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Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case before Supreme Court Critical to Future of Gerrymandering

Democracy Chronicles - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 17:29

United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C, photo credit nhpr.org

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court began to review the process of Gerrymandering in Wisconsin, after numerous complaints, mainly coming from Democrats that the Republican led legislature, unfairly re-drew the maps after the 2010 census.

The process of gerrymandering coincides with the census, which is required to be taken every ten years. However, the process of gerrymandering has become extremely political with politicians being able to draw those maps, and largely to the favor for the political party in the majority.

“When legislatures think about drawing these maps, they’re not only thinking about the next election, they’re thinking often, not always, but often about the election after that and the election after that, and that election after that,” Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan said in referencing re-redistricting. Like many cases that come before the highest court in the land, the judges are divided amongst ideological lines as liberal justices are mostly in favor of the plaintiffs, while conservative justices are skeptical of the plaintiffs.

The case before the supreme court was brought up by several Democrat voters who sued in 2015. In the suit, they claimed that their constitutional rights had been violated. Their argument was validated by a three-judge panel in Wisconsin who rule 2 to 1 in their favor that the new maps had violated their constitutional rights, thus paving the way for the Supreme Court to review the case.

Whatever way the court rules will have a nationwide impact on how the political process is gone about throughout the country. “I think it’s huge,” said, Edward B. Foley, who is the director of the online Election Law project in Moritz College at Ohio State University.

The ruling also could affect upcoming Presidential races, as Wisconsin was a battleground state in 2016, and proved to be one of the deciding states. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin, 47.86 percent to 46.94 percent for challenger Hillary Clinton.

“The whole point is you’re taking these issues away from democracy and you’re throwing them to the courts,” Chief Justice John Roberts said regarding the case. Roberts expresses the view of many conservatives on the court who are skeptical of the complaints fearing court intervention would override the democratic process of overruling the elected lawmakers who drew the maps.

The process of gerrymandering goes all the way back to the 1800s, and future presidents during that period have been frustrated with the process as their congressional districts have been redrawn forcing them to retire early.

The issue of gerrymandering has brought strange alliances together as several moderate Republicans, one of which, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been the lead voice for Republicans against the process.

“A holding in their favor would politicize the courts and would go far beyond intervention in the political thicket, it would impale the judiciary on its thorns,” a statement by the Wisconsin Republican Party read.

The ruling will not only affect Wisconsin, but also several states that have had re-redistricting done. Some states include, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina just to name a few. The several states that are included which could be affected, are Republican majority states, with the exception of Maryland being the lone Democratic state.

Democrats have long been opposed to the measure saying that it interferes with people’s constitutional rights.

According to a Brown University study, an incumbent member of the House of Representatives has a 98 percent chance at re-election. Furthermore, since the 2004 elections, an incumbent member of the Congress were 97.9 percent more likely to be re-elected. Many have blamed gerrymandering for the increase.

The court has said a ruling is expected by the summer.

In conclusion, the U.S Supreme Court should hear a case in which people feels their constitutional rights are violated however, if it believes the process is legitimate the justices should put aside their ideology and rule what is right with the law instead of ruling in favor of their ideology.

Links to sources:

  1. New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/01/us/wisconsin-supreme-court-gerrymander.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=U.S.&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article
  2. Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/29/wisconsin-redistricting-case-u-s-supreme-courtcould-rewrite-rules-how-states-draw-their-election-map/701253001/
  3. ProPublica: https://www.propublica.org/article/partisan-gerrymandering-is-still-about-race
  4. Brown University Study: file:///C:/Users/Tmann/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/B28RCSOB/incumbents.pdf

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Questioning Testing Guidelines

Democracy Chronicles - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 00:52

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As scientific and medical advances have rapidly progressed over the past century, life-saving knowledge has been brought to humanity, but controversies have been brought on, too. Important questions addressing ethics and financial issues have arisen amidst attempts to provide often expensive and complicated diagnostic and therapeutic technology to people the world over. While we tend to think altruistically about the benefits to society from the development and availability of tests that will, for instance, help determine the risk of getting a certain cancer in the future or find a cancer in its early stages, there is money, big money, involved. And that is inherently intertwined in much of the “medical” decision-making that sets standards and guidelines the medical community abides by. Who makes the decisions that establish the standards of medical care and the guidelines for a variety of medical testing is a fascinating question. And, it’s complicated because human lives and millions of dollars are at stake.

One expensive and complicated medical technology that has emerged over the past 20 years is genetic sequencing and testing—the ability to sequence the human genome and detect now known deleterious mutations that put a cancer-affected individual at a risk for another cancer or an unaffected person at risk for a particular cancer in the future. Myriad, a molecular diagnostic company, focused this technology on the BRCA genes, which are DNA-repair genes.

Mutations in either of these genes puts a woman at a cumulative lifetime risk of ~40-85% of developing breast cancer, and 16-40% of developing ovarian cancer, compared with the 12.7% and 1.4% lifetime risk for the general population of developing breast or ovarian cancer, respectively. Myriad isolated and sequenced the genes, obtained patent applications for the sequencing technology, and gained sole control over the testing for these genetic mutations. Given Myriad’s control over testing for BRCA mutations, the question of how it would decided as to who should be genetically tested became a controversial issue. Should Myriad itself decide, given the extensive genetic information it had at its disposal? Should it be a consensus decision among various independent medical/public health organizations?

Historically, important public health decisions have been made by consensus of various large medical organizations. In the case of genetic testing, the American Cancer Society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the American Medical Association (AMA) convened to set guidelines for risk assessment and genetic testing. However, in this unique case where a private company had most of the information needed to set guidelines, it developed its own guidelines. But, did it make sense to leave the determination of such expensive testing in the hands of a company that stood to singularly gain financially from the testing?

Myriad lost its exclusive patent in 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled that human genes could no longer be patented. The company, however, still continues to maintain dominance in the genetic sequencing business by being allowed to exclusively withhold 20 years worth of genetic data on the BRCA, and not have to share them with the scientific community. Myriad has not disclosed statistical information that might be helpful to other laboratories, such as data on mutational variants of unknown significance (VUS), whose impacts are still unclear, but are being worked on by other geneticists.

Furthermore, this withholding of information makes Myriad’s analyses of BRCA mutations closed to clinical peer review, and thus patients are expected to take Myriad’s conclusions on faith. Myriad’s test though should be looked by patients with a grain of salt—it does not always detect large-scale rearrangements of the genes, and sometimes produces indeterminate or false results that can be damaging to patients’ psyches, especially for those who tested negative and later develop breast cancer. The test should be reviewed by other groups to help develop more comprehensive tests that patients can better trust.

Contrary to the recent advent of genetic testing, there has been diagnostic screening tool around for 40 years that can detect breast cancer at its early stage—the mammogram. Similar to the question of who should be genetically tested, there is the central question of when a woman should be screened. The question of whether women under 50 should be screened has remained controversial since the 1970s.

Data from the only major widespread randomized trial on mammography screening, conducted by the Health Insurance Plan (HIP) of New York, in 1963, did not demonstrated a benefit for women aged 40-49 (or even women aged 60-69 for that matter). In this study, participants began having mammograms in their late 40s, continuing to have them after they turned 50; as a result, it has remained unclear as to whether those women that were diagnosed with breast cancer were younger or older than 50 at the time.

Nevertheless, even without scientific evidence of statistically significant benefits for women aged 40-49, the American College of Radiology (ACR) and American Cancer Society (ACS) have always staunchly recommended routine annual mammograms during these years, rather than waiting to begin at age 50. Conversely, groups like the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) seeing that screening was not proven effective for those 40-49, considered screening during those years as ineffective. They also noted that ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) diagnoses were highest in the 40-49 age group, and argued that over half of the time these cases are “harmless,” and if left alone, would not progress to advanced stage breast cancer.

However, because doctors cannot tell if the DCIS is harmful, it is treated like invasive breast cancer, usually with surgical excision by lumpectomy, with or without radiation therapy, or even a mastectomy, which can cause extreme, and perhaps unnecessary anxiety in patients. Among these groups, the ACR, ACS, NCI, and USPSTF, who should have the final word on setting the screening age guidelines? Unless a randomized study is conducted for women aged 40-49, I do not think any of these groups can make the ultimate decision. There is currently not enough statistical evidence on when breast cancer rates significantly increase, and without this information, guidelines on the threshold age of screening initiation cannot be set.

Both BRCA genetic testing and mammography have the ability to create unneeded anxiety, whether it be because of a false positive, or in the case of mammography, the detection of noninvasive cancer that could have may no impact on a woman’s life if left undetected. However, both tests also allow for early detection that can save countless numbers of lives.

Ideally, patients should engage in an open dialogue with their doctors over the benefits, risks, and limitations of these tests, as well as their individual risks of breast cancer so that they can decide on what is best for themselves. This is a decision that should not be left in the hands of potentially financially motivated medical companies.

Sources

 

Gold, E.R., and Julia Carbone. “Myriad Genetics: In the eye of the policy storm.” Genetics in

Medicine 12 (2010): S39-S69.

 

Levy, Sharon. “Our Shared Code: The Myriad Decision and the Future of Genetic Research.”

Environmental Health Perspectives (121): A250-A253.

 

Reynolds, Handel. The Big Squeeze, A Social and Political History of the Controversial

Mammogram. New York: Cornell University Press, 2012.

 

 

Kurds Vote Overwhelmingly for Independence in Iraq

Democracy Chronicles - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 02:03

Picture credit: CNN.com

Following through on a long-desired promise to have a country of their own Kurds in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Syria have finally been able to place votes for independence. The desire to have their own country has been an objective of Kurds since the end of world war one, and remain the only ethnic group to not have their own country.

There are approximately  30 million Kurds who have been spread across five countries. The first vote came from the semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq who voted over 92percent in favor for independence. The independence vote is a threat to the Iraqi government as the Kurd’s region is dominated by oil, a valuable natural resource.

The vote took place in the northern city of Erbil close to the Iranian border with Iraq. Approximately 3 million people live in the Northern region of Iraq which is officially seen as “semi-autonomous.”

“Let’s engage in a serious dialogue and become good neighbors,” Kurdish President, Masoud Barnzani said following the results. Several countries including the United States, Iraq Syria, and Turkey have come out in strong opposition to the referendum.

The Kurdistan people make up approximately  30 million of the population between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Voting for the independence movement has united some unlikely allies against the Kurds as the split from Baghdad would mean a tremendous amount of oil lost for many of the countries that are neighboring the region.

Baghdad and Turkey have threatened to shut down air space, along with Turkey threatening to implement a trade embargo if the Kurds finalize their vote and go through with independence. The Kurds have been an invaluable asset in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq and peshmerga forces have been one of the most loyal fighters the United States could rely upon in the struggle in the region.

“We don’t want a fight between Iraqi citizens,” Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said in a response to the voting. Iraq sees the Kurds technically as citizens of their country even though they have long desired their own home.

In threatening the Kurds, Iraq has joined Turkey with being a country that has threatened to use or has use violence against the Kurds in a measure to suppress their goals for an autonomous state. Turkey started conducting military action against the PKK in March of 2017 in hopes of what it termed “not containing but completely destroying the group who is composed of Kurds and is seen as a threat to the Turkish government.

“We are living through the most successful period of our 35 year old struggle against the PKK,” Turkish defense minister Fikri Isik said regarding the military operations. Turkey and the PKK have been fighting since 1984 when the PKK started its struggle for independence inside of Turkey.

“In the period since July 23, 2015, more than 10,500 terrorists have been neutralized. This is a major success. The terror outfit has been rendered incapable of carrying out operations. We are going to break their spine and take all measures to make sure that they will never threaten this country again,” Isik continued in the response.

The PKK is a multi-country political party found in Turkey and Iraq, and is considered a rebel group in both countries.

According to the PKK’s website, they are technically listed as a terrorist organization under NATO, the EU, and the United States.

However, despite this, there are some in the U.S who have called on the world to respect the vote. “Monday’s historic vote in the Kurdistan Region should be recognized and respect in the world,” U.S Senator Chuck Schumer said about the vote.

The Iraqi parliament has also authorized the movement of Iraqi troops to the area. Several major oil pipelines travel through the region making it strategically important for the development and outsourcing of oil in the region and world oil markets.

PKK beliefs are rooted in Socialism; however, they have been a valuable ally in the fight against IS.

Ultimately, the United States should tread carefully in this situation even though the Peshmerga Kurds have been a tremendous ally in the fight against IS, we should be willing to acknowledge their independence but make sure their goals are legitimate and to make sure they aren’t setting up a state that will become dictatorial like that in Syria and or Turkey two of the very states they are fighting against.

Links to sources:

  1. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/27/over-92-of-iraqs-kurds-vote-for-independence
  2. Al-Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2017/06/turkey-army-new-rural-terrain-offensive-against-pkk.html
  3. The Kurdish Project.org: https://thekurdishproject.org/latest-news/us-senator-chuck-schumer-calls-independent-kurdish-state/
  4. Rubin Center.org: http://www.rubincenter.org/2013/08/the-main-kurdish-political-parties-in-iran-iraq-syria-and-turkey-a-research-guide/
  5. CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/26/a-small-region-in-iraq-just-became-one-of-the-oil-markets-biggest-concerns.html

 

 

 

The 95% Failure Rate of Foster Care in America

Democracy Chronicles - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 16:04

The broken-hearted stood up to give witness in Clinton, Iowa on October 8, 2016. After campaigning political candidates finished, families took the microphone. A soft-spoken, middle-aged woman went first (edited for clarity):

“Iowa Department of Human Services [DHS] took my three granddaughters that had been living with me – two biological and one non-biological granddaughter. DHS said I could adopt the non-biological granddaughter but not the biological sisters. I did adopt my daughter’s stepdaughter. 

But my 6 and 8 year-old granddaughters were sent into a stranger’s home where a charge had already been made that a teenage foster girl was abused. My granddaughters were fostered for a year then adopted by this family even though I tried to stop it in court. Last year the two girls ran away, six miles through the woods in their flip-flops to people they once knew. When police arrived, the sheriff took them back to the foster home.

I know they are being hurt. No one will investigate. Just as bad, they tell my girls that I don’t love them and that is just not true.”

Next a sweet-toned and sad-beyond-words young mother told how Iowa DHS took her twin baby boys:

“There had never been any abuse in our home. The babies were born prematurely. DHS took our twin baby boys without any paperwork, without court orders, and without any warrant for removal. DHS illegally terminated our parental rights and [when the boys were ten months old] ‘adopted them out’. When they finally gave me paperwork, the paper said ‘possible future abuse’ even when there was no abuse ever in our home.”

Then Dillon Wyckoff walked to the front of a now very quiet room. About ten weeks earlier, Dillon’s 2 year-old-son Mason died from oxycodone given to him by his drug-addicted mother who died of an overdose shortly later.

“Despite my concerns about Mason being in his mother’s care, the fact that she had not followed through with her mental health treatment recommendations, my reporting over and over to law enforcement, DHS and the courts that she was a threat to herself and to Mason, all supported by documentation and audio recordings . . . my actions triggered the following result — DHS did nothing, nothing.”

Because they were not married, the court awarded full custody of Mason to his mother. Dillon fought for Mason his entire life. He believes if DHS had listened and investigated more closely, Mason would be alive. A year after his son’s murder, Dillon works to change Iowa family laws to support shared custody.

After a short break, a wiry and determined woman walked to the microphone:

“My three grandchildren lived with me their whole lives. They were taken by Iowa DHS on November 1, 2013 when they were 13, 12 and 7. The two oldest went through years of therapy for abuse from their father. The youngest had never met her father. DHS takes them from me and places them with their father. They went from a 5-bedroom house they called home to a 2-bedroom trailer with eight people.”

Foster care is a national scandal not just an Iowa problem. Billions of taxpayer dollars go to breaking up families and sustaining a system that produces abused, traumatized, trafficked and murdered children.

About 95% of the time when state agencies take children away from families, the accusations turn out to be false or unsubstantiated. Or social workers remove children for reasons confusing “neglect” and poverty, a combination brutally impacting families of color. Or state rules prevent grandparents trying to help in a family crisis gain custody of their own grandchildren.

Even worse, outcomes for children who spend any time at all in foster care are mostly terrible. Children placed in foster care are far too often abused, assaulted, over-medicated and sexually trafficked. More likely to be depressed, they often attempt suicide, become pregnant or land in jail at an early age.

Certainly, some children must be taken out of abusive homes. In 2014, about 1,580 children died from abuse and neglect. With an expanding opioid crisis in America, the number of at-risk children will only grow as will the need for quality foster care in loving homes.

Instead, foster care in America is an abusive, multi-billion dollar, for-profit failure. About 671,000 children are taken each year from biological families and placed in a stranger’s foster care with 428,000 children in state-ordered care on an average day. Taxpayer dollars to the states quickly add up:

The federal government pays states about $6,000 per child per month in foster care. Many thousands of dollars more per month go from federal accounts to states for family assessments and home studies that then require federally funded parenting classes, anger management or drug and alcohol treatment. More dollars flow to the states for “special needs” fostered children such as any child who requires any medication, bringing on a whole other set of abuses. A $4,000 or bonus goes to states for the termination of parental rights and “adopting out” of foster children.

The federal government sends between $4 and $12 billion to states for taking children and breaking up families; add to that multiple funding streams in state funds convinces some reform activists that foster care is a $50 billion industry. In turn, states hire large corporations and non-profit organizations to manage a state’s lucrative foster care system.

With billions of dollars driving local agency decisions, children are taken by the state often for lifestyle choices. A young married couple traveling America delivered their baby in Alabama. Without a warrant or court order, the Alabama Department of Human Services took their healthy son literally as the mom nursed her newborn. Alabama DHS justified what some call “medical-kidnapping” because the parents did not want to name their baby that day or assign their newborn a social security number. The baby was born on October 10, 2016. As of September 2017, Alabama still had the baby in foster care.

Activity that is legal in one state may mean termination of parental rights in another state. A Colorado couple, Raymond and Amelia Schwab, are fighting the Kansas Department of Children and Families who took five of their six happy and healthy children in April 2015. Kansas took the children in part based on allegations that Raymond used marijuana.

Discharged from the Navy in 1996 with a 50% disability rating, Raymond became dependent on painkillers prescribed by a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital that led to a heroin addiction. He overcame the addiction in faith-based rehabilitation and by switching to medical marijuana, legal in Colorado but not Kansas.

In 2013, Raymond moved to Kansas to work as a VA benefits counselor. In 2015, he decided to move back to Colorado to access medical marijuana for his chronic Gulf War pain and disability. In April 2015, literally as they were packing to move to Colorado, Amelia’s mother took the five children to a police station saying they had been abandoned. Cleared in court twice of all allegations of abuse, the children remained in state custody.

In March 2016, Raymond went on a hunger strike when notified by the Kansas Department for Children and Families that their five-year old daughter had been sexually molested and two of their sons had been physically abused in foster care; and their 13-year old son was about to be sent to a psychiatric facility and had already started psychotropic medication despite the parent’s objections.

In December 2016, the County judge ruled against termination of parental rights, ordering the children home. Reunification would wait on an interstate agreement and a Colorado home study. Visitations increased. As of mid-September 2017, the children remain in state custody. Just this one family means revenue to Kansas of at least $840,000 and likely closer to three million dollars since medication and counseling mean the Schwab children are now labeled “special needs,” bringing Kansas more federal dollars.

Foster Care’s 95% Failure Rate

Outcomes for children who spend any time in foster care are consistently terrible. Foster care in America is considered by many broken families child kidnapping funded by taxpayers. Except in cases of significant abuse and neglect, the mounting evidence says child services budgets should be spent keeping families together. The largest studies from 2006, 2007 and 2008 found that except for the most severe cases of abuse, even maltreated children who remained at home did better than maltreated children placed in foster care.

The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR) reported that of every 100 children investigated as possible victims of abuse, three are ‘substantiated’ victims of physical abuse from the most minor to the most severe, and about two more are specifically victims of sexual abuse. Most of the rest are false allegations or cases in which poverty is confused with neglect.

Family advocate Jennifer Winn and prior spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Families and Children, Theresa Freed, agree: “Only 4% of the children they [Kansas state agencies] remove from homes are removed on grounds that are substantiated.”

True damage is inflicted on children seized by the state:

  • A Casey Family study showed adults who had been in foster care were twice as likely to be depressed, 22 times more likely to experience homelessness, and three times more likely to live at or under the poverty level than the general population.
  • The Casey study also found fostered adults had Post Traumatic Stress twice the rate of Iraqi war veterans. One out of three reported maltreatment in the foster home. By age 25, 81% of male foster care alumni had been arrested at least once and 35% incarcerated.
  • Children in foster care and those who age out are four times more likely to attempt suicide (even as young as 7 years old) and 12 times more likely to receive psychotropic medication.
  • A Colorado study found the resting heart rate is higher for children in foster care: they are always alert for danger and in “flight or fight” mode.

Most children used for sexual trafficking are foster children. In a 2013 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) nationwide raid to rescue child sex trafficking victims in 70 cities, 60% were children in foster care or group homes. The year before in Connecticut, 86 of 88 victims were from child welfare agencies. One in three foster care children later report sexual abuse in the foster home.

Whistle blowers face punishment or worse. Social workers in Kentucky were fired for refusing to place children in foster homes suspected of abuse or refusing to terminate parental rights despite pressure from supervisors who had already picked out influential adoptive families. The late Georgia state congresswoman Nancy Schaefer, who died under mysterious circumstances, spoke for every state in the union when she said: “I am convinced there is no responsibility and no accountability in Child Protective Services.”

The stress and emotional damage heaped on families with children seized by the state cannot be underestimated:

Once they have you in the system you cannot get out. There are evaluations and required classes and searches of homes without notice. There are demands to show up for meetings that mean lost pay and lost jobs. And if you lose your pay and can’t cover your car insurance they say you do not have a safe home and your child stays in foster care.”

