Development Minister Gerd Müller has taken direct aim at terror group Boko Haram by starting his Nigerian visit at a school for Muslim girls. "Boko Haram" is often translated as "Western education is sin."
"We have consciously chosen a school for Muslim girls," Gerd Müller said in the southern city of Ijebu-Ode on Wednesday. "These girls are the backbone of the country; they want, and must be able, to go to school."
Müller, who said that Africa "can only stride into the future with strong women," visited as Nigerian authorities continued seeking the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters in April. A further 22 women were kidnapped on Tuesday.
One of the students said that many of her schoolmates were now afraid of going to classes. "Many parents, too, no longer want to send their daughters to school," 15-year-old Olorunoje Idera Nimotalai said.
"The state must guarantee their safety," Development Minister Müller said, calling for further efforts towards gender equality as a response to the kidnappings. "The main desire of these girls is to free themselves from what their parents had to endure: hunger, a lack of opportunities, and violence."
'Power through fear'
The name "Boko Haram" is often translated as "Western education is sin." The group opposes non-Islamic teaching for Nigerians and girls in particular - an objection rooted in colonial power Britain's unpopular efforts to dispense of the Arabic alphabet and other Islamic elements of education early in the 20th century.
Boko Haram attacks have claimed more than 3,000 lives this year alone; the group is also active in neighboring Niger and Cameroon. Its stepped-up campaign prompted the UN to add Boko Haram to its terror blacklist in May.
The Bavarian conservative politician Müller, who will meet President Goodluck Jonathan on the third and final day of his visit on Thursday, said Boko Haram was seeking "power through fear." In the capital Abuja on Thursday, he will also meet with representatives of the "#BringBackOurGirls" campaign, which gained global traction in the aftermath of the kidnapping.
Nigeria, a country of 170 million people and roughly three times Germany's land mass, recently overtook South Africa as the continent's strongest economic power. Most of this money, however, is rooted in the country's oil riches. In terms of per capita income, the average Nigerian earns less than one quarter of the average annual salary in South Africa. More than 100 million Nigerians live below the poverty line.
msh/jm (dpa, epd)
Related Subjects Women's Rights