Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Boko Haram Creeps Further into Nigerian Life and Politics

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Boko Haram Creeps Further into Nigerian Life and Politics

Article excerpt

By canceling a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, 12 parents and five teenage girls from small towns in Nigeria snubbed their head of state - and turned a national tragedy into a political scandal.

Since April when Boko Haram militants abducted more than 200 school girls, activists in Abuja and residents of the town of Chibok, where the girls were taken, have urged Nigeria's president to meet with grieving parents.

It took a request by Pakistani girls' education activist Malala Yousafzai, here this week to visit with Mr. Jonathan, to arrange a meeting yesterday. But when the time came to see Jonathan the families refused to leave their hotel rooms. A spokesman for the Chibok community said they would prefer to meet Jonathan later with more members of the community present.

In Nigeria, the snub was national news. The president and the parents are blaming each other: Jonathan said in a statement that the parents had been manipulated by the activist group Bring Back Our Girls, whose hashtag went viral in May, bringing global attention to an issue to which the president had given scant public attention.

"Political forces within the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls," Jonathan said. "They should be ashamed of their actions."

[Read a Monitor interview with a founder of Bring Back Our Girls]

Yet all sides here seem to agree that as the Islamist insurgency creeps further into politics, the only winners are the insurgents, whose reach appears to be expanding.

According to Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram extremists killed 2,053 persons in the first six months of 2014.

"Boko Haram is effectively waging war on the people of northeastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost," said Corrine Dufka, West Africa director for HRW. "Atrocities committed as part of a widespread attack on civilians are crimes against humanity, for which those responsible need to be held to account."

This week Boko Haram released a new video claiming responsibility for bombings last month in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, and in a shopping mall in Abuja. …

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