Photo via Reuters
Three weeks after more than 300 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Chibok, in northern Nigeria — with as many as 276 remaining in captivity — a leader of Boko Haram came forward in a video, and told us what we all already knew: the group is behind the massive kidnapping that has sparked protests in Nigeria and around the world.Abubakar Shekau, a leader for the Islamic militant group, which is based in Nigeria's northeastern regions but has increasingly carried out attacks in the capital, Abuja, claimed responsibility for the April 14 abduction in a nearly hour-long video first obtained by Agence France-Press (AFP).
In the full-length, blurry video below, Shekau speaks in a mix of Hausa, Arabic, and English, while armed men stand behind him with their faces covered.The footage includes a long rant against Western education — the very target of a group that regularly attacks schools and whose name loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden.""I abducted a girl at a Western education school and you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. Western education should end," Shekau says in the video, according to AFP's translation. "Girls, you should go and get married."Rage grows amid rumors abducted Nigerian schoolgirls were married off. Read more here.Shekau also threatens to attack more schools and abduct more girls."I will sell them in the market, by Allah," Shekau added, claiming his group was holding the kidnapped girls as "slaves.""I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine."
Unconfirmed reports emerged last week stating that the girls had been married off to the very militants that abducted them — with some locals saying that the victims were sold off as brides for 2,000 naira each (about $12.50), and later ferried on canoes across Lake Chad, to neighboring Chad and Cameroon.In a rambling statement, Shekau seemed to confirm at least some of those fears."What do you know about human rights?" he says in English, in the video. "You're just claiming human rights, but you don't know what it is."
"Typical of Shekau, he is reading from a script and appearing to speak in a disorganized fashion but his message stays the same: justifying all forms of violence in the name of Islam and following through with his threats to kidnap and sell girls, which he started making as early as 2012," Jacob Zenn, an analyst at the African Affairs for The Jamestown Foundation and Boko Haram expert, told VICE News. "Moreover, the tank in the background, which is now a common feature in Shekau videos, is intended to show a message of Boko Haram's strength and demoralize the army, whose tanks, 4x4s and weapons Boko Haram has looted from its armories."The girls' disappearance sparked angry protests in Nigeria — where people took to the streets of the capital Abuja to slam the government's failure to do anything about the girls.Nigerian military: actually, we haven't rescued those kidnapped schoolgirls. Read more here.After growing criticism of his silence, President Goodluck Jonathan finally commented on the abduction on Sunday, promising that the government would find the girls and return them to their families.
But that might have been a little late, as Jonathan's own wife — Nigeria's unofficial first lady Patience Jonathan — was accused by protesters of denying the kidnapping had taken place in the first place.
'The first lady may also worry that this incident will undermine her husband's election bid next February 2015.'
Saratu Angus Ndirpaya, one of the organizers of a series of protests staged in Abuja during last week, told the Associated Press that Ms. Jonathan accused her and another organizer of fabricating the abductions to damage the president's reputation."She told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband's rule," Ndirpaya said after a meeting at Abuja's presidential villa. "They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs. Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram."Naomi Mutah Nyadar, the second organizer, was detained after the two women were driven from the meeting to a police station. She was released later on Monday, according to police.Nigeria's government is losing the war against Boko Hara. Read more here."Nobody from government has spoken to us as a community. We have come here to express our displeasure," Nyadar said at a rally in Abuja last week. "We want the government to rescue our daughters from the hands of the abductors."A spokesman for the first lady told the AP that "the first lady did not order the arrest of anybody," but a local paper quoted her as ordering Nigerian women to stop protesting, warning that "should anything happen to them during protests, they should blame themselves.""She may be out of touch with the realities of how bad the situation has become on the ground in northeastern Nigeria, while looking from the view of her presidential villa," Zenn said, referring to Ms. Jonathan. "And she may also worry that this incident will undermine her husband's election bid next February 2015."But despite the first lady's threats, Nigerians kept showing their frustration with the government's handling of the kidnapping, organizing on social media under the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.The video below shows a protest in Lagos, on Monday. Rallies in solidarity with the missing girls also took place in London.Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi