11 May 2014

Nigeria: France Offers to Host Summit for Nigeria to Tackle Boko Haram

Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Nigerian Minister of Education and World Bank vice president, addressing a BringBackOurGirls protest in Abuja. ( Resource: Obiageli Ezekwesili Addressing BringBackOurGirls Protest in Abuja )

France has offered to host a summit involving Nigeria, to discuss ways of thwarting the Islamist group Boko Haram. Meanwhile, Israel joined a group of nations offering help to track down girls abducted by the militants.

French President Francois Hollande on Sunday called for leaders to hold a summit in Paris to discuss security in West Africa, with a particular focus on Boko Haram.

"I suggested, with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a meeting of Nigeria's neighboring countries," said Hollande, on a visit to the Azeri capital, Baku.

"If countries agree, it should take place next Saturday," he added, saying that Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria could be involved. It is expected that the proposed summit could involve other countries that have offered their help in locating more than 200 schoolgirls who remain missing after they were abducted by the group last month.

Britain, France and the United States have all sent specialist teams to help Nigeria's military to track down the missing girls, amid international outrage at the act. Israel on Sunday joined the list of nations that have offered help, which also includes China and Spain.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no details of its proposed help. However, a spokesman for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said he had told Netanyahu Nigeria would be "pleased to have Israel's globally acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations."

Optimism in Abuja

Nigeria has deployed two army units to the border region near to where the girls are believed to be held captive, close to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has threatened to sell the girls "in the market."

The president's office said on Sunday he was "very optimistic that, with the entire international community deploying its considerable military and intelligence-gathering skills and assets in support of Nigeria's efforts ... success will soon be achieved."

Jonathan has been strongly criticized over the government's handling of the kidnapping, with protests over the abductions taking place in the capital, Abuja, on Sunday.

Boko Haram, whose struggle to impose Islamic law on half-Christian, half-Muslim Nigeria has killed more than 1,500 people this year alone.

rc/crh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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