EU condemns Boko Haram’s continuing violence and appalling atrocities

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 February 2015

boko_haram3The Council of the European Union has issued a clear and strong statement on the appalling atrocities and violence perpetrated by the terrorist group – Boko Haram in Nigeria, as well as their threat to governments and civilians in the sub-region.

The Council stresses the importance of an urgent, comprehensive response to the insurgency, to prevent further terrorist and criminal acts perpetrated by Boko Haram, including stronger governance and economic development.

Recalling the European Union’s (EU) Statement of 19 January 2015 and its Conclusions of 12 May 2014, the Council condemns the continuing violence and appalling atrocities committed by Boko Haram on civilians, including women and children.

It expresses its sincere condolences to the people and governments of countries affected. The perpetrators of these gross violations of international humanitarian law, human rights and dignity must be held to account.

The international community cannot rest while such outrages are being committed and stands united against such acts of cruelty, says the council.

This is what the statement said:

The Council is particularly concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the attacks and their impact on Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger and recalls the primary responsibility of States to protect civilians on their territory in accordance with the obligations under international law. Thousands have been killed.

boko haram2Over one and a half million people have been displaced within Nigeria and hundreds of thousands to neighbouring countries. Families have been separated, girls abducted, children orphaned and women and girls sexually abused.

The EU pledges to continue providing immediate relief to those in need and to increase its efforts at regional level. It commends the work of humanitarian agencies in delivering such relief and encourages them to scale-up their presence.

At the same time, the Council underlines the need of the Nigerian government to increase the response to the urgent humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and recalls the EU’s readiness to assist.

International humanitarian efforts should be appropriately coordinated by the United Nations (UN) in order to enhance delivery capacity and prevent the refugee crisis from escalating out of control.

Boko Haram1The scale of the Boko Haram extremist threat requires a Nigerian, as well as a collective and comprehensive response to defeat terrorism in full respect of human rights.

The European Union notes that the responsibility to address the immediate security challenges lies primarily with the countries most affected, and calls upon them to urgently intensify their cooperation and coordination.

In this respect, it commends the Chadian army’s recent assistance to the Cameroonian forces already engaged in the fight against Boko Haram.

The Council welcomes and supports the decision of the States in the region, endorsed by the African Union (AU), to deploy a multinational force, to be endorsed by the UN Security Council, once the concept of operations is finalised.

In this regard it salutes the AU preparatory meeting that was held in Yaoundé from 5 to 7 February.

It also welcomes actions already undertaken under the aegis of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, following high-level security conferences held in Paris, London, Abuja and Niamey since May 2014.

The EU stands ready with its partners – the UN, the AU, regional organisations, the individual States concerned as well as the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) – to provide support to the region with its full range of instruments, including the possibility of recourse to the African Peace Facility and EU crisis management tools.

boko haram leaderThe EU will also look at ways to help the countries concerned strengthen their own capacities to handle the challenge, including the root causes of the radicalisation and violence, whilst encouraging intergovernmental cooperation among them.

The Council emphasises that the crisis can only be overcome when all forces concerned abide by international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law and practices in support of the communities they are tasked to protect.

At the same time, the Council reaffirms its determination to assist Nigeria at the national and local level as well as other countries affected in their efforts to promote the sustainable economic development of the Lake Chad region, fight corruption, provide the social and educational needs of its population and meet up with the aspirations of their young people.

The Council invites the HR and the Commission to take forward appropriate actions and propose necessary decisions, notably on the basis of a Political Framework for Crisis Approach (PFCA), including an assessment of the needs of the countries affected by the menace of Boko Haram.

The PFCA should include a gender perspective. The Council will remain closely involved in this issue and will revert when necessary.

1 Comment

  1. I am writing in response to the profoundly disturbing article I read on your site posted on 8th February 2014: Do African women have the right to choose female circumcision?

    Firstly, the title of the article fails to convey that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is predominantly carried out on girls aged from new-borns to 12 years old – these are not women. They are children who are not making informed decisions about what happens to their bodies.

    The reality is that they are children whose bodies are subjected to excruciating pain, and who have to bear the short-term and long-term psychological and medical consequences of FGM. If a consenting adult female wishes to go through FGM that is her choice, but the inescapable fact is that Bondo clearly survives on exercising physical and emotional power over minors.

    The article states that Bondo parallels Poro, however, if FGM were really equivalent to the procedure in Poro, it would mean that a man had one third of his male genitalia removed. There is therefore no comparison to the physical mutilation that takes place with FGM.

    There might be similarities with the festivities built around them, but that is where the similarities end. The article suggests that words such as ‘mutilation’ have come into use because there is a wish to make FGM seem worse than it is.

    However, the reality is that ‘cutting’, ‘mutilation’ and ‘circumcision’ are used interchangeably – they are synonyms and they are all about the same practice. Different groups use different names to refer to the same practice.

    Moreover, the article refers to the FGM as an ‘operation’ or ‘surgery’. These terms imply that the procedure takes place by trained medical professionals in a sanitary medical environment with the child being put under anaesthetic.

    This is simply not the case. The child is awake and held down by the bare hands and knees of the people around them until the mutilation is finished. The person who performs it receives money as a medical professional does so that would be the only similarity.

    Interestingly, studies show that the person who performs FGM usually needs a supplementary income and in countries where FGM has had some success in reducing FGM, such as Senegal, offering persons who perform FGM an alternative and viable means of employment has been instrumental in reducing FGM from taking place.

    In the article FGM is compared to aesthetic procedures that women undergo in the West to cosmetically alter their genitalia. However, the article does not mention the stark differences between a girl who is subjected to FGM and a woman in the West who decides that after having had a number of children she would like to cosmetically change her genitalia so that it looks like her pre-childbirth days.

    Importantly, women in the West are not asking for parts of their genitalia to be removed as takes place in FGM. Western aesthetic procedures are a choice made by adult women – FGM is on a child; Western aesthetic procedures are statistically medically safe – there is a high mortality rate with FGM because of post mutilation complications with infections, haemorrhaging and the real risk of HIV infection with the use and reuse of commercially bought razors to perform the mutilation; in Western aesthetic procedures paying patients are not awake when it takes place – the children are wake throughout the trauma of FGM and then spend the rest of their lives reliving it in flashbacks.

    The argument is made in the article that the practice should continue for ‘powerful cultural reasons’. There are people who still say there are ‘powerful cultural reasons’ for not educating women, yet thankfully in the main we have challenged this.

    Challenging such thinking has meant that women today can have the accolade of holding the title of ‘Dr’ and being important contributors to their countries’ economies. There was once a time when it was common for one twin to be killed at birth. However, humanity and simple common sense have prevailed and this is no longer seen to be acceptable despite the fact that it was seen as a legitimate act because of ‘powerful cultural reasons’.

    The article makes much of the celebratory atmosphere that surrounds FGM. However, there are many other rites of passage a girl can go through with the same celebrations taking place – finishing school being one of them.

    Moreover, young African girls growing up in the West are sometimes brought (on the pretence of going on holiday) to countries in sub-Saharan Africa for FGM to happen to them, and because of their utter unfamiliarity with FGM the trauma means any celebration associated with FGM is lost on them.

    I would plead with Dr Fuambia Sia Ahmadu and Dennis Kabbatto not to confuse feminism with bona fide concerns for children’s welfare. The concerns may geographically come from the West, but they are not western; indeed the concerns coming from the West support grass roots movements campaigning against FGM.

    The financiers of anti-FGM programmes may be largely white, but they are simply responding to a predominantly African call for support to end FGM: the leading anti-FGM organisations in the UK such as FORWARDUK or Daughters of Eve are led by black feminists.

    The power of the written word should be used to promote the provision of educational opportunities for girls in Sierra Leone and other sub-Saharan countries so that one day these girls are ‘rocking boardrooms’ at home and abroad.

    Sierra Leone used to deservedly be known as the ‘Athens of Africa’ and with the untapped talent the country possesses, this is what we should be concentrating on, not reducing the sum of a girl’s transition to womanhood to the removal of genitalia – a practice that was first and foremost introduced hundreds of years ago so that men could own women’s bodies. We need men as well as women to work to bring this practice to an end.

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