The married parents of the newborn taken by Alabama Human Services wrote a powerful 25-page letter to Alabama officials listed thirteen federal laws and nine Constitutional amendments broken when their baby was seized:

“So stop trying to make up laws in your bureaucratic mind any longer and try to coerce us, oppress us, or place us under any more duress or any more threats of harm, like you have already done to us, or to our live, healthy baby, and just give him back to us now… You, one and all, have therefore violated our rights by constructing laws in your mind that do not even exist and have kidnapped our live, healthy child for not obeying these two imaginary laws that apparently exist only in your individual and collective brains.”

Foster Care, Poverty and Communities of Color

The traumas of foster care and the unethical and unconstitutional decisions of family courts fall disproportionately on poor families, families of color and especially African-American and Native American children. About 75% of the children taken by states are so-called “neglect” cases, a charge often difficult to distinguish from poverty. Children in families earning less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be removed than children in families making over $30,000.

This is what institutional racism looks like:  One out of three children in foster care are African-American, a statistically significant larger proportion than children of other races and ethnic backgrounds. The percentage of Native American children in foster care is nearly twice their proportion in the general population. This study concluded that “bias, cultural misunderstandings and distrust” contributes to decisions to take minority children from families and kinship groups.

California’s 9th Circuit Court: Social Workers Lose “Right to Lie”

 Historically, state caseworkers are immune from prosecution. In thirty-two states, government social workers hold absolute immunity from lawsuits related to child protective duties. Even if lying or misrepresenting family conditions, state workers cannot be sued. Family court judges need only listen to the state social worker. Parents, grandparents and the children taken by the state generally have no or very limited opportunity to give testimony in family court.

As a 2017 Harvard Law Journal article points out:

Today, an individual whose federal rights have been violated by a state has relatively limited options. Thus, it is fair to say that state sovereign immunity has never been more impenetrable.

 While families damaged by child welfare decisions rarely win lawsuits in state court, federal rulings can charge state and national policies. Foster care class action lawsuits cite the 14th Amendment that declares American citizens are guaranteed due process and equal protection under the law. States cannot restrict these rights.

A major 2017 lawsuit challenging state social worker immunity, generally called the California 9th Circuit’s “Right to Lie” case, represents the foster child’s point of view. The state of California took sisters Kendall and Preslie, then 6 and 9 years old, from their mother in 2000 and held them in foster care for 6½ years. The original reason for taking the sisters was “impending harm and abuse” with no evidence of current abuse or neglect. The state prevented contact between mother and daughters. The sisters were upset every time a caseworker visited them and in counseling sessions always asked to go home.

When she aged out of foster care and reunited with her biological mother, Preslie Hardwick sued Orange County, California and individual state caseworkers for maliciously lying in court to remove her from her mother’s home. Her lawyers argued that such state abuse of power violated Preslie’s constitutional rights to her mother’s care and family relationship. The social workers who took the sisters committed perjury in court by saying the girls were happy in their foster home and by withholding evidence that would have cleared the mother of all charges. The social workers claimed state immunity laws meant they were immune from prosecution for anything they said or did.

In December 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in the daughter’s favor with Judge Stephen Trott confronting caseworkers:

”You mean due process is somehow consistent with a government worker presenting perjured testimony and false evidence? I can’t even believe for a microsecond that a caseworker wouldn’t understand you can’t lie and put in false evidence.”                                                                                                                                                                                                   This case surfaces issues voiced by parents and grandparents of taken children all around America:

  • State agencies and individual social workers lie about family conditions to maintain an income stream based on removing children from families.
  • Child agencies take children from biological families based on unclear guidelines especially the widely used “suspected future neglect.”
  • Social workers and caseworkers drive wedges between taken children and biological families with mean-spirited threats.
  • Parents and grandparents never give up trying to bring their children home and battle exhausting, traumatizing and expensive legal manipulations.

On its way to the Supreme Court, the California 9th Circuit ruling prompted some immediate changes. The Director of Iowa Human Services retired. Retirements and resignations in early 2017 included the South Carolina Director of Human Services, Oregon Director of Child Welfare, Illinois Director of Human Services and county Directors of Human Services in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Transforming Foster Care and Family Court

The purpose of the Million Parent March on September 18, 2017 is to raise awareness about all the different ways family courts and foster care damage and destroy children and families. The event brings together parents and grandparents of taken children, father’s rights groups battling biases in divorce court, parents and lawyers seeking shared custody after divorces, mothers and fathers of children kidnapped by custodial or non-custodial parents, children who have aged out of foster care, children of divorce, and advocates pushing for America to dramatically and deeply re-think foster care and family court.

Millions of families and children remain torn apart and psychologically devastated by the profit-driven abuses of foster care and the win-lose culture of family court. Whether the Million Parent March succeeds in raising awareness and achieving legislative and agency changes at all levels of government remains to be seen. Without a doubt, social media once again powerfully links millions of voices demanding we restore the civil and constitutional rights of parents and children.

A follow up article focused on solutions will be published after the Million Parent March.

A Resurgent Russia Causing EU Countries to Increase Military Spending for Foreseeable Future

Democracy Chronicles - Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:23

Photo Credit: Business Insider

In response to a growing threat from Russia and numerous threats, including an ongoing one from ISIS, Sweden and other EU countries are proposing (and some have passed) an increase in military budgets to help combat the threats.

Sweden will increase its military spending,  to $1.13 billion which will be spread out from 2016 until 2020. “We have seen a deterioration of the security situation over time, so it is important to respond to that with different measures, and this is part of that strategy,” Swedish Defense Minister, Peter Hultqvist said recently.

Sweden and Europe (most notably Eastern Europe), have faced increased threats from an ambitious Russia, and the threat of the Islamic state and lone wolf attacks. Just these past couple of weeks, there have been numerous instances of stabbings, and of cars plowing into people (incidents in Spain and France in the same week.). The violence has also come from migrants who have flooded the EU in response to the “Arab Spring,” and the ongoing Syrian Civil war.

“We will now analyse and continue the discussions and get back to how we handle this,” Hultqvist continued referring to the increase in military spending for the upcoming years.

The threat has also come from a resurgent Russia who is being accused of backing and supplying Pro-Russian separatist in Ukraine after a civil war broke out a couple of years ago.

Sweden isn’t the only country who is increasing its military spending as Poland, will increase its military budget by two percent in 2018. Russia has been accused of helping pro-Moscow militias in Ukraine and annexing Crimea in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, and causing the civil war which is ongoing to this day.

“This level of defense spending must be sustained because it holds our strength, but also strengthens our reputation,” Polish Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said regarding the increase in spending.

The increase in spending will bring the total spent on defense to, 27.6 billion in EU terms or 30.1 billion in U.S dollars.

Russia has also been accused of interfering in the U.S and French elections, with emphasis on spreading false news.

Along with Sweden and Poland increasing their military spending, the EU as a whole, will also be increasing their military budget for the foreseeable future. “The fact the commission together with member states are ready to move forward to have real money and real resources is very positive,” former Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet (who is also a member of parliament.).

The EU has proposed a 25 million (in EU terms), for military equipment and readiness, which is set to take effect by the end of 2017. The budget also provides funds for future research missions for new weapons and technology.

“The real test is going to be on defense and not on the Euro,” an EU diplomat who asked to remain anonymous.

Britain, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy have contributed the most to the military in terms of people. However, Britain’s exit from the EU may mess that up once Brexit becomes final.

In conclusion, it should be remembered throughout history, even though Russia was on the Allied side during World War two, they committed thousands of atrocities under the former Soviet Union and subjugated millions of peoples, and restricted freedom for those people until the end of the 1990s. and they should be a threat that is taken seriously.

Links to sources:

  1. Politico: http://www.politico.eu/article/after-years-of-talk-eu-plans-defense-spending-spree/
  2. The News. Pl: http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/304138,Poland-to-increase-defence-spending
  3. Al Jazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/sweden-boosts-2017-military-spending-55m-170313164719600.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China Communist Party Expanding Internet Crackdown

Democracy Chronicles - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 21:57

link

China, the biggest communist country in the world and one of the countries with the worst record when it comes to personal freedom, is cracking down again this time when it comes to internet freedom. The response by the communist government is in part due to scheduled meetings in Beijing for the Communist Party, the largest political party in China.

“China’s internet connections service market has signs of disordered development that require urgent regulation and governance,” a statement released by the Ministry which oversees the internet read. The response is also another way of tightening the grips on who is allowed to offer VPNs, also known as Virtual Private Networks, which are used in the creation of new websites.

China’s government already has in place one of the greatest restrictions on internet freedom in countries where internet is available. Websites like Twitter, Facebook, and GOOGLE are blocked and websites that have any reference to the Tiananmen Square Massacre or any critical articles in references to the Communist Party are blocked as well.

China leads the leads the lists of countries who have the worst internet freedom. Following China are Iran, Syria, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan are the counties who make up the top five for worst internet freedom. On the opposite side, Estonia, Iceland, Canada, the United States, and Germany make the top five countries who have the best internet freedom.

Known as the “Great Firewall,” the reference has been used to describe the tough nature of the restrictions placed upon internet servers in China.  China only has three internet service providers that are allowed to authorize the creation of internet websites, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. All three companies are under the control of the Chinese Government.

“This is a significantly escalated form of internet control and shows there is unprecedented urgency and desperation at the top of the government,” said Xiao Qiang, a professor at the University of Berkley who teaches internet censorship.

The response from the communist regime could be due to the fact that China saw its greatest increase in internet users in 2016, with 731 million people using the web. The growth in new technology also has played a role as smart phone and tablets challenge the government to broaden their technology for restricting websites.

The next national congressional meeting in Beijing will take place in the fall of this year. At the congress, the party will lay out its plans for the future.  This will be the 19th Party meeting.

“Our restrictions target service providers without licenses or operating illegally,” said, Ministry of Industry and Information, spokesman Zhang Feng at a recent press conference. Over 3,000 sites have been blocked in China. Search apps have also bowed to the pressure, and have removed apps that help internet users outside of China who are traveling to China to get around the firewall.

In conclusion, people should remember that even though the Chinese Communist Party has been modernizing with the times, the party still represents a heavy restriction on personal freedoms and a restriction on everyday life and should (even though it won’t happen) adapt a platform of personal freedom and liberty.

Links to Sources:

  1. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/11/china-moves-to-block-internet-vpns-from-2018
  2.  GreatFire.org: https://en.greatfire.org/
  3. CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/24/china-cracks-down-on-vpn-that-help-people-getting-around-its-great-firewall.html
  4. CNN: http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/25/technology/china-vpn-censorship/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Week of Action 8 – 14 April 2016: A Special Two-Years Commemoration of the Abduction of Our #ChibokGirls

bringbackourgirls.ng - Fri, 04/01/2016 - 14:15

Wednesday 8 April 2015

On April 14 — in just about 2 weeks from today, it will be exactly 2 full years since schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok were abducted in their school by terrorists.

In exactly 7 days we shall be commencing a Global Week of Action culminating on 14 April, to mark this unfortunate incidence and to refocus the world’s attention to the fact that 276 schoolgirls were abducted in their school, 57 escaped, 219 remain missing till date, with 17 of their parents losing their lives as a result of the trauma.

We urge persons wherever they may be to carry out activities to commemorate this event. There are activities already lined up in many cities of the world, we encourage everyone to participate and/or organise one, however simple.

Here is the link to some activities already lined up:
http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/2-years-activity-schedule/

In Abuja, parents or wards who would want their children or wards to be part of the #ChibokGirls Ambassadors may complete the forms here:
http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/fuel-the-movement/ambassadors-form/

This year’s theme is #HopeEndures.

Thank you.

Signed:
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

2 years activity schedule

bringbackourgirls.ng - Fri, 04/01/2016 - 05:59

#BringBackOurGirls – 2nd Year Commemoration

GLOBAL WEEK OF ACTION (April 8 – 14, 2016)

SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES (Abuja Family)

DATE

ACTIVITY

SUMMARY

OBJECTIVE/EXPECTED IMPACT

VENUE/TIME

March 14 – April 14

Countdown:

Countdown to 2 years of abduction

Carry out a 30-day countdown to the 2nd year since abduction of our Chibok Girls.

Create unease and urgency among relevant actors so as to provoke the need to ensure our Chibok girls are brought back before the 2nd year; while rallying global attention, solidarity, sympathy, and support.

Unity Fountain & online

April 8

Friday

Islamic Prayers and Talks

– Special prayers at Jumat Service

– Asr Prayers @ Unity Fountain

– Talks by an Islamic Scholar

There would be Islamic prayers across the world for the safety and quick return of our Chibok girls. An Islamic Scholar would be invited to speak at the sit-out on: “Boko Haram is Not Islamic: Girls Education Is Islamic.”

Commit to God efforts to ensure our girls are brought back as well as gain insights on Islamic perspectives to girls’ education, women empowerment, and terrorism.

Unity Fountain

3.30 pm

April 9

Saturday

Online Engagement

– TweetMeet

Hold a 90-minute TweetMeet with Dr. Oby Ezekwesili a view to engaging the online community of supporters of #BBOG while sensitizing others who have questions or need clarifications.

To ensure the online community to carried along while further growing the online population of supporters of the #BringBackOurgirls cause.

Online

7 pm

April 10

Sunday

Christian Prayers and Talks

– Special Church Service/Prayers

– Service at the Unity Fountain

Prayers in churches across the world for the safety and quick return of our Chibok girls. A special church service would also hold at the Unity Fountain, with talks by a Pastor on: “The Role of the Church in efforts to #BringBackOurGirls and Ending Terrorism in Nigeria.”

To commit our girls and all efforts to bring them back to God; while sensitizing the Christian populace on the role of the church in Nigeria’s counterinsurgency efforts.

Unity Fountain

4 pm

April 11

Monday

Workshop on the Nigerian Girl-Child

– High Level Discussions on issues affecting the Nigerian girl-child

– Remember and honour students and teachers killed by Boko Haram

– Launching of initiative for ‘Day of the Nigerian Student.’

The workshop would focus on several issues affecting girls with the theme: #EndangeredEducation. This is to have critical conversation on the safety of schools for learning, as well as building compelling narratives around the effects of terrorism on the uptake of education, quality of education, and the quest for education. The day would also be to remember and honour all students, teachers, and educationists who have been killed since the inception of Boko Haram; while launching a drive to ensure that every April 14 is approved and earmarks as the “Day of the Nigerian Student.” The Chibok Girls Ambassadors are to feature prominently in this event.

Ensure high-level conversation on the state of girls’ education in Nigeria, while harvesting thoughts and submissions, with a view to developing a common position that would shape further engagements, advocacies, decisions, and relevant actions.

April 12

Tuesday

Visits to UN and Embassies

March to UN and 6 Embassies (US, France, UK, Canada, Australia, and Israel)

There would be visits to embassies of countries that pledged support with a view to getting feedback/updates as well as the outcome of the support they pledged in finding our girls.

Get status Report of the pledged support in finding the Chibok Girls, as well as constraints/challenges, where we are, and a possible way forward that’d produce result.

Starting at UN Office on Diplomatic Drive, Central Area

9 am

April 13

Wednesday

Walkathon, Red-Ribbon Day, and Evening of Arts

– Remembering the Chibok Girls

– Led by Chibok Girls Ambassadors

– Evening of Poetry, Arts, and Music

Walk around strategic locations in Abuja with a view to tying around red ribbons to serve as a reminder that our Chibok Girls are yet to be brought back. Later, there’d be an evening of Poetry, Arts, Spoken Words, Drama, Choreography, and Music where the plights of our Chibok Girls, abductees, IDPs, and other victims of insurgency are portrayed through arts.

To reawaken the minds of the people, and remind them that despite efforts, our Chibok Girls are yet to be brought back. Also, utilize creativity, through arts, in invoking the necessary emotions that would convey the need for urgent relevant actions.

Unity Fountain

3 pm

April 14

Thursday

Protest and Press Conference

– Protest to the Villa

– World Press Conference

This is a protest to the Presidency with a view to registering our frustration and grievance. We would converge at the point where we are allowed. We would address a World Press Conference at the point of convergence.

Communicate our frustrations and demands to the government and the world.

Presidential Villa.

Takeoff point, Unity Fountain

9 am

 

#BringBackOurGirls Statement On the self-professed Chibok girl suicide bomber

bringbackourgirls.ng - Sat, 03/26/2016 - 08:59

 

26 March 2016

We received news yesterday Friday 25 March, of an arrested girl-child suicide bomber in Cameroon who identified herself as one of our abducted Chibok girls.

We are presently unable to respond to this news conclusively until we have facts from the Nigerian government; from whom we requested and have eagerly been awaiting official information on the matter.

In the interim however, our thoughts are as follows:

1.
i. The claim by the young woman that she is a Chibok girl should reawaken the Nigerian government to the zeal and commitment necessary for ensuring that they are rescued and brought back;

ii. This development suggests that we now have a possible source of credible intelligence as to what transpired, where the others are, and other leads required to facilitate their rescue.

2. Regardless of whether she is one of our Chibok girls or not, our thoughts and sentiments remain the same:

i. using children, girls who should be in school (or any humans at all) as suicide bombers is not only tragic and cruel, it is completely reprehensible and we denounce it;

ii. these children suicide bomber are themselves victims, and must be seen and treated as such;

iii. we all must hasten to free all those in captivity. For as long as they are with the monsters, we all are ourselves unsafe and equally in captivity;

iv. a few weeks ago, a girl suicide bomber did not detonate her device at an IDP camp because she knew her family was most likely in that camp, and she could not kill them.

It is important to send out messages that counter the programming of the terrorists. This may help in empowering these victims from detonating the explosives and accessing help;

v. this particular experience highlights the importance of building not only a regional coalition among neighbouring countries to counter terror, but a global one.

3. The Nigerian government as a matter of urgency, needs to swiftly act to ascertain the facts of this matter and make them public. It is getting to 24 hours since the news broke.

We need to know her name and identity, her parents’ names, where she is from, possibly extract DNA samples for quick testing and matching, etc.

4. This should be a wakeup call to the Nigerian government to adopt and utilise our citizens-developed tool the Verification, Authentication, and Reunification System (VARS) designed by our movement for such scenarios as these. This tool was accepted by the federal government on 8 July 2015 during our meeting with the president, but has not been deployed.

Likewise, the Missing Persons Register which would have been useful in tracking this young victim in order to commence her rehabilitation, reunification, and reintegration process with her family and community.

WE ARE EAGERLY WAITING.

Signed:

For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

#BBOGMonthlyMonitoringInitiative: Month 2: 14 February – 13 March 2016

bringbackourgirls.ng - Mon, 03/14/2016 - 16:25

Monday 14 March 2016

Today is exactly 700 days since 276 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok were abducted in their school on 14 April 2014; 57 escaped, 219 remain missing. Today is also 31 days to exactly 2 years since this horrendous tragedy that blights our humanity took place.

One month ago on 14 February we launched our monthly monitoring tool, the #BBOGMonthlyMonitoringInitiative, and presented our first report covering 14 January to 13 February. Kindly read the report here: http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/bbogmonthlymonitoringinitiative-bbog-press-statement/.

Today we are delighted to present the second report covering 14 February to 13 March.

B. Matters Arising from Last Month’s Report

1. In our maiden report, we began with our 14 January engagement with Mr President, outlining the specific action points and commitments made by the administration. Regrettably, 2 full months after, there is NO evidence available to us that any of the commitments has been or is being worked on.

2. Unfortunately, the outcome of investigations carried out with the arrest of Jarasu Shira, who was said to be a Boko Haram ‘kingpin’ with significant role in our ChibokGirls’ abduction is still being awaited. According to the Military, a Boko Haram ‘top commander’ was also captured and another operative on the Most Wanted List killed.

We expect the public would be appropriately informed of the outcome of these investigations. Also, we consider it very important that clarification be made as to who a Boko Haram kingpin, mastermind or commander is, and what distinguishes one from the other. How many have been killed or captured? How many are out there known to our Security forces?

3. We requested that the military provides exact figures, as against approximations of the numbers of those rescued in the counterinsurgency effort, their identities and updates on their welfare. These would, among other issues, help to enhance their human dignity.

In the past month, the military has been giving exact figures of women, men, children rescued, including items recovered. In some cases, the reports cover the number of fatalities and those wounded in the combats. This is very commendable. We hope that soon, the full reports would be made public for each operation as earlier requested.

4. In the last report, the Department of State Security, DSS apprehended an ISIS recruiter along with recruits. This time the police arrested yet another recruiter with another set of recruits.

C. Synopsis of Month 2 Under Review in the Media

1. Women and Children rescued from Boko Haram captivity are facing stigmatization and discrimination. The women are unfairly termed ‘Boko Haram wives’.

2. Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai says Boko Haram has been ‘largely defeated’, and that the rescue of our Chibok girls is underway.

3. Senator Shehu Sani -who it would be recalled had on different occasions facilitated the meeting of an ex-Nigerian president with the family of the late Boko Haram founder and another with Boko Haram leadership in order to secure the release of our Chibok girls- insists that they are alive, and offers solutions on how they can be brought back if the government is willing.

4. Another returnee from Boko Haram captivity relayed her encounter meeting some of our Chibok girls. This provides a credible lead as to their whereabouts.

5. The Dutch Embassy has pledged technical support from their home country for the reconstruction of the Northeast. Turkey has also indicated interest in supporting the counterinsurgency effort.
The United States is considering resending her special operations troops to boost the capacity of Nigerian forces, after leaving in 2014.
The Nigerian defence minister, Mansur Dan-Ali announced that South Africa is to send her special forces to fight Boko Haram. However, the South African defence ministry spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini responded thus, ‘There is no such decision to send any military elements by the RSA [Republic of South Africa] to assist with fight against Boko Haram.’

