02-19-2017  8:29 am      •     
A demonstration in Harlem

Demonstrators arrive in front of the Nigerian consulate after marching from Harlem during a rally, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. Dozens gathered to join the international effort to rescue the 276 schoolgirls being held captive by Islamic extremists in northeastern Nigeria. As the worldwide effort got underway the weakness of the Nigerian military was exposed in a report issued by Amnesty International. On Sunday at a church service in Chibok, Nigeria, one of the teenagers who escaped said the kidnapping was "too terrifying for words," and she is now scared to go back to school. Sarah Lawan, a 19-year-old science student, spoke Sunday as Nigerians prayed for the safety of the 276 students still held captive. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) 

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The president of Nigeria for weeks refused international help to search for more than 300 girls abducted from a school by Islamic extremists, one in a series of missteps that have led to growing international outrage against the government.

See events planned in Portland Wednesday May 14 and in Seattle Thursday May 15.

The United Kingdom, Nigeria's former colonizer, first said it was ready to help in a news release the day after the mass abduction on April 15, and made a formal offer of assistance on April 18, according to the British Foreign Office. And the U.S. has said its embassy and staff agencies offered help and were in touch with Nigeria "from day one" of the crisis, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Yet it was only on Tuesday and Wednesday, almost a month later, that President Goodluck Jonathan accepted help from the United States, Britain, France and China.

The delay underlines what has been a major problem in the attempt to find the girls: an apparent lack of urgency on the part of the government and military, for reasons that include a reluctance to bring in outsiders as well as possible infiltration by the extremists.

Jonathan bristled last week when he said U.S. President Barack Obama, in a telephone conversation about aid, had brought up alleged human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces. Jonathan also acknowledged that his government might be penetrated by insurgents from Boko Haram, the extremist group that kidnapped the girls. Last year, he said he suspected Boko Haram terrorists might be in the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government along with the police and armed forces.

The waiting has left parents in agony, especially since they fear some of their daughters have been forced into marriage with their abductors for a nominal bride price of $12. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau called the girls slaves in a video this week and vowed to sell them.

"For a good 11 days, our daughters were sitting in one place," said Enoch Mark, the anguished father of two girls abducted from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School. "They camped them near Chibok, not more than 30 kilometers, and no help in hand. For a good 11 days."

The military has denied that it ignored warnings of the impending attacks. Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told The Associated Press the major challenge has been that some of the information given turned out to be misleading.

And Reuben Abati, one of Jonathan's presidential advisers, denied that Nigeria had turned down offers of help.

"That information cannot be correct," he said. "What John Kerry said is that this is the first time Nigeria is seeking assistance on the issue of the abducted girls."

In fact, Kerry has said Nigeria did not welcome U.S. help earlier because it wanted to pursue its own strategy. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said Friday that it took "far too long" for Jonathan to accept U.S. offers of aid, and he is holding a hearing next week to examine what happened. A senior State Department official also said Friday that the U.S. offered help "back in April, more or less right away."

"We didn't go public about it because the consensus was that doing so would make the Nigerians less likely to accept our help," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue concerns internal discussions between governments.

Nigeria is a country of 170 million in West Africa that receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid from the U.S. every year to address a rising insurgency in the north and growing tensions between Christians and Muslims. The northeast, where the girls were kidnapped, is remote and sparsely populated, far from the southern oil fields that help to power Africa's biggest economy.

The abductions came hours after a massive explosion in the Nigerian capital of Abuja killed at least 75 people, just a 15-minute drive away from Jonathan's residence and office. Chibok government official Bana Lawal told the AP that at about 11 p.m. on April 15, he received a warning via cell phone that about 200 heavily armed militants were on their way to the town.

Lawal alerted the 15 soldiers guarding Chibok, who sent an SOS to the nearest barracks about 30 miles away, an hour's drive on a dirt road. But help never came. The military says its reinforcements ran into an ambush.

The soldiers in Chibok fought valiantly but were outmanned and outgunned by the extremists. They then made their way to the Chibok girls school, where they captured dozens of girls. Police say 53 escaped on their own and 276 remain captive.

The following day, Jonathan was photographed dancing at a political party rally in northern Kano city, and newspapers asked what their leader was doing partying when the country was in shock over the kidnappings. The Defense Ministry also announced that all but eight of the kidnapped girls had been freed, quoting the school principal. When the principal objected and demanded the military produce the rescued girls, it retracted its statement.

Frantic, some Chibok fathers made their way into the dangerous Sambisa Forest themselves, where the girls were last seen. But they turned back when villagers in the forest warned that Boko Haram would kill both them and their daughters.

The parents said the forest dwellers did not see any soldiers looking for the girls. And a state senator said that every time he gave the military information from people who had caught sight of the girls, the insurgents moved camp.

The military denied any collusion with the extremists and said it had been pursuing every lead. On May 1, it handed over responsibility for all information about the girls to Borno state officials.

For two weeks, Jonathan did not discuss the abducted girls in public. In his Easter Day message, he said only that his thoughts were with the families of those killed by insurgents and the dozens wounded by the Abuja bombing.

Last week, angry Nigerian women, including at least two mothers of abducted girls, took to the streets in Abuja to protest the government's failure to rescue the girls. Jonathan did not meet with them. Instead, he cancelled the weekly executive council meeting to offer condolences to his vice president, whose brother had died in a car crash.

His wife, Patience Jonathan, that night called a meeting to "investigate" what happened at Chibok, and said the kidnappings were engineered to hurt the name of her husband and his government. She accused the leader of the protests of being a Boko Haram member, detained her and released her after several hours.

Finally, at a Labor Day rally, Jonathan made a public pronouncement that "the cruel abduction of some innocent girls, our future mothers and leaders, in a very horrific and despicable situation in Borno state, is quite regrettable." He pledged, "We must find our girls."

On May 2, he set up a "largely fact-finding" committee to put together a strategy for rescuing the girls. Last Sunday, he raised eyebrows by saying on TV that he was "happy" the missing girls were "unharmed," but then admitting that the government had no new information from the abductors.

Jonathan also hinted Sunday at why, apart from national pride, initial offers of help may have been ignored. Even before the kidnappings, he complained, he had asked Obama in two telephone calls for help with intelligence on the extremists but received questions about alleged military abuses. Jonathan said he responded that the U.S. leader should "send someone to see what we are doing" on the ground, and "don't just say there is some matter of alleged abuses."

The Nigerian military is accused of widespread killings that go beyond members of Boko Haram. The Associated Press documented last year how thousands of people are dying in military detention, through the mortuary records of a Maiduguri hospital. And Amnesty International reported in October that hundreds of detainees were killed, tortured and starved, or even asphyxiated in overcrowded cells.

On May 4, Boko Haram abducted at least 11 more girls, aged 12 to 15, from two villages in the northeast. One of them managed to escape. And the Chibok girls are still missing, in a conservative society where girls who are raped can be stigmatized.

"It is very painful. I know my daughter, very obedient and very religious ... she wanted to be a doctor," Mark said. "I was eager to see my daughter with such a hope. Now....I don't know what I can explain to the world."

___

Associated Press writers Lekan Oyekanmi and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report along with Lara Jakes and Darlene Superville in Washington and Gregory Katz in London.

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all