The World Today for April 30, 2024

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The Lost and the Found

NIGERIA

Nigerian military forces recently found one of the 276 schoolgirls abducted 10 years ago from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in the West African country’s Borno State.

Troops rescued Lydia Simon, who was pregnant, and her three children while conducting an operation against her kidnappers, Boko Haram, a terror group affiliated with the Islamic State whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” reported CNN.

Simon and other rescued survivors have been sharing stories about their harrowing abductions and their lives among jihadists on the 10th anniversary of the kidnappings.

For instance, Saratu Dauda, who was 16 when she was kidnapped but eventually escaped, told the New York Times that her fanatical captors gave her an impossible choice: “Get married or become a slave who could be summoned for housework or sex.”

Afterward, the former prisoners underwent three-month “deradicalization” programs to eliminate any hints of Boko Haram’s ideology they might have absorbed through indoctrination, Al Jazeera explained. Many face discrimination for having lived among the terrorists, added the BBC. Some in the government “rehabilitation” camps were forced to marry terrorists who had surrendered.

Many, these days, struggle along. “People insult us some days – they are calling my children ‘children of Boko Haram,’” Rabiat, who managed to escape with her three children after about eight years of captivity, told Al Jazeera. “It’s so painful. My heart can’t endure it.”

Meanwhile, 90 Chibok girls remain missing. Mary Abdullahi’s daughter, Bilkis, is one of them.

“Since my daughter was abducted, I haven’t heard anything from her or about her,” the mother said in an interview with the Vanguard, a Nigerian news outlet. “I don’t know how she’s doing. I haven’t seen her. I feel bad whenever her name is mentioned. I want the government to do something about it. Our girls weren’t taken from home, they were taken from school. It’s the government that must intervene.”

Despite the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign that went viral after the mass kidnapping in 2014, young girls and other vulnerable groups in Nigeria continue to fall victim to kidnapping as abduction for ransom has become big business in the country. Around 23,000 people are missing in Nigeria, a figure that is likely an underestimate. Many of these are children taken from schools. For example, in March, as many as 400 individuals including at least 100 students were kidnapped in two different Nigerian states.

The Nigerian government has poured money into army campaigns against the militants, yet much of the spending has been ineffective, noted Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah. Boko Haram has killed more than 350,000 people since rising in the remote borderlands of northern Nigeria in the early 2000s. Then-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was feckless as well as silent, and Nigeria’s ill-equipped army in the north was outgunned and outmaneuvered by Boko Haram. “It was humiliating to see our soldiers running away from Boko Haram,” one former minister told the Post.

The government has invested too much in combating Boko Haram and too little into improving civilian infrastructure, access to education and job opportunities, argued Joana Ama Osei-Tutu, a doctoral candidate at Monash University, for the Australian Institute of International Affairs. Desperation therefore steers Nigerians into radicalization and armed rebellion.

Radicalization and rebellion, in turn, stifle opportunities. In the northeast and northwest regions where kidnappings are prevalent, parents are reluctant to send their daughters to school since Boko Haram began terrorizing the area. According to a government survey, more than half of women between the ages of 15 to 49 there are illiterate with no education, compared to less than one percent in the southeast and seven percent in the southwest.

“Mothers used to be the ones who insisted… ‘our daughters should go to school,’” former Nigerian education minister Oby Ezekwesili told CNN. “But guess what the Chibok girls tragedy did? It made the mothers feel guilty…that what they did by arguing for education for their daughter was to say, ‘pay with your life in order to be educated.’”

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

A Legal Siege

ISRAEL

Israeli officials on Monday are growing increasingly concerned that the International Criminal Court will issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials for their roles in the violence in Gaza and the West Bank, the Associated Press reported.

The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, launched an investigation three years ago into incidents going back to the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. Israeli officials have referred to it in recent days amid further escalation in the conflict and stuttering truce talks, saying the warrants could be served this week.

However, it is unclear exactly who would be charged or for what alleged crimes. Israeli media has reported that the International Criminal Court is considering issuing arrest warrants for senior officials, including the prime minister, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Euronews reported.

The New York Times added that the court was also looking into issuing warrants for senior leaders of Hamas.

Netanyahu on Friday wrote that he would “never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine [Israel’s] inherent right of self-defense.”

Though Israel – like its ally, the United States – does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, the prime minister could face arrest in one of the 123 countries that do should he travel, Haaretz explained.

The Israeli justice ministry and army lawyers, as well as Western allies, have scrambled to convince ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to refrain from issuing such arrest warrants.

