On Tuesday, April 13, the Africa Center convened a private event with Wall Street Journal reporters Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw for a discussion of their recently published investigative book Bring Back Our Girls, chronicling the infamous abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014 and the resultant social media-driven advocacy campaign and international response. Africa Center Director Ambassador Rama Yade welcomed participants and Distinguished Fellow Ambassador J. Peter Pham moderated the conversation.
In their remarks, Parkinson and Hinshaw noted how the book remains timely for concerning reasons, as over six hundred Nigerian students have been abducted since December 2020. They laid out the intersecting story lines covered in the book, namely on the involvement of Boko Haram, a profile of the girls themselves, and the race to free them, including the little-known negotiations spearheaded by Swiss diplomats and a group of intrepid Nigerians, including one who was jailed for several months by the Nigerian government for his trouble. The authors’ insights put a human face to the incident, while also underscoring that while they were victims, the girls were not passive, showing great courage in challenging their captors.
Through Ambassador Pham’s moderation and participant questions, the authors were also engaged on topics of ransom policy, the political economy of mass abductions in northern Nigeria, and comparing the different groups involved. The session concluded with thoughts on the extent to which the global campaign helped or exacerbated the situation, the ethical dilemma encountered, and finally, on the United States’ role in the face of such incidents.
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