Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has canceled his trip to Chibok, the Nigerian town that saw nearly 300 schoolgirls taken by the militant group Boko Haram more than a month ago, for security reasons.
The BBC reports that Jonathan was supposed to stop by the village on Friday en route to Paris, in what would have been his first visit since the abductions. Now, however, he will fly directly to France, where he will meet with global leaders to discuss Boko Haram in a summit.
Chibok is located in Nigeria's Borno State, where attacks by Boko Haram are not unusual. Just on Tuesday, hundreds of Boko Haram militants swarmed three villages in the region. Nigeria's army has not been able to control the group's actions, leaving the region in a frightening, lawless state. But local residents, unable to rely on the government for protection, fought off the attack on their own. CNN reports:
In the three villages attacked Tuesday, gunmen arrived in dozens of all-terrain vans, armored tanks and motorcycles, but villagers quickly mobilized and engaged the attackers in a prolonged battle. "They attacked Menari and killed around 60 people and burned some homes before proceeding to Tsangayari and Garawa villages," resident Algoni Ahunna said. When news of the attack filtered out, people trooped out from nearby villages carrying arms. Locals seized an armored tank, three all-terrain vans and 90 motorcycles from the attackers, residents said.
Frustration with the government over its inability to cope with the threat posed by Boko Haram has spread globally. Yesterday, U.S. officials said that Nigerian forces are not acting quickly enough on new intelligence gathered by American surveillance drones and satellites. "It is impossible to fathom that we might have actionable intelligence and we would not have the wherewithal — whether by the Nigerians themselves or by other entities helping the Nigerians — to be able to conduct a rescue mission,” said Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Pentagon's principal director for Africa, Alice Friend, added that “In the face of a new and more sophisticated threat than [Nigeria] has faced before, its security forces have been slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics." She concluded that "in general, Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram."
Complicating matters is that the Nigerian army is itself a problem. The Los Angeles Times explains that it would be illegal for the U.S. to work with troops because of their history of humans rights abuses:
Human rights groups have documented widespread abuses by Nigerian forces over the last few years, including the burning of homes and farm buildings, shooting suspected Boko Haram members as revenge for attacks on police, and detaining young men indefinitely without trial. The army and police “are not disciplined and are very abusive,” Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said Thursday.
None of this bodes very well for the French talks on Saturday, which will bring leaders from Nigeria's neighboring countries, as well as the U.S., EU and U.K., to the table.