgency more detrimental to their country and its citizens.

Since the report has surfaced, the Nigerian military has rejected the findings as "concocted and biased," and even called Amnesty International an "irritant" in a Premium Times' article. Regardless of their response, the international community is up in arms over the findings and it is increasingly evident that new President Muhammadu Buhari must address these atrocities as soon as possible. If he wants to keep his promises of tackling human rights violations, it is imperative that he holds those who are guilty accountable and pave a new, morally upright pathway forward. The future of the country depends on it.

The entire report can be found here. 

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
LinkedIn: Jessamy Nichols

United States Leads in Stealing Africa's Doctors

 Pediatric doctors at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea

Pediatric doctors at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea

The United States is stealing the world’s doctors — and from the very places that need doctors the most. Dubbed the “international brain drain,” the United States leads the way in attracting international doctors, especially those from Africa.

The United States, with its high salaries, attracts more international doctors every year than Britain, Canada and Australia combined. However, for every 1000 people, Africa has only 2.3 health care workers, while the United States has almost 25. Doctors emigrating in droves from developing countries for “greener pastures” are making an already critical health worker shortage ever more dire.

But this brain drain is not new. In countries like Ghana, some 61% of doctors produced in the country between 1986 and 1994 had already left the country by 1999. The financial loss from emigration like this has been extremely detrimental. The loss from this period of emigration in Ghana alone is estimated at over 5.9 million dollars.

Foreign MDs
Foreign MDs

Not surprising, foreign medical doctors make up a substantial proportion of the doctors workforce in some of the most affluent countries in the world. More than 34% of doctors practicing in New Zealand were from overseas in 2000.  And according to a 2010 report in the Economie Internationale other developed countries have extremely high proportions of foreign doctors, including the United-Kingdom with 31%, the United-States with 26%, and Australia and Canada with more than 20%.

This is in part the result of initiatives like the 1994 U.S. legislation proposed to allow foreign doctors on student visas access to stay in the U.S. if they agreed to work in some of the poorest places in the United States. Since then, over 8,500 African doctors have left Africa and gained jobs at American hospitals that were in short supply.

A sneaky initiative. It looks great from the outside from its ability to give African medical students the chance to work in the U.S. for higher wages but it does nothing but continue to keep those living in “periphery” countries ever more dependent on “core” countries.

This is described by most scholars as the dependency theory — an economic model that became popular in the 1960s as a critic of the way the United States, along with many western countries, exploits those in the “periphery” for their own gain.

Poor countries provide resources, in the form of raw materials, cheap labor, and a market to those countries in the core. While wealthy countries in the core perpetuate their dependence in every way possible — through control of the media, economic politics, banks and finance insinuations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, educational initiatives, cultural exploitation, and even sporting events like the World Cup.

Indeed, this exploitation is clearly exemplified by the emigration policies facilitating the exodus of medical doctors from Africa over the past decade. Of the 12 African countries producing the most medical graduates, 8 have seen a 50% increase from 2002 - 2011 in all graduates appearing in the U.S. physician workforce. Cameroon, Sudan, and Ethiopia each had over a 100% increase since 2002.

These policies in place, that are sucking up some of Africa’s greatest doctors, are just further methods of perpetuating the poorest country’s dependence on the wealthiest.

It becomes clear then that while the United States benefits, Africa only appears to benefit. The U.S. gains excess doctors, while Africa looses the few it barely has.

While the United Sates grows its ratio of 2.45 doctors for every 1000 people, countries like Mozambique see a decrease in the already alarming rate of .04 doctors for every 1000 people.

Health professionals around the world agree that human resources is the most key component to solving problems in global health. But it is often one of the most neglected components, with much more emphasis focused on managing disease outbreaks and not the people actually preventing diseases.

Oliver Bakewel, of the International Migration Institute, agrees with this logic in writing that “development practice has commonly seen a reduction in migration as either an (implicit or explicit) aim of intervention or an indicator of a programme’s success" in an 2007 report.

However some scholars at the World Bank disagree with the notion that migration is inversely proportional to success in African development. A 2014 article in The Atlantic headlined "Why the brain drain can actually benefit African countries," outlined their findings that suggest "one additional migrant creates about 2,100 dollars a year in additional exports for his/her country of origin.”

However, this argument does not look closely enough at the brain drain for specifically medical doctors.

The brain drain intersects more than just the medial field — it cross cuts every highly skilled profession. But the effects of the brain drain on the status of health care in Africa is much more harmful than that of the brain drain of — for example — African professors. The average increase of 2,100 dollars in exports will do nothing to solve the critical and immediate lack of medical doctors in almost every African country.