6. Key roads in Borno formerly under lockdown for years have been reopened for civilian use, particularly the Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu federal highway.
An Army Motorcycle Battalion has been composed to man the route. Commendable as this is, we are of the opinion that it is better to have a joint police-military patrol, and eventually a police patrol team as against a purely military one; as it is not the duty of the military to police a civilian space considering that the road is now open to civilians. This we believe will free the military to go farther into the hinterland to decimate the insurgents.

7. Prosecution of former military service chiefs over misappropriation of defence funds meant to fight the insurgency and rescue our Chibok girls has begun with the ex-chief of defence staff.
We urge all Nigerians to closely follow the details of proceedings in these trials.

8. Three schoolgirls kidnapped in their school in Lagos were rescued after 6 days, and kidnappers arrested due to focused leadership by the Lagos state governor, swift deployment of the police and a results-oriented rescue mission.
We commend especially the Lagos state Governor and Police Commissioner for a diligent job and, for their empathy and professionalism in keeping the public abreast of the efforts of the State. Their collective actions assuaged the people’s apprehension and instil hope and confidence in the rescue efforts.
We feel had our Chibok girls been pursued with this same zeal and focus by the previous administration, they could have been rescued and brought home by now.

9. Commander of the United States Africa Command, General David Rodriguez says President Buhari overstated Boko Haram’s losses by saying that Boko Haram no longer holds any Nigerian territory.
This statement is clearly counterfactual to our military’s regular briefings on the dislodgement of the Boko Haram sects from all territories they hitherto occupied.

D. Next Steps

1. In exactly 4 weeks from today, it will be Two (2) full years since the abduction of our Chibok girls in their school on 14th April, 2014. We are hopeful of their rescue before then. Irrespective of what may come to be, whether they are successfully rescued or not, we shall mark the milestone with a Global Week of Action starting Friday 8th April through to Thursday 14th April, 2016. The symbolism of what our Chibok girls represent must never be lost on us.

We urge everyone to kindly mark their calendars, start planning and be ready to make the events memorable and impactful.

E. Conclusion

As usual, we eagerly look forward to our collective victory, and the end of the terrorist attacks; the safe return of our Chibok girls and all other abductees, the return refugees and IDPs back to their homes and the return of normalcy, peace and safety to Northeast Nigeria. A time of tranquillity that would make reconstruction of the region feasible and realizable.

We proudly salute our gallant fighting men and women of the Nigerian military, the Multinational Joint Taskforce, MNJTF; the police, all the security services, including the local volunteers and Vigilante at the frontlines. We can never thank you enough. We wish you resounding success in the days and weeks ahead.

Thank you.

Signed:

For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

 

#BringBackOurGirls family mourns passage of advocate Mubaraka Sani

bringbackourgirls.ng - Mon, 03/07/2016 - 17:20

 

7 March 2016

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our movement’s family member Mubaraka Sani, yesterday 6 March 2016, in a road accident on Kaduna-Abuja road. She was buried yesterday according to Islamic rites.

Muba (as we call her) was one our movement’s most passionate advocates. Her gentle and calm spirit belied her relentless fighting spirit and passion for justice. Among other things, she longed to see our Chibok girls reunited with their families. She yearned for a just and equitable Nigeria with equal opportunities for all. She fought hard for a better Nigeria.

 

Indeed, yet another soldier fighting for the soul of Nigeria has gone home.

Today Muba may be no more alive, but she will forever be remembered for all she did for humanity. She quietly but surely made a difference in those she encountered. Her contributions will never be erased or forgotten.

Again, the worth of life is not necessarily in its longevity but in impact, and value added. We are inspired by her life example. She was calm, kind, and caring. Her warm presence and consistency will be sorely missed, but surely never forgotten.

 

She is survived by both parents, siblings and other relations. May Almighty God give her family and the #BringBackOurGirls family worldwide the enablement to bear this loss.

Our movement therefore holds a 3-day mourning as part of activities to honour her memory at our usual meeting grounds, Unity Fountain Abuja, as from 4pm beginning this Monday 7 to Wednesday 9 March. There we shall also sign the condolence register.

#RIPMuba

Thank you.

Sesugh Akume
#BringBackOurGirls Spokesperson

Girls education under attack: The time for decisive action is NOW

bringbackourgirls.ng - Fri, 03/04/2016 - 00:00

4 March 2016

Today is 4 days since schoolgirls of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, Lagos were kidnapped in their school this past Monday, 29 February. This attack bears an eerie semblance with the abduction of 276 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok in their school 690 days ago today, on Monday 14 April 2014. 57 escaped, 219 are still missing.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the parents, relations, colleagues, etc, of our kidnapped #IkoroduGirls.

We find this kidnap unacceptable and denounce it in the strongest terms. We have repeatedly said that failure to rescue our Chibok schoolgirls would embolden others to replicate same atrocity, knowing that they can get away with it. We must stop these evildoers.

We commend the Lagos state governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode for initiating and leading Lagos State Government’s proactive response to the kidnap, for reaching out to calm frayed nerves, and the continued assurances that all is being done to bring them back.

However, we task especially the federal government to set up mechanisms that ensure that citizens are safe as is the primary duty of government. We particularly want schoolchildren to be safe in their schools. Schoolchildren should never be put in the position of contemplating between being in school and being safe and secure.

We also demand that the Safe Schools Initiative (and other endeavours like it) to be implemented in a transparent manner that serves its purpose.

We also denounce in strong terms the shabby handling of the Miss Ese Oruru abduction matter, especially by some sections of the media and the Nigeria Police Force.  Miss Ese Oruru is a child victim who was abducted, but  some sections of the media exposed her face without blanking any parts to protect her, while (deliberately or not) shielding the villain who abducted her. Some sections of the media also promoted falsehoods about this unfortunate incidence, making it difficult at first to ascertain the truth about the unfortunate incident. This we condemn.

The police on their part were notified and aware that this young girl who should be in school was taken away from her home, parents, and family without their consent since August 2015, but did nothing about it up to February 2016. This sloppiness and unprofessionalism we condemn in the strongest terms. Those within the force found to have been part of this shameful conduct must be identified and punished accordingly. Our police must be made to be more responsive. The lives of citizens must be dignified, and welfare prioritised at all times.

This child may now be back with her parents, but the matter is not yet over. The handling of this matter and logical closure on it would determine how the matter of our #ChibokGirls and #IkoroduGirls would be handled when they return. We therefore urge all to be engaged on it.

1. The abductor and all those involved in the abduction must be identified and punished to the full extent of the law. Likewise all those involved in keeping her while she was away from her parents without the their consent;
2. All those who should have resolved this matter promptly since August 2015 and made the offenders face the law but did not, must be identified and punished accordingly;
3. A deliberate process of her psychological and other rehabilitation, reintegration, and resettlement back into her family and community should commence immediately. Her family and community need all the support they can get. ‘It takes a community to raise a child’;
4A.  What mechanisms can be put in place to prevent future occurrence?
4B. How many other such unreported cases as this exist out there?

We enjoin all to unite, let us together fight and conquer this menace that threatens our humanity, and right to education especially for our young ones.

Thank you.

Signed:
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

#BringBackOurGirls honours the memory of schoolboys murdered at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi 2 years after

bringbackourgirls.ng - Thu, 02/25/2016 - 16:11

25 February 2016

We welcome you all with heavy but grateful hearts to this solemn event.

Today, we assemble to honour the memory of our brave boys of the Federal Government College (FGC), Buni Yadi, murdered in their school by Boko Haram terrorists 2 years ago today on 25 February 2014.

On this day two years ago, a rampaging band of killers laid siege on the FGC, Buni Yadi. They separated the boys from the girls and slit the throats of 29 of them afterwards. The only ‘crime’ of our Buni Yadi schoolboys was that they were bold and ambitious enough to seek a better and more assured future through education.

The misguided killers consider education and our liberties as citizens and humans as a crime that deserves brutish extermination. But in death, our Buni Yadi boys stand taller. Our boys are HEROES for even daring to get educated in an environment that had become hostile to their collective aspirations.

Further to that, of the 29 who were murdered, only 8 were junior students. The remaining 21 were senior students whom we are told stayed back to help the junior students escape instead of self-preserving by running for dear life, and ran out of time.

They are symbols of hope to every child who will dare to dream and be brave enough to pursue same. Their stories, heroics and humanity humble us today. And, for ages to come, their sacrifice will be told by men and women of conscience.

The grief of their families and friends were made worse by the poor response, especially the federal government and its line agency directly responsible for the management of the school, the Federal Ministry of Education.

After the murder the relations of the deceased were not reached and consoled. They were allowed to grieve alone. It is unacceptable for ours to be a society that lacks humanity. This disaster was treated in such a perfunctory manner that for 2 years, the exact numbers and names of is uncertain, as the government did not publish the names, and identities.

The relations were only half-heartedly contacted after our 1-year remembrance, last year. We find this unacceptable. The welfare of citizens is the primary duty of government.

The pain of their gruesome death still pierces through the walls of our hearts. Words alone cannot capture the harrowing experience their parents and other relations have been subjected to.  Our children, both boys and girls, must never be made to choose between staying alive and getting an education.

It would be recalled that on 29 September 2013, the terrorists attacked and killed a reported 44 students of College of Agriculture, Gujba in Yobe state. Not much was done, hardly any lessons learnt which resulted in the attack on FGC Buni Yadi, within the same state. Not much was done, hardly any lessons learnt, the terrorists who hitherto attacked only boys got emboldened and abducted 276 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok on 14 April 2014.

As we commemorate our young heroes today, we specially demand of the federal government today to:

1.   Ensure that the controversy over the actual numbers of our #BuniYadiHeroes who were cut down brutishly be immediately established.

How many boys were killed in Buni Yadi on the 25th of February, 2014? Was it 59 or 29?
Less than 2 weeks ago during our #BBOGMonthlyMonitoringInitiative we explained the importance of government swiftly owning the narrative, dignifying citizens, and resting all speculations by publishing the names and identities of victims of attacks and/or of those rescued.

The media promoted the news of killed in the Buni Yadi attacks. Considering that our movement sources information primarily from verifiable media outlets, last year we published 59 names collated from residents of Buni Yadi and the media.

However, we have obtained from the school, 29 names as confirmed from the parents represented here.

It is of utmost importance for the government to put this controversy to rest once and for all.

2.   Ensure that the parents and relations are listened to, with all concerns addressed.

We consider it an opportune time for the federal government to set up trauma and grief counselling centres across the country, in view of the incalculable tragedies that have ravaged especially the Northeast region since the Boko Haram insurgency with attendant consequences.

3.   Account for, and ensure that the remaining schoolchildren, the teaching and non-teaching staff of the FGC Buni Yadi, are reabsorbed into other Unity Schools across Nigeria so they can continue their education in the short term.

When shall their school be rebuilt? Where does the school come in under the Safe School Initiative?

We task interest groups like the Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) and others to take up this matter and pursue to its conclusion.

Our society must see and accept that one of the surest ways out of the primitivism, poverty and the attendant hopelessness that aided the emergence of the misguided insurgents in the Northeast is the rejuvenation and revival of the comatose educational systems in the country.

