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Commentary: Boko Haram is not just a Nigerian problem; many are in the Caribbean in disguise
Published on May 14, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Derrick Miller

Let us talk: Recently the world paused and, after three weeks, many have united across all socio-economic status. They emerged and denounced the April 15, 2014, kidnapping of over 250 Nigerian schoolchildren. These schoolgirls were taken at gunpoint when armed men who promised to rescue them proved wrong. These men were not government officials, but a ruthless Islamic extremist called Boko Haram.

derrick_miller.jpg
Derrick Miller holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and finance, an MBA degree in global management and a Master of Science in criminal justice leadership. He is also a graduate from a top US federal law enforcement academy and has been a part criminal justice and public service field for over 14 years. crijm@outlook.com
First Lady of the United States, elected heads of the Islamic community called this action barbaric; and Malala, a young girl from Pakistan, has joined the call for their freedom. She too was shot for promoting education for young girls. Weeks later, over 250 are still missing as many are wondering what next.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, I attended Howard University’s 146th graduation. Sean P. Daddy Combs, music entertainer, delivered the commencement speech. Also in attendance, Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor. They both received Honorary PhDs. These young girls were fresh on their minds as they too called for their release. As I watched several graduates from all over the world with pride in their accomplishments, I wondered how many future women around the world were celebrating their graduation, and what amount of exploitation it will take to be noticed by the outside world.

In practice, Boko Haram established an ideology of Islamist-militant rule that denounces education for women. This recent crime against humanity has proved that it affects us everywhere. This latest attempt is not new and in essence, many scholars believe, this action is part of the human trafficking that is the new form of slavery. If there was a time we need to emancipate our minds from mental slavery, it is now.

Who is watching Boko Haram? On the other side of the globe, there are several Boko Harams enjoying the Caribbean sun, lurking on the white sands and in towns from Aruba to Trinidad and Tobago, including Latin America. They do not live jungles, forests, and or wear army clothing. However, one should take a few minutes to look around, and you might just find a few similarities to what had occurred.

Mary Ellsberg talked about sexual violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean aged 15-49. She has reported that between 10 and 47 percent of ever-married women have experienced sexual violence, or rape by an intimate partner. Also, between 8 and 26 percent of women have suffered sexual violence by a non-partner as either a child or adult, and the health effects that are not limited to HIV, but other sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancy.

Today, there is plenty of blame to go around, from the lack of leadership by the Nigerian government to its initial denial stemming from pride, embarrassment, and fear of retaliation, and lack of resources, despite the warning signs, and now these parents have to take on justice on their own and some have started the search themselves.

The implication here is not that residents of Caribbean islands should scan all global newspapers and make every issue their own. Sometimes it is very easy to minimize these atrocities, and especially let it vanish from the radar rather than trying to find out why these problems occur. Location, location, location, often creates individual detachment. It also can be how one places a value on any given crisis as we tend to believe we are immune from these crimes but, as we educate ourselves beyond our boundaries, it is much easier to find these problems next door.

The US government estimates that some 600,000-800,000 people are taken from their families each year and many millions are being held as forced laborers within their home countries. This is an estimated $10 billion business. The average sale price for a slave is around $1,250 according to the United Nation. The practice stretches beyond the African and Asian countries, but also up and down the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea like illegal drugs.

Furthermore, over 1.2 million children are sold each year, and an estimate that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 years experience forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact, and about a third of women aged 20-24 years old in the developing world were married as children, according what UNICEF and the World Health Organization have been reporting.

Why Boko Haram Matters: When Boko Haram threatens to sell these young girls for less than $10, it is not a far-fetched idea; it is reality. However, can we continue to allow ourselves to be detached? Often we portray this region through selective reasoning, and believe only a court can impose sanctions, pursuant to laws that are there to protect children and that can be a simply form of marginalization.

Minimization in some crisis is natural process when we are helpless, and especially if an issue has no significance. For example, what if i told you that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing approximately 8,650 Americans in each year, and millions will become affected from fake sun-tanning machines. With the natural sunshine, there is no need for such machine in the region, Yes! You are probably correct, one’s personal responsibility can be diminished.

