WASHINGTON— Nigerian expatriates and activists recently gathered in Washington to denounce the deadly raids and massacres by the militant group Boko Haram. Some also urged that next month’s presidential elections be postponed.
As the Nigerian flag flapped in the wind at the country’s embassy in Washington, Nigerians living in the U.S. and other activists braved the cold to decry the recent attacks by the militant group Boko Haram.
“It’s been estimated that 30,000 people have been killed. We have 3.3 million people who’ve been displaced from their homes," said rally co-organizer Omolola Adele-Oso. “We want to show solidarity to the people of Nigeria to say that we see them, we care about them and we are sending our prayers.”
Oludare Ogunde said he is amazed that his country has not been able to stop the Boko Haram insurgency. "I can go to Nigeria right now and mobilize people in the south and go deal with the issue in the north," he said.
“Boko Haram is about 1,000 people. Even if it was 10,000, how can they overwhelm a nation that’s about 180 million people with a strong military? It doesn’t make any sense,” said Ogunde.
Amnesty International recently released satellite images of Baga and nearby Doron Baga, two towns in far northeastern Nigeria, that it says show the ruins of thousands of structures burned down soon after Boko Haram seized the area January 3.
Amnesty International USA co-organized the Washington rally. Adotei Akwei, the group's managing director of government relations, said Boko Haram should be an issue in Nigeria's upcoming elections.
“It is not currently being discussed as a major challenge to either candidate or political party," said Akwei. "That shouldn’t be the case. This should be the most important thing that people address, about how do you protect people and how do you address this threat.”
Some of those at the rally did not think the elections should take place at all. .
Juliet Muriuki is from Kenya, but attended the rally out of concern for Nigeria. She questioned how fair elections could be held if it is not safe to vote in several northeastern states.
“Until this issue of Boko Haram has been dealt with to an acceptable level for the Nigerian people, the election needs to be postponed,” said Muriuki.
President Goodluck Jonathan's national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, speaking in London, also suggested the vote should be delayed.
"Look at the possibility of shifting this thing and doing it when everybody has a card, because it doesn't cost you anything, it is still within the law and it is safer for all of us," said Dasuki.
Nigeria's independent electoral commission says it will do whatever it can to ensure the hundreds of thousands of displaced northeasterners will be able to cast their votes.