The responsibility to educate our children and ensure that all of them acquire an education to develop human capital which is our key and most important resource is non-negotiable, and is on the Nigerian society. The federal government must take the lead with political will and an improved framework that not only secures our children and the lives of every stakeholder, from the parents to the teachers, many of whom have also become victims, but ultimately ensures education never stops for every child. Education and our liberties are under attack. This must be seen as a new mandate: Education Must Continue no matter the tragedy!

The implementation of the objects and goals of the Safe Schools Initiative must, as a matter of urgency, be moved off the drawing boards, dusty shelves and selective deployment approach unto achievable action-driven and verifiable timelines.

The education sector deserves emergency attention, if we must avoid an imminent social conflagration and econo-industrial stagnation. The sector is a major tool that can deliver the prosperous future that we dream and aspire for our great country Nigeria.

Thank you.

Signed:
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

SCHOOLBOYS MURDERED AT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COLLEGE, BUNI YADI ON 25 FEBRUARY 2014

1.   Abba Adam  (SS 3)
2.   Abbas Ali Mohammed (SS 2)
3.   Abbas Ibrahim Abdul (SS 1)
4.   Abiodun Josef (SS 3)
5.   Abdu Sherif Ibrahim (SS 1)
6.   Abdullahi Adamu (SS 3)
7.   Abdulmalik Mohammed (SS 3)
8.   Aliyu Musa (SS 3)
9.   Awal Adam (SS 1)
10. Bamai Ali Goni (SS 3)
11. Bashir Lamido (SS 1)
12. Bashir Mai Gana (SS 3)
13. Hedima Likita Mari (JS 3)
14. Ibrahim Ali (JS 2)
15. Ibrahim Sommy (JS 2)
16. Isa Elisha (JS 3)
17. John Peter (JS 1)
18. John Wando (JS 3)
19. Mohammed Abdullahi Daya (JS 3)
20. Mohammed Ali Hassan (SS 1)
21. Mohammed Aminu Abubakar (SS 1)
22. Musa  Yalti Buba (SS 1)
23. Mustafa Abubakar Ali (SS 3)
24. Shuaibu Ali (SS 3)
25. Solomon Kwmta (SS 1)
26. Suleiman Mohammed Gussa (SS 3)
27. Usman Abba Kawagu (JS 2)
28. Usman Mai Saleh (SS 3)
29. Yahuza Ali Auta (SS 3)

 

#BBOGMonthlyMonitoringInitiative: BBOG Press Statement

bringbackourgirls.ng - Sun, 02/14/2016 - 13:39

 

Month 1: 14 January to 13 February 2016

Sunday 14 February 2016

Introduction

Following the 14 January 2016 meeting between Mr President, and the parents of Chibok girls, the Chibok community, we are continuing our daily “sit out” that holds at 5 pm Monday- Sunday at the Unity Fountain, Abuja and every Sayurday at Falomo roundabout, Lagos at 11 am. The “Sit Out” is our Movement’s flagship advocacy activity.

To amplify our daily advocacy , we have invited you today to the launch of our new Monthly Monitoring Initiative . The #BringBackOurGirls movement shall henceforth hold a special conference on the 14th of every month to present the report of our monthly monitoring of the activities of the Federal Government, the Security and Military in respect of their rescue of OUR #ChibokGirls and other abducted citizens. Our tracking tools will be activated from this month to collate all such verifiable information and to organize, analyze, interrogate and disseminate for purposes of demanding accountability from the Federal Government. We expect our monthly tracking tool to help our advocacy and the general public more coherently follow, observe, substantiate, comment on and interrogate the true status of the rescue effort and the broader counter insurgency war.

Our monthly briefings will cover all the specific advocacy outcomes since the commencement of our Movement and which are founded on our ever-abiding faith and hope that:

1. Our #ChibokGirls and all other abducted citizens of Nigeria can be rescued by our Federal Government and the military through the timely execution of an effective, sustained, targeted and result-focused rescue strategy and operation.

2. That all internally displaced citizens of Nigeria including those who are refugees in other lands and other victims of the terrorist activities in the North East must be rehabilitated, reintegrated and resettled into their communities and secured habitation with restored livelihood by our Federal , State, Local Governments in partnership with civil society and the private sector.

3. That our country can conclusively win this insurgency war against the terrorists who are our common enemies and restore the territorial integrity and peace of Nigeria, especially the North East.

4. That our Federal Government, security and military teams will act and communicate transparently to nurture healthy partnerships and collaborations with citizens and communities as they prosecute the counter-insurgency war.

B. Matters Arising from the 14 January 2016 Engagement with Mr President

1. At that meeting, the president in reassuring the parents of our ChibokGirls and our movement, restated his personal and the administration’s prioritization of the agenda for the rescue and safe recovery of our 219 Chibok girls. In his words “He sleeps and wakes up thinking of the rescue of the girls”. However, our Movement was grossly disappointed on the fact of Mr. President’s candid statement that the Federal Government still lacks according to the President, “credible intelligence on their whereabouts”.

Our Movement offered suggestions of publicly available information on at least three sources that could be looked upon in the Federal Government’s quest to gather credible intelligence (please find our January 14 , 2016 statement on the engagement with the President #BBOGReengagesPMB http://www.bringbackourgirls.ng/bringbackourgirls-post-re-engagement-statement-with-president-buhari/).

2. There were three specific action points resulting from our meeting with the Federal Government:

A. The National Security Adviser, NSA’s made a strong commitment to institutionalize the structured feedback mechanism that would keep the parents, community, and our movement updated on progress being made with the Federal Government rescue operation;

B. There would be an unveiling of an initiative related to the rescue of our Chibok girls as approved by the President.
Note: We and the general public have since been informed that the initiative is the launch of a new investigation by the Federal Government into the abduction of our Chibok girls.

C.1. The NSA pledged to work more closely with the parents, Chibok community, and our movement to evolve a model security/military- civilian relationship and collaboration. This would be especially targeted at information-sharing to boost the intelligence-gathering effort of the Federal Government.

C. 2 Our report at this time is that we have no evidence on whether any of the three action points have commenced since after our January 14th meeting. We are therefore unable to make an assessment of implementation of all three actions. We reaffirm our expectations on all three action points to the National Security Adviser. We especially restate the necessity to disclose by publishing the report of the Brigadier General Sambo Presidential Task Force on the Abduction of ChibokGirls. Our request using the Freedom of information Act to demand disclosure stands relevant still as such transparency will help encourage more people with relevant information to approach the Federal Government.

C. 3 It is pertinent to also remind the Federal Government of pending actions on the submissions made by our movement at the July 8, 2015 meeting with Mr. President on which he had committed the administration ‘s action. Among our submissions were the following instruments designed and developed by our movement to support the efforts of government:
* Citizens’ Solution to End Terrorism’
* Verification, Authentication, and Reunification System [for returnees of Boko Haram captivity],
*ABC of Our Demand’,
*Chronicles of False Narratives and Inconsistencies by the Nigerian Government Over the Rescue of the Abducted Chibok Schoolgirls’,
* Proposal for a National Missing Persons Register.
Note: We have since commenced partnership on the design of the Register with the National Human Rights Commission.

D. Announcement of a ChibokGirls Desk by the minister of women affairs and social development who informed that a letter written to the Movement to that effect was available.
Instructively, subsequent attempts by the Movement to collect the said letter were futile as our representative was informed that there was no record of such letter. However, the representative of the Movement was recently informed by the minister of women affairs that she was under instructions ‘from above’ not to have any dealings whatsoever with our movement.
We shall be formally writing to verify this position.

C. Synopsis of Month 1 Under Review in the Media

ISSUE1 According to the military authorities, a ‘Boko Haram kingpin’ named Jarasu Shira, said to be linked to the abduction of our Chibok girls was apprehended by our soldiers.

#BBOG Position: Sadly since that news was widely publicized, there has been no further updates news as to whether the accused has been fully identified and if his arrest is providing any leads toward the rescue of our #ChibokGirls. This attitude of the military in never conclusively providing the public information that it releases is not new. We however are extremely disappointed that the new military leadership is repeating the condemnable habits of their predecessors. For example, the public would recall that the military had announced the arrest of one Babuji Ya’ari on 30 June 2014, who it said was central to the abduction of the #ChibokGirls. Despite our movement’s relentless enquiries on the status of the accused, there has been no further information almost two years after.

We therefore advise that the military must change its troubling pattern of withholding salient facts of any incident or situation that should be publicly disclosed. When factual information is available to the public, it helps to enhance the citizens’ confidence in government’s effort to tackle counterinsurgency.

ISSUE 2. More recently, several hundreds of our citizens were reported by the military to have have been rescued from the terrorists capture .

#BBOG Position: As a movement, we are extremely delighted that more citizens are regaining their freedom. We again reiterate that our advocacy for our #ChibokGirls as a symbol for all other abducted citizens stands determined to keep demanding for the rescue of all our compatriots forcefully held captive in enemy enclave.

While we celebrate their success in rescuing these citizens, we however consider the military’s current practice of never identifying those it secures freedom for, as totally unacceptable and against global practice. For the dignity of our fellow citizens, we demand that the military and NEMA must begin to fully provide the identities of every rescued citizen. For transparency and accountability purposes, we demand from the Federal Government, immediate release of the names of all citizens that have so far been rescued from the captivity of terrorists. We want to know “Where they are from, their verified or verifiable identities, their rehabilitation, reintegration and resettlement plan for these victims for whom freedom should be the beginning of an orderly life.

ISSUE 3. The Nigeria Police Force hoisted its flag at its Mobile Police Training School, Gwoza once taken over by terrorists, as part of handover activities from the military to the civilian authorities in the school and the areas.

#BBOG Position: We are delighted that we have reclaimed our important territory and facility from the enemy. We however wish to remind the police authorities of their missing colleagues who were allegedly abducted when Gwoza and their facility was taken over by terrorists two years ago. The families of those missing police officers are still in touch with our Movement seeking for answers on the status of their relatives. We urge the IGP to immediately take steps to provide progress report on the whereabouts of his officers who were abducted while on active duty and to provide relief to their families.

ISSUE 4. The Department of State Security, DSS announced apprehending an ISIS recruiter along with his recruits. The Nigerian Army also announced arresting 2 of theirs who were aiding the terrorists.

#BBOG Position:
This report is heartening and gives hope. It shows their being proactive. A failure of intelligence as has repeatedly been noted is our weakest link in this fight against terrorism.

ISSUE 5. Further to this, the Army has handed over its officers: 7 generals and 2 colonels to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for investigations over their complicity in diverting funds intended to fight the insurgency. However, the report says if they are found guilty, they would be court marshaled.

#BBOG Position:
We like majority of the public suggest that since the investigation indicting them was done by the EFCC, it should be allowed to also undertake the prosecution of the offenders in conventional courts for their crimes of corruption. However, for all other matters relevant to their military functions, the Army or their relevant forces can take additional necessary actions according to their institutional traditions.

ISSUE 6. An elder statesman and former Nigerian president averred that our Chibok girls will never return, or maybe perhaps in the next 20 or 30 years, we having missed the opportunity to rescue them within 72 hours of their abduction in 2014. That the hope for their return is pointless, and anyone who who promises to rescue them ‘is lying’.