Khan said in October that the ICC also had jurisdiction over potential war crimes committed by Hamas, Reuters wrote. The Palestinian territories were granted member-state status at the court in 2015.

The ICC’s case is separate from an ongoing case on genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice, also based in the Hague.

Israel’s military offensive, which came in response to a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people, has killed more than 34,000 people in the enclave in the past six months, according to Palestinian officials, and led to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel says it is now preparing for an invasion of Rafah, where half of the territory’s 2.3-million population has been displaced. On Sunday, US President Joe Biden reiterated his opposition to the move in a call with Netanyahu, saying it would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

The US, Egypt, and Qatar are pressuring Israel and Hamas to accept a temporary cease-fire agreement. But a disagreement between Israel and Hamas over a deal to end the war has indefinitely stalled the negotiations.

Meanwhile, Israel announced it was allowing more aid into Gaza, a move some believe is aimed at influencing the ICC. On Sunday, the World Central Kitchen said it was resuming aid in the enclave, one month after an Israeli airstrike killed seven of its workers.

Auld Lang Syne

SCOTLAND

Scotland’s pro-independence leader, Humza Yousaf, resigned Monday after he broke a coalition agreement with the Green Party over climate action targets, Sky News reported.

The Scottish first minister said over the weekend he would not step down. But two no-confidence motions brought by the opposition and the Greens forced his hand.

Yousaf’s resignation comes amid hard times for his Scottish National Party (SNP), which has ruled Scotland for nearly two decades, and ahead of a general election in the UK later this year.

It also marked the culmination of a political drama that began last week when Yousaf decided to abandon a three-year power-sharing deal with the Green Party. The SNP and the Greens, both in favor of Scotland’s independence from the UK, split over emissions targets.

The outgoing first minister said the goal of reducing emissions by 75 percent before 2030 was “beyond what we are able to achieve,” angering his coalition partners, Euronews reported.

In March 2023, Yousaf became the first person of Asian descent to lead Scotland, and one of four minorities across the UK in top political leadership positions including the prime minister.

A Push Too Far

SOLOMON ISLANDS

Solomon Islands’ pro-China leader withdrew his bid to remain as prime minister two weeks after the country’s national election dealt him significant losses, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

His decision marked the end of an era for the Solomon Islands, where lawmakers will elect a new prime minister on Thursday, the news outlet wrote.

During his most recent four-year term – Sogavare has served four but none consecutively – China’s influence increased more in the country than anywhere else in the South Pacific.

He switched the country’s foreign policy from Taiwan to China and severed diplomatic ties with Taipei in 2019, sparking protests in the capital of Honiara and calls for him to step down. Then, in 2022, he signed a controversial deal with Beijing that received criticism from the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

These moves placed the 750,000 Pacific nation at the center of the race for regional influence between the United States and China.

Sogavare managed to stay in power through violent riots in 2021 amid demands for his resignation. However, in this year’s April 17 national election, his party lost more than half of its seats.

With only 15 members of parliament remaining, Sogavare’s OUR Party will need allies to succeed in appointing one of its own, former Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele as prime minister.

In the Solomon Islands’ 50-seat parliament, a majority of 26 lawmakers is required for a prime ministerial candidate to win.

DISCOVERIES

Out on the Town

People in the American Midwest will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime, albeit noisy, experience this summer.

Trillions of cicadas from two broods will emerge simultaneously and offer a concert of mating songs, the Washington Post reported.

They belong to Brood XIII and Brood XIX. The last time these two broods co-emerged, the United States had only been a nation for 27 years.

While some cicadas come out annually, others do so every 13 or 17 years.

Then begins a ritual of seducing and mating that lasts a few weeks until the beginning of July. During that period, their love songs can be as loud as 100 decibels, NBC News explained.

Because of their different surfacing intervals, cicada broods don’t sync up. However, every couple of years, two broods emerge at the same time, more often than not in different locations.

This year’s occurrence is a rarity not only because pairs of two given broods only co-emerge every 221 years, but also because they are neighbors, with the meeting point located in central Illinois, NBC News explained. Crucially, all seven cicada species will be represented, which won’t happen again for another 13 years.

This will help scientists conduct research on the insects and their crossbreeding behaviors.

Mycologist Matt Kasson told the Washington Post he was looking forward to analyzing a parasitic fungus that infects adult cicadas and transforms them into “flying saltshakers of death” that want to “party.”

Covering their abdomen, the fungus makes the insects “hypersexual,” mating regardless of sex and sprinkling spores around.

Researchers are keen on learning more about the fungus’ medical benefits, Kasson added.

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