Alternatively, when Mr Putin, Russian president, invaded Ukraine, and families were disrupted when pro-Russian separatists groups took over government buildings and disrupted normal lives, this might not have been a Caribbean issue, but we should watch.

On the other hand, if I told you every year, approximately 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence and countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones. You might know some who has been affected, and only when one speaks up society can create the change it deserves.

The Caribbean Boko Haram: Is a not simple man in army clothes, it is an ideology, and the name is translated means [deceptive]. Today, the region must step back and look inside its own where Boko Haram is lurking in local churches, schools, on public buses, and town areas where young school students are being raped, kidnapped when going to school, and forced into relationships with much older men.

In addition, some fathers, uncles, and elected leaders are trolling the streets like predators searching for young girls and boys, while isolating their wives through emotional and financial abuse where the scars are not visual.

Not every ideology stems from slavery or colonization. Today, some cultures allow multiple wives for one man, young girls are being sold off into marriages at an early age, female circumcision (female genital mutilation). Incest is normal, and women are not allowed to file for divorce, or even drive.

Sure, this region has evolved, which often makes it more difficult to fathom. Therefore, some issues appear as only noise, morphed into our sub-consciousness, as the modern world has moved on, or into a tolerant cultural attitude that minimizes itself in disguise.

Boko Haram prohibits education of young girls. However, their actions are closer to home than we can imagine. A State Department report said, “This organization receives bulk of its funding from bank robberies and related criminal activities, including extortion and kidnapping for ransom.” Does this sound similar where gang members often engage in these criminal behaviors? Some have even gotten too powerful for the local law enforcement to make an arrest or enter their neighborhoods.

From Kingston, Jamaica, to Trinidad, several areas are becoming more unsafe, and these criminal elements have reduced tourism and even family members who are now hesitant to return. I believe such is a trip to Boko’s region, where motivation has been diminished, and the same criminal concerns reverberate today in the region.

Often, just like the Nigerian government, the sad fact is that many in the Caribbean region spin and minimize several of society’s problems. However, Boko Haram thrives on poor leadership, poverty, corruption, lack of education and poor governance.

Any society where trust is low, and a few reap justice based on wealth, crimes that are overlooked such as domestic and sexual violence, young girls forced into relationships with older men just to survive, unsolved crimes, poor economic policies, and educational system where only a few can afford it makes Boko Haram’s ideology more powerful.

Today, several brothels are strategically located in large and small towns and along the white sands. They have their client base from visitors to local business officials, and politicians. These individuals do not dress or sound like the Nigerian Boko Haram. They are church members, and will not raid malls with machine guns on a shooting rampage. However, the ideologies are a few blocks from your house and government buildings.

Try telling a mother that her child was missing from simply going to school, and she knows is alive. Although 250 young girls have not been taken off the beaches or local schools in one day; however, even one missing per day in the region will be more than 250 in one year. Where is the outrage here?

Going Forward: The United Nations has always had protocols to prevent, suppress, and punish human trafficking. However, these laws are not adequately implemented to protect victims, and especially in cases of domestic violence. However, when government fails to delegate it responsibility to help the less fortunate among us, and continues to expose these individuals to risk, and fails to protect, they are just as “deceptive” as the word Boko Haram represents.

Several writers have noted protecting trafficked children requires timely victim identification, placing them in safe environment, providing them with social services, health care, psychosocial support, and reintegration with family and community.

In some respects, I am not condoning that nothing has been done, as these families endure a lifetime of pain, while governments alone sometimes lack the resources, and are incapable. On the other hand, some leaders seem worried about how they appear on the evening news rather than creating policies, and stiffer sentences for child abusers.

This is a complicated task in the terrain to find these girls, and navigating these waters to get rid of Boko Haram can be difficult. It will take collaboration between psychology, economic policy, and criminology woven into what type of future they want.

Finally, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has asked for help. The Obama administration and the international community have agreed. Today, leaders in the Caribbean needs a gap analysis and they should ask for help to weed out their own Boko Harams before it is too late.
 
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