#BBOG Position:
As a movement, we hold the strong view that since neither the Federal Government nor its security/ military team has provided any counter evidence that our ChibokGirls are still alive, we must all continue to work toward their rescue.

Furthermore, Mr President–President Muhammadu Buhari again recently made a statement to the world at his European Parliament speech that he remains committed to rescuing the girls. We choose to keep our hope for the girls rescue alive and call on the President to do more to quickly gather the credible intelligence necessary to effect their safe rescue.

ISSUE 6. Following the Dalori attacks on 30 January, Senator Baba Kaka Garbai, formerly Borno commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, now senator representing Borno Central senatorial district, revealed that Boko Haram terrorists still occupy vast swathes of Nigerian territory. Specifically, according to him, only 3 local government areas: Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, Bayo, and Kwaya Kusar local government areas of the state are completely under the Nigerian state control. Mobar, Abadam, and Kala Balge local government areas are firmly in Boko Haram’s control. Of the remaining 21 local government areas, whereas the state has control of the local government headquarters and other key towns, Boko Haram operate at the outskirts. This statement contradicts the President’s recent update “that Boko Haram has been routed and controls no space of Nigerian territory.”

The Borno State Governor, Dr. Kashim Shettima rebutted the senator’s reports and asked that it be discountenanced even though some residents of Borno insist that the lawmaker is accurate.

#BBOG Position: The Federal Government can easily substantiate its position by assembling a team of independent media and civil society advocates to join the military in a tour of all the reclaimed territories. Such transparent and independent journalism around the conditions in those communities should help establish the real conditions of the communities and help build the confidence of many who fled those territories to begin to return in line with the pronouncements of the Federal Government.

ISSUE 7. Sequel to the Dikwa attacks on 9 February, the vice president issued a statement of comfort and hope to the families of the deceased, the victims and their families, the people and government of Borno (in that order), and Nigerians at large. He gave assurances that the state would deploy its full might to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book; as well as President Buhari’s care, concern and continued commitment to completely annihilate the terrorist and keep every Nigerian safe.

#BBOG Position:
Whereas we noted the gesture of the Vice President, we were sad to recall that such message of condolence was the first in over three months period that several citizens have been killed and maimed in various bomb blasts and shooting incidents in the North East. The silence from the Federal Government that had usually followed such tragedies cannot in any way be justified especially when governments of other countries extend condolences to our citizens. We maintain that in moments of such national tragedies Nigerians should hear from our President. By showing empathy and offering comfort, hope, strength, and assurance, Mr. President helps to unify a nation in grief against our common enemy- the terrorists. Empathy, we insist should be the bedrock of governance and it behoves our President to exemplify such a Value construct for our nation. Going beyond statements , the Federal Government should always mount a high profile delegation that visits victims of such tragedies to demonstrate the humanness of our society

ISSUE 8. Nigerians troops at the frontlines have cried out to the president to look into the issue of their unpaid allowances for months.

#BBOG Position : We condemn in entirety any delays in the payment of salaries and other entitlements of our soldiers in the frontline of battle. We therefore urge Mr. President to direct the military authorities and Ministry of Finance to immediately resolve this extremely embarrassing issue and uproot any demoralizing seeds among the gallant nigerian soldiers fighting to secure our land and people.

ISSUE 9. The authorities of the Nigerian Air force, NAF announced that the location of our Chibok girls has been identified.

#BBOG Position :
We recall with agonizing pain that previously , on the 26th May 2014 Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, the then chief of defense staff, declared to a traumatized public that our girls had been sighted and that the military knew where they were. That was nearly two years ago. While we are eager to receive news of the rescue efforts, we however caution against any attempt at repeating the ignoble media sensationalism by the military of the past leadership.
We therefore urge the Nigerian military to desist from releasing and feeding the public with speculative news. What the parents, community, our movement and the general public seek from our Federal Government and its security/military team are facts and information backed by evidence. If indeed the Air force has located where our #ChibokGirls are being held in captivity , can the Government offer much more than it did in that news?

It is further confusing as the NAF spokesperson sent an email to the media denying that very report spoken by himself on television as a ‘misquotation’ by the media.

ISSUE 10. The military has released 275 suspected Boko Haram members.

#BBOG Position: We hope that utmost diligence was used in this exercise and than they would still be subject to some measure of monitoring to avoid releasing any dangerous persons into communities. We also hope that there is a program for resettlement for those unjustly detained over that period of time of incarceration.

D. TWO KEY CONCERNS

1. We seem not to have learned much from our mistakes of the past. Many of the issues and our positions on them are reminiscent of what we profiled from our first monitoring exercise known then as #BBOGCountdownTo6Weeks. That particular monitoring tool was launched one year ago on the 14th of February 2015. It compels us to declare that we cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past. Our Federal Government should lead in the learning process so that we can gain the benefit of our experiences of the past two years. To demonstrate this , it is critical that all of us; The Federal Government, state governments, local governments, our political leaders, communities and their leaders, civil society , the entire citizenry and our media would embark on review of how to better play our collaborative roles to achieve the overarching victory over our common enemies.

2. This week in 2015, when Mr. President was running for office and visited Borno for campaigns, it was reported that he had planned to visit Chibok but did not due to logistics reasons. In fact, on 17 February 2015 some sections of the media reported that he actually did go to Chibok. But it was later clarified by his official communications team that he did not.
In the light of the January visit to him by more than a hundred parents of our ChibokGirls and the agony with which they returned to Chibok, we consider it extremely important for Mr. President to pay that pending visit now to Chibok. This is also especially appropriate, considering the recent tragedies when many in that community were killed and wounded in multiple blasts.

The President does in fact need to embark on a comprehensive tour of the North East areas most hit by terrorist activities; especially in Borno (and Yobe). Some areas to be visited may include those communities needing reassurance of the government for their residents to return and resettle into normal life. Such a gesture of visits would help restore confidence to the residents more than a thousand words can.
We also recommend a visit to the South East by Mr. President.

E. Next Steps

1. Within the 11 days, that is precisely on 25 February 2016 we shall take out special time to remember our 59 schoolboys of Federal Government College, FGC Buni Yadi who were murdered by terrorists in their school 2 years ago on 25 February 2014. Their parents, families and colleagues still feel the pain of their loss as fresh as they did 2 years ago. They have not been treated kindly by our government and society.

On that day, their family members, and other sympathisers would be joining us to hold a special sit-out at our usual meeting grounds Unity Fountain Abuja at 4.45 pm which will include a candlelight vigil in honour of our young heroes, and to refocus attention on the tragedy in order to elicit the necessary actions to bring closure to this tragedy.

We call on all to carry out an activity to honour their memory. Kindly use the hashtag #BuniYadi59.

2. Today is exactly 8 weeks to 2 full years since the abduction of our Chibok girls in their school on 14 April 2014. We are expecting them back before then; however, whether they return or not, Friday 8 through 14 April 2016 shall be the Global Week of Action to mark this milestone.

We urge everyone to please mark your calendars, start planning and working towards how best to mark this milestone.

F. Conclusion

As usual, eagerly look forward to our collective victory, and the end of terrorist oppression; the safe return of our Chibok girls and all other abductees, the return refugees and IDPs back home; and ultimately the return of normality, peace and safety especially to northeast Nigeria. A time when such an ordeal shall never be experienced.

We are very proud to salute our gallant fighting men and women of the Nigerian military, the MNJTF, all the security services, including the volunteer Civilian JTF at the frontlines. We wish them resounding success in the days and weeks ahead.

Thank you.

Signed:

For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

President Buhari at the European Parliament reiterates pledge to not rest until all our Chibok girls are rescued

bringbackourgirls.ng - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 17:30

3 February 2016

‘It may interest you to know that in a recent meeting I had with parents of the Chibok girls, I assured them that government would not rest until all the the girls are rescued alive and returned to their parents. I remain fully committed to this pledge.’

These were President Buhari’s words earlier today, Wednesday 3 February 2016 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Our movement heartily commends the president for this gesture.

This open recommitment and reassurance is refreshing especially for the parents whose daughters were abducted in their school 660 days ago today.

These words would reignite hope, and the confidence that the president is concerned, and cares as much as he communicated to them 3 weeks ago.

We hope that the federal government would also immediately implement all the other commitments made during the 8 July 2015 meeting and 14 January meeting 3 weeks ago :

I. conducting a fresh investigation into the circumstance around the abduction, and failure to rescue our Chibok girls;
II. institute a feedback mechanism to keep the parents, communities and other interested stakeholders abreast of rescue efforts;
III. provide a citizens-government interface for information/intelligence sharing, and so forth.

We also see this as a best opportunity for the president to visit Chibok to connect with the traumatised parents and community, as well as some key locations in the northeast to boost the morale citizens and the troops at the frontlines.

Thank you.

For and on behalf of
#BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

Kano state government’s care of orphaned children from Borno

bringbackourgirls.ng - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 18:24

2 February 2016

It would be recalled that in April 2015, at the twilight of Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the then governor of Kano’s administration, Kano state government set up a special boarding primary school in Kano to take care of orphan, internally displaced children of the Boko Haram insurgency from Borno state. Our movement commended the outgoing governor and urged others to emulate his administration’s care and kindness.

During an inspection of the school’s facilities in last week, the present Kano state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, not only expressed satisfaction at the school’s facilities, and how it is run, he added that the initial number of 100 pupils would be doubled. Not done, he publicly committed that ‘the state government would sponsor the education of the orphans up to university level.’

We heartily commend Kano state government for policy consistency on this issue. What would otherwise have been reported is that the facilities had deteriorated, and that the state was unable to continue caring for these innocent, vulnerable ones.

This model boarding primary school is run with support and donations from the private sector as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Of 3.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria according to the official records — the highest in Africa and third highest in the world — 68% are children. 45% of IDP children are orphans.

We have maintained that all children, (especially the vulnerable ones) are our children. It is our duty as a society therefore to prioritise their safety and welfare. Our missing 219 Chibok girls for instance are a symbol for the all unsafe, vulnerable, disadvantaged; especially women and children wherever they are.

We strongly commend Kano state government, and recommend that their empathy and kind-heartedness be emulated; not only by governments; everyone has a role to play.

Signed:
For and on behalf of
#BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

Volunteerism, A Thankless Job… -By Edith Yassin

bringbackourgirls.ng - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 22:41

Edith Yassin

To be an active citizen is to ask questions of those to whom you ceded certain rights. For instance it is unlawful for citizens to bear arms because the Military and the Police are there to protect them. However, when there is a breach of this contract, there must be accountability.

On April 14, 2014, 276 girls were abducted from a school in Chibok. Nearly two years later, a small group of Nigerians are still demanding for the rescue of 219 girls that remain with Boko Haram. From Abuja to Lagos and a few other towns, the demand continues.

Conversely though, advocacy is a form of volunteerism that is not appreciated much in Nigeria. Many believe there is ulterior motive in dedicating TIME, TALENT and TREASURE to a cause. Others just conclude that you have to be jobless and a few shades of crazy to do so.

