A group of nations took a step forward on recovering the hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls by conferring Saturday about the problem in Paris. Attending were Nigeria, neighboring states Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, plus France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
It’s not clear exactly how the tardy coordination among concerned states might wrest the students who were abducted five weeks ago from the Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, but two useful results have emerged from the meeting.
The first is that the problem has been transformed from a purely Nigerian dilemma into a regional and international one. Secondly, coordination among the states of the region and the more technologically advanced British, French and American forces can make it more difficult for Boko Haram or a comparable group to carry off a similar future attack.
Nigeria still has problems with its own approach to the kidnapping. President Goodluck Jonathan had planned to visit the girls’ burned-out school in the northeast of his country but cancelled the trip for security reasons. His decision reflected a lack of leadership and acceptance of responsibility. Even more troublesome is the thought that the president may not have confidence in his troops’ ability or will to protect him, or to recover the students, despite a $5 billion per year military budget.
President Barack Obama is correct to offer military technical resources in response to this humanitarian affront, a matter made worse by the Nigerian government’s ineptitude. But he is also right to assure his country that the U.S. role is not intended to put “boots on the ground.”
Americans are concerned over what is happening in Nigeria, but probably not enough to send U.S. troops into a situation that Africans themselves should address.