The time is here more than ever for the international community to play a more proactive role in addressing the international medical brain drain. Affluent countries like the United States should be held accountable for exploiting Africa for its doctors, while international policies should be put in place to help African governments increase wages for health workers and retain their much needed doctors.

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan
LinkedIn: Austin Drake Bryan

Boko Haram's Latest Attacks Target Boys

nigerian-school-boys-walking-home-photo-by-juju-films.jpg

DORON, BAGA, Nigeria -- Sunday, Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of boys from the Nigerian village of Doron Baga. During the raid on the village, suspected Boko Haram dressed in police and military uniforms burned several houses and terrorized citizens while forcing boys and men into awaiting trucks. When the terror ended, 97 people were unaccounted for.

Most were men and boys, although 20 women were also included in the missing.

Security forces from neighboring Chad were able to intercept the group, freeing some of the abducted. However, many were forced onto speed boats in Lake Chad, which is bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

During the initial attack, witnesses described confusion and sporadic shooting amongst yells of "Allah Akbar" or "God is greatest." Those that could fled to the city of Maiduguri, leaving their village and their boys almost 100 miles behind them. Other refugees through either choice or lack of transportation stayed closer to what was once home.

The attacks came four months after the abduction of 300 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok. In the recent gender-based attacks, women, girls, and the very young were mostly spared. The Boko Haram first came for brides and sex slaves, then came for fighters.

Boko Haram attacks have increased over the past year, stretching the Nigerian police force to its limit and proving that the terrorist group is not limited to only one area of the country.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski

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Posing as Nigerian Soldiers, Boko Haram Slaughters Hundreds

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BORNO, Nigeria -- Boko Haram militants continue to spill blood throughout Nigeria. Reports are now surfacing that on Monday, 2 June 2014, the terror group carried out their latest attack in three small villages in Borno State, located in northeast Nigeria.

The rural nature of northeast Nigeria coupled with changing numbers of displaced and missing persons makes an exact body count hard to tally. But officials estimate that as many as 500 Nigerians were murdered during the attacks.

The militants targeted Danjara, Agalpawa and Antagara villages on Monday, dressed as Nigerian military members. Their appearance provided residents with momentary relief. Village leaders had asked for help from the Nigerian military amidst rumors of an impending attack, and when armed men dressed in Nigerian fatigues entered the three communities, many mistakenly felt that their concerns had finally been heard and validated by President Goodluck Johnathan.

At least 200 Nigerians are dead according to conservative estimates, while other sources claim as many as 500 men, women and children were killed during Monday's attack.

The terrorist organization is a collection of unapologetic murderers that toggle between kidnapping and outright mass murder. Since the abduction of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, Boko Haram has targeted Christian and Muslim communities alike, pretending to be clergy members or Nigerian military service members.

After fraudulently gaining the trust of local Nigerians, Boko Haram offensives follow a similar pattern. The terrorists assemble Nigerians together for a public service announcement or a religious sermon, and outside of the mosque, church or community building, Boko Haram members open fire.

President Goodluck Johnathan has pledged to put an end to the mounting violence, but that promise has proved difficult for the Johnathan administration and security forces. Allegations of corruption and negligence have poured out after last month's kidnapping of the young female students. The families of the missing girls have blamed the government for their non-interventionist response. When Boko Haram strikes, there is little to no return fire coming from military squads.

Often, locals are left to their own devices to ward off their attackers. When Boko Haram assailed a Christian church in Antagara last month, four insurgents were killed. Across the country, community members are learning that they themselves are the last, and often only, line of defense against the antagonistic terrorists. But the episode outside of the church in Antagara did not discourage Boko Haram extremism.

In fact, it appears that the opposite is true. The militants have increased the number and scale of assaults in the weeks since they stormed Christians in Antagara, as retaliation against the vigilantes. It seems that Nigerians are caught in a dangerous double jeopardy, where inaction enables the terror group to kill without repercussion, and defensive efforts only increase future Boko Haram strikes.

While Nigeria is the most powerful economy on the African continent, northern Nigeria is less oil-rich and more rural. Residents face a significantly higher incidence of poverty. Great distances separate many of the village communities, and as a result, the Nigerian military has been powerless against the premeditated and nefarious activities of Boko Haram. Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, is separated from the northeast targets both culturally and geographically, and this disconnect is exploited by the terrorists.

Operating under a deranged understanding of Islam, the Boko Haram militia has strengthened their available firepower in recent months, and continue to build media notoriety through suicide bombings.

