David Cameron: We located Chibok girls but Jonathan didn’t allow us rescue them
David Cameron, former British prime minister, has alleged that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan did not give enough support to Britain during the abduction of 274 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state.
The abduction, which took place on April 14 2014, had sparked a global outrage following which the international community offered to assist Nigeria.
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In For The Record, his memoir, Cameron, who was in office at the time of the incident, said British troops traced the location of some of the victims and offered to help but Jonathan refused.
“Iraq wasn’t the only place we would need our military to counter this extremist menace. Boko Haram in Nigeria was linked to al-Qaeda, and believed Western education and lifestyles were a sin (the meaning behind its name). It too wanted to institute a caliphate, and like ISIS it would use whatever barbaric means it thought necessary,” Cameron wrote in the book.
“In early 2014 a group of its fighters centered the government secondary school in the village of Chibok, seizing 276 teenage girls. They were taken to camps deep in the forest. The Christians among them were forced to convert to Islam. Many were sold as slaves, entering the same endless violent nightmare the Yazidi women suffered.
“As ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign spread across the world, we embedded a team of military and intelligence experts in Nigeria, and sent spy planes and Tornadoes with thermal imaging to search for the missing girls. And, amazingly, from the skies above a forest three times the size of Wales, we managed to locate some of them.
Cameron said he expected Jonathan to handle the Chibok issue better
“But Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, seemed to be asleep at the wheel. When he eventually made a statement, it was to accuse the campaigners of politicising the tragedy. And absolutely crucially, when we offered to help rescue the girls we had located, he refused.”
TheCable sent messages to Ikechukwu Eze, spokesman of Jonathan, seeking his reaction to Cameron’s claim but he had not responded as of the time this report was filed.
But in an interview with BBC last year, Jonathan had said Boko Haram should be blamed for the abduction of the girls because as a president he could not go to the battlefield to fight insurgents.
“I cannot take responsibility for the abduction, I don’t control Boko Haram. They are criminals. But as a President, of course you know it is not the President that goes to the field. You have security and intelligence officers that do the work,” he had said.
“Let me admit that yes, maybe they did their best but their best was not good enough for us to recover the girls. That I cannot say I am right or I am wrong. That does not mean I am trying to remove myself from any blame.
“I may not be blamed for the action but I could be blamed that my security intelligence system was not strong enough to rescue the girls. If I as a politician could tell the whole world that my political ambition for any office is not worth the blood of a single Nigerian, how would I be happy that girls have been kidnapped? I am not that kind of character.”
In his book, Cameron also said the Nigerian army was unable to participate in operations the US and UK forces organised for the rescue of Chibok schoolgirls because of “politically appointed generals”.
A few of the Chibok girls eventually returned home to their families’ embrace
The ex-British prime minister wrote on how the Archbishop of Canterbury was contacted to assist during the intervention in Nigeria.
“We had to play the long game focusing on a much bigger training effort for the Nigerian military and intelligence forces and trying to promote more energetic leaders from the younger generation. The Archbishop of Canterbury, as an expert on Nigeria, could be particularly useful on this and I invited him to join our NSC discussion,” he wrote.
“Some of the girls have managed to escape over the following four years, and others have been released, but over a hundred are still missing. Once again. the combination of Islamist extremism and bad governance proved fatal.
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“How did I feel about all this at the end of 2014? The answer is, depressed. ISIS now occupied an area larger than Britain. A similar brand of terrorism was being wrought by Boko Harem in west Africa), another ISIS affiliate in north Africa, and by al-Shabab (‘the youth) in east Africa, while related groups were springing up in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Caucasus. There seemed to be no stopping an evil ideology that seduced minds from the badlands of Syt’tato bedrooms in Birmingham. When I spoke about the challenge publicly I tried to remain measured and resolute. But privately did asked myself, would we ever be able to defeat this thing?”
A total of 112 Chibok schoolgirls have remained unaccounted for. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari secured the release of more than 100 while 57 managed to escape.