Boko Haram has increased its use of kidnapping, particularly women and children, for purposes as diverse as slavery and creating dissatisfaction with the Nigerian government.
How it all began
In response to this, Shekau stated in a 40-minute video message his intention to kidnap the families of government officials, ostensibly in retaliation for the detention of Boko Haram family members.
A year later, in May 2013, Shekau made good on his promise when he kidnapped a dozen government officials along with their families, taking credit for the kidnappings in a video. Boko Haram kidnapped twelve Christian women and children in a May 2013 raid on a battalion barracks in Bama town. Shekau released a video message after the kidnapping stating the hostages would become his slaves if the Nigerian government did not meet certain requirements, including the release of the Boko Haram family members detained by the government.
Boko Haram takes the women and girls to temporary camps and then later to houses in towns and villages where it has safe houses for indoctrination.
What may have started as an act of revenge has developed into a standard raiding technique. Shekau, in multiple video messages, declared that captured females will be married to Boko Haram fighters, forced to convert to Islam, and/or sold into slavery. According to a publication by Reuters journalist, David Blair in a publication, he noted that during her three-month captivity, a girl from Gwoza in Borno State stated in an interview that the Boko Haram fighters forced her to cook and clean, convert to Islam, as well as lure government soldiers into ambushes.
The kidnappings have generated fear throughout the Nigerian population, causing many to leave their homes for safer areas and others to live in constant fear for their safety.
Beyond the human tragedy, the kidnappings greatly reduce the trust of Nigerians in their government to protect them. While only one of many such kidnappings, the Chibok Girls Secondary School kidnapping received international attention, significantly amplifying Boko Haram’s message of government incompetence.
While there are complex reasons for Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat in the presidential election, a slow recognition of and response to the Chibok kidnappings was at least a component in his not being re-elected. Protests against the government’s handling of the Boko Haram security threat continued to plague the government. In videos, Shekau cites the Chibok raid and other kidnappings to point to his successes and the government’s failure, further eroding the general public’s confidence in the Nigerian government.
Exclusive of all of the other reasons for Boko Haram’s kidnappings, targeted kidnappings for ransom now serve as a readily available revenue stream. Boko Haram received $3 million in ransom payment for releasing seven members of a French family kidnapped over the border in Cameroon some 7 years ago. Most kidnappings, however, are not so lucrative; kidnapping victims tend to be mid-level officials, students, health workers, NGO workers, vulnerable women and children who are unable to afford personal security.
The goodnews is, as the Nigeria Army continued to sustain the tempo of the ongoing Counter-Terrorism operations in the North East with a view to decimating and destroying the remnant of Boko Haram, they have continued to rescue many kidnapped victims most especially women and children as seen in some of the attached photos and Boko Haram fighters are being subdued.
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