World must do more to free Nigerian schoolgirl hostages: Malala

Updated 13 April 2015
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World must do more to free Nigerian schoolgirl hostages: Malala

LAGOS: Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai on Monday criticized Nigerian and world leaders for not doing enough to help free 219 schoolgirls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram militants.
“In my opinion, Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you,” she said in a letter to the teenagers, on the eve of the first anniversary of their abduction.
“They must do much more to help secure your release. I am among many people pressuring them to make sure you are freed,” she added, calling the girls “my brave sisters.”
Yousafzai’s letter, which she said was “a message of solidarity love and hope,” comes as events, including marches, prayers and vigils, were being held to mark the girls’ 12 months in captivity.
Boka Haram fighters kidnapped 276 girls from their school in the remote town of Chibok, in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, on the evening of April 14 last year.
Fifty-seven managed to escape soon afterwards but the remainder have not been seen since an appearance in a Boko Haram video in May last year.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and his government were heavily criticized for their response to the kidnapping but Malala said there were now “reasons for hope and optimism.”
“Nigerian forces are re-gaining territory and protecting more schools,” she wrote.
“Nigeria’s newly elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, has vowed to make securing your freedom a top priority and promised his government will not tolerate violence against women and girls.”
Malala, 17, also wrote of her own experiences at the hands of militants in her native Pakistan. She was nearly killed by the Taleban in October 2012 for insisting that girls had a right to an education.
She recovered and became a global champion of girls’ rights to go to school.
A fund set up in her name would ensure the girls will continue their education after their release, she said, urging them not to give up hope.
“I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong and never lose hope. You are my heroes,” she added.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday said that 800,000 of the 1.5 million people displaced by Boko Haram’s insurgency were children.
More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed between January 2012 and December last year, with at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren killed in that period, it added.
Children have increasingly become targets for kidnapping, sexual abuse and forced marriage as well as “weapons of war,” being made to fight alongside militants or used as human bombs, UNICEF said.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 22 min 22 sec ago
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.