Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Kidnapping, the weapon of choice for armed groups on the African continent

Article From AFRIC editorial
For the past decades, the African continent has seen the rise of countless number of armed groups, as a result of the conflicts plaguing almost all African countries. The rise of these groups has brought about a number of problems, such as mass killings, rape, starvation and has instilled fear in the hearts of Africans.

Apart from the violence and killings, kidnapping is another problem that is on the rise as a result of these conflicts. The rate of kidnapping by armed groups has increased over the past decade.

Nigeria seems to top the list of countries with highest kidnap rate by armed groups. On the night of 14-15 April 2014, the Boko Haram terrorist group in Northern Nigeria kidnapped 276 female students in a Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State. In February 2018, the same group kidnapped 110 girls from a school in Dapchi.

In the same light, 79 students were kidnapped in November 2018 by armed groups in the Northwest region of Cameroon. Reports of the kidnap of government officials and civilians are also rampant in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon where these armed groups are actives.

Another country where kidnaping by armed groups is frequent is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed groups in Congo Kidnap citizens and tourist alike especially in the Virunga National Park, where tourists, rangers and citizens are targets.

Every country that is experiencing any form of conflict; be it a civil war, religious war or ethnic war suffers kidnaping from the armed groups concerned, especially the opposition groups.

Why do these groups resort to kidnapping?

Kidnapping for ransom

One of the main reasons why armed groups kidnap individuals is to collect huge sums of money as ransom. This is due to the financial difficulties in the countries experiencing any form of war. These groups use these ransoms to acquire supplies and ammunitions and sponsor their course.

They use their captives as baits

Armed groups on the African continent are known to use individuals as baits for the people they are fighting against. They use their captives to mount pressure on the government or their opponent to succumb or give in to their demand.

Kidnapping to build an army

In order to build up an army, some armed groups turn to kidnapping, especially when the captives are unwilling to join their course. This is very common in South Sudan, where children are kidnapped and trained to become child soldiers.

Some of these armed groups kidnap women to work as cooks and health workers care for those who are wounded. This is very common in the on-going Anglophone crisis in Cameroon.

To emphasize on the seriousness of their cause

Some armed groups kidnap to prove that their demands are serious, such as Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. The name Boko Haram, translates to “Western education is a sin” in English language. They are also strongly against the education of women, for they believe their place is at home; cleaning, raising kids and taking care of their husbands. To prove this point, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1000 children in Nigeria, most of them girls, since the crisis began in 2013, and most of them were abducted from schools.

Unfortunately, some of those who get kidnapped end up being killed because their families are unable to pay for the ransoms demanded. Even those used to bait the government still end up dead because some governments do not take threats from armed groups seriously.

African governments, NGOs and private individuals need to do a lot to curb this on-going security challenge, and also offer help to victims of kidnaps especially those who suffered any form of abuse from their kidnappers.

What can be done to remedy this situation?

African governments need to look into the demands of these armed groups, especially those advocating change that will be beneficial for the country. For example, the situation where a long ruling president is asked to step down from power, like the case of Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If other African presidents respect their mandates, such discontent will be absent and as a result, there will be no need for armed insurgencies.

Africa needs more individuals like Doctor Denis Mukwege who has been named “Doctor Miracle” due to his effort to offer relief to victims of armed conflicts, especially women who suffered rape.

He operates and treats over 3500 women; victims of rape in his Panzi hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 63 year old gynaecologist and winner of a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize is a saviour to women who have suffered rape and their genitals were mutilated in the process. Doctor Denis Mukwege and his colleagues have restored the health of tens of thousands of women in DRC and neighbouring countries with the same security problems.

Kidnapping by armed groups can only come to an end when the root cause which happens to be armed conflicts comes to an end. In this light, African governments need to seek long lasting solutions to the conflicts in their countries so as to protect the lives of their citizens.

Article from AFRIC editorial.


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