As the wealth of Nigeria continues to grow, the understaffed and underfunded military programs become less and less excusable.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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Enough Already. Where are Nigeria's Stolen Daughters?

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:30 p.m. DST, 29 May 2014

"Female faces" Photo by: DFID - UK Department For International Development

BORNO, Nigeria -- Six very long weeks ago, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in northern Nigeria and abducted over 200 girls in the night. This terrifying incident, that lead a Boko Haram leader to announce they would “sell them [the girls] in the market,” sparked a massive social media campaign with the trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Thousands of social media posts and hundreds of minutes of news coverage later, almost the entirety of the group of these young, innocent girls is still being held captive without rescue or hope.

What’s the most frustrating aspect of this? The lack of willpower and resolve from Nigerian politicians.

Nigeria, a country with a booming economy (recently surpassing South Africa), recently hosted a World Economic Forum meeting, bringing together high-profile businessmen and political figureheads from across the world to showcase Nigeria’s newfound economic success. But wait. What does economic growth matter if a country is not even willing to defend itself from terrorists and humanitarian crises?

This miscalculation essentially equates to Nigerian politicians taking home big, fat checks while they wait weeks to fulfill their duties to even just respond to this abduction. Visiting the site of the attack and speaking with families there? That took even longer for President Goodluck Jonathan to do.

What good are democratic elections if the elected officials feel no responsibility to protect their own citizens and defend those who can’t defend themselves? A key factor that people are forgetting to talk about here is that Nigeria actually has an incredibly powerful, i.e. capable, military arm, ranked 47th in the world in Global Firepower’s Power Index score. The organization uses 50 factors to determine a nation's potential conventional military strength. Nigeria’s ranking puts it ahead of many developed or developing, stable nations, including Finland, Azerbaijan, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Hungary, Kenya, Kuwait, Jordan and Lithuania.

In summary, Nigeria’s leaders are not sitting there with their hands completely tied. Yes, now that they claim to have found the location of the girls (with international help, I might add), they want to avoid firefights and risk harming the girls, which is sensible. However, why did the issue ever get this far? Nigeria has several hundred thousand personnel in its armed forces, yet they are doing an atrociously feeble job of defending the nation against Boko Haram, which according to Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, makes up a “minuscule” proportion of the population.

Why did this internal mess get this far? If Nigeria has a robust, proficient military arm, coupled with a growing economy, how is a group of terrorists still wreaking such effective havoc across the nation?

The matter truly comes down to a matter of resolve, because while Boko Haram is well organized and has been successful in carrying out suicide bombings, they are not using high-tech, profound strategies that Nigeria is helpless against. Diverting some of this newfound economic wealth to the underdeveloped portions of the country, along with military postings and increased surveillance, could cripple Boko Haram’s capabilities and weaken them to a point where abductions and weekly bombings would be impossible.

Alternatively, if President Jonathan truly felt helpless in leading this terrorist situation, he could have also asked for international help a long time ago, considering most Western countries are committed to fighting terrorism. His qualms about doing so, though, are likely influenced by the upcoming presidential election where he doesn’t want to look weak. Who’s paying the price for his political battles? These hundreds of abducted girls and their families, who are left to live under a government that sits in Abuja while a terrorist network continues to wreak havoc throughout the country.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

The Ways And Means Of Boko Haram

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 19:15 p.m. DST, 9 May 2014

"Combined force clears insurgent camp" Photo by: International Security Assistance ForceBORNO, Nigeria -- Modeled in the image of the Taliban and affiliated with the al Qaeda network, Boko Haram is not a newcomer to the industry of terror. Posing as a legitimate branch of Islam, the dangerous extremist group has orchestrated a campaign of heinous crimes against humanity for the past five years.

Operating in northern Nigeria and parts of Cameroon and Niger, the insurgents have recently stirred international attention after abducting more than 250 young women from an all-girls boarding school in Chibok last month. While the Borno-based kidnappings have rightfully triggered media outrage, Boko Haram's other efforts are equally disturbing.

On Monday, 5 May 2014, the guerrillas waged a 12-hour massacre on civilians in the small town of Gamboru Ngala, located in the northeast corner of Nigeria. Just miles from the Cameroon border, the assailants stormed a local market, firing upon patrons and later burning the bazaar. Boko Haram bombed the police headquarters and destroyed community buildings, burning many victims alive. Nigerian officials estimate the death toll at 300.

The mission of Boko Haram is fragmented at best. Outspoken leader Abubakar Shekau is an equal opportunity hate monger, whose agenda targets Christians, Muslims and state and local governments. Tenets of Boko Haram include the strict compliance of Sharia law, which codifies gender roles and regulations according to the Quran.

Boko Haram formed as a response to perceived issues in the Nigerian government, and they intend to oust President Goodluck Johnathan. In a sense, the continued existence of the extremists and the relative ease at which the group is able to operate is seeming confirmation that problems persist in the standing administration. As a whole, the police force in Nigeria is seen as impotent, and as a result many crimes are never reported to authorities.

The beginnings of Boko Haram indignation and hostility trace back to unresolved cultural clashes and a lack of security presence. Human Rights Watch documents the ongoing battle between Christians and Muslims in Plateau and Kaduna States. Many Nigerians are upset with President Johnathan's response to the murderous feud and expect government action to stop future attacks. The problem, of course, is that Boko Haram's solution to the nonintervention is further bloodletting.

In the past year, Boko Haram has waged three underreported onslaughts on various schools located in Yobe State. Each attack follows a similar plan--insurgents break into boarding schools during early morning hours, throwing explosives into dormitories and bombarding children with heavy gunfire.

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Published: 9 May 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

The July 2013 massacre at Yobe State School left 42 dead. 44 students perished at Gujba College in September 2013. And 59 boys were killed during the bombing and burning of the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi in February 2014. These tragedies eclipse any mass shooting in the United States in terms of scale, but receive significantly less media consideration.

It is no coincidence that Yobe and Borno States border one another. Together, they represent the cradle of Boko Haram activity. The geographic and political makeup of northern Nigeria help to explain the persistence of regional violence and extremism. Throughout rural and remote states, Boko Haram targets young men who live in severe poverty. The promise of resources, weapons and food provisions is enough to gather an increasing number of recruits.

But poor and powerless individuals are not the only ones buying into the warped ideology. Given the size and strength of the Boko Haram militia, numerous local governments and politicians pay the insurgents for protection. Extortion money remains the fiscal backbone of the organization. In some cases, local officials give Boko Haram leadership outright control. According to some estimates, these terrorists are the acting rulers in almost a third of all local governments in Borno.

While parts of northern Nigeria are dangerous, and the need for protection is an unfortunate reality in the region, certainly Boko Haram is the chief reason a village would need defense in the first place. Financing from local councils only serve to keep communities and leaders out of the firefight.

Nevertheless, this financial support keeps the dangerous rebel organization viable and keeps neighboring townships in a treacherous position. It seems that no person and no group is safe from the extremism embraced by Abubakar Shekau and his operation. As evident by the August 2011 assassination of Muslim leader Liman Bana, the Islamic establishment is as much a threat to Boko Haram as the Christian equivalent.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and also its largest economy. But the massive gap in wealth between the oil-endowed southern states of Nigeria and the agrarian north also plays into the tensions between the haves and the have-nots. Rooted in this inequity and growing stronger in the manure of hatred, Boko Haram continues to threaten peace and sensibility throughout the Continent.

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Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

U.S. to Send Aid for Safe Return of Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

 Boko Haram Kidnapped Nigerian School Girls, Photo by Gullpress

Boko Haram Kidnapped Nigerian School Girls, Photo by Gullpress

NIGERIA - Three weeks ago, the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in Borno State as they were about to sit for their final exams.

Boko Haram, which translates to "Western education is sinful," then set the school on fire. Since then, 53 girls have managed to escape -- though Tuesday, 6 May 2014, there was another kidnapping of 8-girls from the nearby village of Warabe.

Thus far the search for the missing girls has primarily been conducted by residents of Borno, who have been braving the dangerous Sambisa Forest as well as potentially fatal encounters with Boko Haram, all with little on-ground military support.

The military says it is using aerial surveillance to look for the girls. However, many suspect that the government is afraid to engage in a conflict with Boko Haram which is heavily armed.

After three weeks of little or no support from the Nigerian government, as well as the lack of information on the exact location and status of the kidnapped girls, citizens have begun to lose confidence in authority.

However, the girls have international support: the British government expressed concern, the UN condemned the kidnappings as acts against humanity, protests are happening worldwide, awareness has gone viral with the hashtag "#bringbackourgirls," and Nigeria has recently accepted help from the US military.

While the girls were originally kept nearby, there is belief that some have been transported to neighboring countries.  If the girls have been split up into several groups, rescue efforts could potentially take years.

Boko Haram plans to sell the girls. Additionally, some may be kept as human shields to prevent rescuers from bombing the camps they're kept at, and others may be ransomed back to their parents.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that finding the girls will be a top priority.