The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) joins the global community in condemning the abduction of over 276 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014 and Nigeria’s subsequent failure to take immediate action to ensure their safe return and continued protection. The schoolgirls were taking exams when members of Boko Haram stormed the all-girl secondary school near Chibok in Northeast Nigeria and forced the teenage schoolgirls into trucks, kidnapping and transporting them to remote camps in Northern Nigeria, including Madayi, Dogon Chuku, Meri and Kangarwa.1 Upon splitting up and dispersing the girls into several different camps, Boko Haram publically threatened to sell them in the “marketplace.” Despite 53 of the girls escaping, 223 remain captured by Boko Haram in indiscernible conditions and unknown locations.
Following the kidnapping, the Nigerian Government, under President Goodluck Jonathan, has been slow in responding to the attacks and in ensuring the safe return of the girls and severe consequences for the perpetrators. Facing international criticism for failing to prioritize the girl’s immediate and safe return, President Goodluck Jonathan finally spoke publically of the incident two weeks after the kidnappings occurred.2 The lack of early military intervention and public acknowledge of the attacks signal a lack of commitment in upholding Nigeria’s obligations and commitments under domestic, regional, and international law.
Since the incident, several SOAWR members including organizations have engaged in various initiatives aimed at galvanizing action the Nigerian government, other AU states and regional institutions. This includes a 30 day action campaign by women’s rights organizations in Nigeria and solidarity marches across 23 states.3
Under its National constitution, as well as its obligations stemming from international and regional treaties, Nigeria is mandated to take all necessary and immediate measures to ensure a swift and safe return of the remaining 223 girls. Additionally, Nigeria must provide comprehensive support services, including psychosocial care, for all the girls upon their return. As a state party to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women, Nigeria is obligated to uphold and guarantee the protections for its girls and to ensure adequate prosecution for the perpetrators. Specifically in these circumstances, Nigeria must uphold Article 2, Sections 1 and 2(a), 2(c), 2(e), 2(f), 2(g) of Article 4 and Article 12 of The Protocol.
As a result, the SOAWR Coalition calls on:
The Government of Nigeria and African Union states to take immediate action to ensure the release and safe return of the girls as well as prosecution of the perpetrators by:
1) Strengthening and utilizing collaborative partnerships with other States’ security, military, and enforcement programs and infrastructure to locate and safely rescue the remaining schoolgirls. This includes enhanced engagement with the Governments of Cameroon and Chad to assist in locating the girls who have allegedly been taken to remote camps in the Northern Nigeria, including Madayi, Dogon Chuku, Meri, and the Kangarwa regions.
2) Providing holistic and comprehensive support and rehabilitation services to the schoolgirls upon their return and reintegration into their communities.
3) Ensuring immediate, expeditious and prosecution and punishment for the Boko Haram perpetrators.
The Coalition further emphasizes the call for urgent action and support of the following governments and institutions by various women’s rights organizations on the global day of action on this issue, as follows:
1. Governments of Cameroon, Chad and Niger to swiftly determine whether the girls were transported into their countries and to assist in their safe rescue.
2. Relevant African Union (AU) institutions and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to provide substantive support to the Nigerian Government to address the underlying systemic issues, including the climate of violence and insecurity in which groups like Boko Haram thrive.
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