Therein lies the crux. Volunteers are most needed in Nigeria of today. Time is money, yet it is wasted, waiting, aimlessly. To volunteer is to give of what you have without expecting any returns. That is how Nationhood is attained.
It is a thankless job, accompanied by sniggers, name calling and insults. Those who would rather the status quo remained will throw spanners and stones at volunteers and advocates.

But volunteerism has worked in other climes, it can make a big difference here. The ‪#‎ChibokGirls‬ would have been forgotten but for the volunteers who daily stand for them. Who remembers Bunin Yadi? Aluo 4? Cynthia’s rape and murder and the countless senseless human orchestrated tragedies that have befallen the country without accountability?

Long before ‪#‎Dasukigate‬ a small group of Nigerians were saying things did not add up and had asked several questions about Military budgets. That is the job of all right thinking citizens of any nation. Do not be silent or indifferent in the face of evil, volunteer to do/say something worthy today.

To all members of ‪#‎BBOG‬, I say we ‪#‎TriumphStill‬! ‪#‎ChibokGirlsNeverToBeForgotten‬

 

Victims of the 27 January 2016 bomb attacks in Chibok 30 January 2016

bringbackourgirls.ng - Sat, 01/30/2016 - 17:34

It would be recalled that in our Wednesday 27 January 2016 release, we communicated that the suicide bomb attacks in Chibok that had some killed and others wounded, but said that the identities of the victims were yet to be ascertained.

Our sources in Chibok have relayed the names and identities of all the victims: 15 deaths (including that of soldier of the Nigerian army). Some died on the spot, others eventually; and 49 injured, some at critical stages.

Two of the victims of the attacks are cousins of Aishatu Musa, one our 219 missing Chibok girls. Both are daughters of Mutah Adamu Ntikawar. One died on the spot, the other is in a critical condition presently.

Below are the names and communities of the victims:

THOSE KILLED

1. Peter Tusha  (Kuburmbula)
2. Hajara Mutah  (Pemi)
3. Mainta Fali Kulfa  (Likama)
4. Awa Wantha (Kwada Bila Girma)
5. Athawa Kollo Yahi  (Kwada Bila Girma)
6. Yankye Wantha (Kwada Bila Girma)
7. Garba Bulama (Likama)
8. Hamman Dabal (Bamzir)
9. Kuma Barka (Garu Line Mission)
10. Ali Abana (Likama)
11. Mallum Fali’ ka (Whuntaku)
12. Kollo Sule (Bwalakila)
13. Mohammed Sule (Bwalakila)
14. Ba. Galang Bulama (Whuntaku)

THOSE WOUNDED

1. Abdullahi Musa Birma (Likama)
2. Ba Nkye Yaga Butu (Garu)
3. Falmata Tella –
4. Mohammed Ali –
5. Bulama Zaman –
6. Kuva Batah (Garu)
7. Yaga A. Smai (Garu)
8. Daniel Thumur (Likama)
9. Jummai Kalau (Whuntaku)
10. Mohammed M.C.
11. Dauda Garba (Garu)
12. Mohammed Bukar (Dambo’a)
13. Jacob Fali’ka (Whuntaku)
14. Habiba Usman (Kwada)
15. Dauda Musa (Garu)
16. Maji Dzakwa –
17. Hauwa Dauda Ali (Garu)
18. Zaki Wavi –
19. Yana Mutah (Pemi)
20. Ngiladar Fali (Whuntaku)
21. Margret Moses –
22. Alhaji Mohammed –
23. Abba Abaji –
24. Lydia Tella (Kautikari)
25. Bukar Akawa –
26. Kuma Woi –
27 . Dinnah Yakubu (Garu)
28. Yunana Madu (Shikarkir)
29. Ba Taru Abana (Garu)
30. Zara Mustapha (Whuntaku)
31. Pogu Kurdiya (Garu)
32. Modu M. Kauji (Garu)
33. Dibal Dunya (Mifa)
34. Alhaji K. (Likama)
35. Aji Mallum (Garu)
36. Lydia Philip –
37. Madu Maigana –
38. Yahaya Ibrahim –
39. Ba Fali Madu –
40. Abigaial Pogu –
41. Mustapha Maina –
42. Musa Dawa Dauda (Garu)
43. Kyeri Tella (Garu)
44. Kolo Goni (Likama)
45. Uwani Kachalla (Garu)
46. Saraya Daniel Mustapha (Whuntaku)
47. Raina Madu (Garu)
48. Bulama Wassa (Whuntaku)
49. Wadir Buba (Whuntaku)

It is important to note that whereas others have sent in their condolences and recommitted to partnering to tackle the insurgency, we are yet to see any statement by the Nigerian government on this matter.

Thank you.

 

Press Statement: Fatal bomb blasts in Chibok

bringbackourgirls.ng - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 18:05

27 January 2016

We have gotten news of fatal bomb blasts in from our contacts in Chibok earlier today, Wednesday 27 January 2016.

Today marked the reopening of a the market that had been closed down for a long while due to the security situation. Two suicide bombers detonated at the market, and another at a military checkpoint, killing eleven, and many more injured as reported by 12.20 pm. The third suicide bomber was tracked and shot down before detonating. He reports that they were five suicide bombers sent on the nefarious mission. It is reported that there is presently a curfew in Chibok in order to track them down.

This happened in a town already traumatised by the tragedy of the still missing 219 schoolgirls makes our movement very sorrowful.

We commiserate with the families of the victims, whose identity is yet to be established.

We commend the military/security forces for their proactive action. Such response is important in alleviating the trauma of a community who has its daughters abducted by terrorists for 653 days.

We are aware that the military has good presence in the town but we would like to encourage even more surveillance to prevent as much as possible any recurrence.

We urge them to keep up the good work, and make the most of these available leads in improving security of life and property, tackle the and end the insurgency.

Thank you.

#BringBackOurGirls’ Re-engagement With Mr President

bringbackourgirls.ng - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 09:14

 

Being the Text of the Statement Presented to Mr. President during

14 January 2016

Today is 640 days of the abduction of our Chibok girls. Exactly 21 months which means that in another three months it would be two years since our 219 Chibok girls were abducted and remain captives of terrorists without rescue by their government.

Mr President may wish to recall the meeting of 8 July , 2015 with representatives of the parents, community and our movement. At that meeting we demanded for speedy actions to rescue who at that time were spending 450 days in captivity. We also asked for the swift rescue of other victims of Boko Haram and made a number of demands and suggestions touching on the counterinsurgency efforts of the Federal Government. Mr President gave us very strong assurance that the Federal Government would take every decisive action necessary to rescue our Chibok girls as well as other affected citizens. Mr President’s pledge was consistent with the words of your inauguration speech of the 29th May, 2015 that “… we can not claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.” Our expectation and the world at large was further bolstered when you declared December 31st, 2015 as the deadline for the military to defeat Boko Haram.

Mr President may also recall the commitment you made to implementing a number of measures concerning the welfare of the parents and the Chibok community.

Jointly with the parents and community, our Movement specifically demanded for a high level progress reporting mechanism from the Federal Government. When several weeks later , we saw no action on this particular demand, you may recall that we wrote a reminder letter of 3 August 2015. In that letter, we outlined all the outstanding measures for the girls, their parents and their community that had still not been implemented. That situation remains the same even today, Mr. President.

It is therefore with the deepest pain and disappointment that the parents, Chibok Community and our Movement are here again 6 months after our July 8 meeting to register our absolute dissatisfaction on the lack of progress. Our Chibok girls are neither rescued nor have the measures the Federal Government pledged to been instituted. Our disappointment was worsened recently when Mr President shocked the parents into a deeper throes of agony when you publicly gave the excuse “that there is no credible information about the girls’ whereabouts” as the reason our Chibok girls have not been rescued.

That “lack of credible intelligence” remark, Mr President, left the parents, the community, our movement, and the rest of the world was all the more shocked considering that the same Federal Government that made their rescue a key indicator of success and defeat of Boko Haram went ahead to declare victory on 31st December. How can we declare that our nation has won the war when our 219 daughters and other abducted victims are still not back?

The parents of our Chibok girls whom you successfully persuaded at our July 8 had following that meeting told our Movement that they had implicit trust in the words of Mr President that “everything will be done to rescue our daughters”. They specifically asked the Movement to give the administration the cooperation you had asked for during the meeting. We did so but refused to end our daily advocacy at the Unity Fountain which by today is DAY 625.

Mr President, it is extremely saddening that those same parents who had placed their implicit confidence in your July 8 promise to rescue their daughters are here today terribly traumatized, disconsolate and desperate for your reassurance and outline of convincing decisive action that would bring a positive closure to this historical tragedy.
There is no better way to convey the depth of the devastation of these parents than the fact that we today have the largest ever contingent of them who despite their meagre resources have paid their way to travel to Abuja in order to register their angst, disappointment demand for immediate rescue of their daughters by Mr President and the military.

We are compelled to ask the following questions, Mr President:

A. What does “lack of credible intelligence” mean in the light of diverse capabilities that Nigeria and the rest of the world can mobilize to “find credible intelligence”?
B. What concrete steps are being taken to find “credible intelligence”. With whom? By whom?
C. What timelines is the Federal Government working with?
D. When does the Federal Government want the parents to assume closure or is the rescue of our 219 Chibok girls on an open-ended timeline?

These are our demands, Mr President:

1. We want the Federal Government to share with the parents, community and our movement, a clear options approach of the rescue operation with timelines. This options approach and plan will enable the parents know when to determine closure on this tragedy.

2. We demand that the government should exhaust all the publicly offered leads and assistance on the whereabouts of our Chibok girls to achieve their rescue. The parents, community and our movement appreciate that the Federal Government is being guided by the failures of the past administration in being circumspect but it must not become a stumbling block to decisive actions for their rescue .

3. We outline four publicly available leads on the whereabouts and rescue of our Chibok girls that the Federal Government should provide update on:

A. The immediate past Chief of Defence Staff had said on May 26th 2014 that “the military knows where our girls are”.

B. The Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima publicly stated that he knew where our Chibok girls are held in an underground bunker.

C. A week or so ago, a retired Army Captain, and security expert spoke on Channels Television and declared that “our girls are alive and are somewhere in Sambisa forest where the military has not been able to access due to certain difficulties”.

D. A well known journalist , Mr. Ahmad Salkida has consistently publicly offered to provide credible proof about our girls’ whereabouts and help mediate in their release.

We insist that the Federal Government must maximally explore all these leads and routes for rescuing our 219 Chibok girls. There is a fierce “urgency of NOW” that must be reflected in the actions of Mr President and the Federal Government in rescuing our daughters of Nigeria who deserve the justice of freedom from terrorist captivity.

4. Finally Mr President, we again reiterate our recent letter to you requesting that you exercise your prerogative of mercy to pardon the soldiers sentenced for disobeying orders to fight terrorists unarmed; for the reason that as Mr President said earlier, they were not equipped. Sending them to fight without proper equipping was sending them on a suicide mission.

Thank you very much.

For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls

AISHA YESUFU
OBIAGELI EZEKWESILI
HADIZA BALA USMAN

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