The world is currently captivated by the plight of hundreds of Nigerian girls who've been abducted by the Islamist group Boko Haram. According to Rep. Karen Bass (D-California), however, the group has for months been attacking and killing schoolboys and other Nigerian citizens.
"The U.S. is just waking up to Boko Haram, but this has been going on for quite a while," Bass, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told BET.com.
Still, it's the fate of the young girls, who the militant group's leader has threatened to sell into slavery in a marketplace or marry them off, that has led to a global call for action.
Four members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday met with officials at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, D.C., to get an update on what measures are being taken in the West African nation to rescue the girls and end Boko Haram's reign of terror. Bass said they were told that "Nigeria is united in the effort to retrieve the girls." But by most accounts, the country's leaders are ill-equipped to deal with the extremist group.
In a meeting with the CBC later in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry assured lawmakers that the United States is committed to addressing the crisis. In addition, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday told reporters that the U.S. will provide military personnel, intelligence and hostage negotiators to help the Nigerian government, but would likely not send in troops.
"I think they are aggressively looking to address [how to] get the girls back plus make sure that these guys don't have an opportunity to ever do this again," said New York Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks, who also sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. "For us to make sure that there is multinational pressure and focus and cooperation to make that happen is important. Kerry indicated that the U.S. is very much engaged in that [effort]."
Meeks added that there are no guarantees, "but if you're not in the game, there's no possibility."
Boko Haram's barbaric actions are a stark contrast to Nigeria's growing economy, which is currently the largest on the African continent. People may be horrified, but they should not be so surprised, suggested Bass.
"You have a psychopathic killer who's been killing people for several years who's now changed his tactic and has started kidnapping," she said. "You have to put it in the international context of what's happening with terrorism around the world."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Courtesy of CBC)