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Kigali/Halifax, 11 March 2024 – The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in northern Nigeria and condemns in the strongest terms the kidnapping of 287 students from a government school in Kaduna state on Thursday. This is the third incident of mass abduction by criminal gangs in northern Nigeria over the past two weeks.

Approximately 1,500 children have been kidnapped since the mass abduction of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram in 2014. The United Nations’ Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict highlighted a worrisome rise in abductions of children last year. The abduction of children and attacks on schools and hospitals are two of the six grave violations against children monitored annually by the United Nations.

Research by the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security determined that this is a worrying and reliable early warning indicator. “The abduction of children often precedes other grave violations against children, in particular the recruitment and use of children by armed forces or armed groups and sexual violence against children,” warns Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security.

“These abductions destroy the social fabric of communities and sow the seeds for further division and violence by targeting the country’s most valuable resource – children,” says Ferdinand Safari, Director of the Dallaire Institute’s African Centre of Excellence. “Attacks against schools and abductions of children result in an impact not just on the children that are targeted directly, but on all children who now fear going to school, resulting in long-term repercussions on the levels of education for an entire nation.”

  • The Dallaire Institute calls for the immediate release of all children that have been abducted.
  • The Dallaire Institute calls for the Government of Nigeria—an endorser of the Safe Schools Declaration—to strengthen its commitment and resources to protect children from abduction and attack.
  • The Dallaire Institute pledges to assist the Government of Nigeria in this task through the endorsement and (more importantly) the effective implementation of the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. Training the Nigerian defence and security sector on these guidelines would be an important step in realizing the Safe Schools Declaration.

The Dallaire Institute also reaffirms its commitment to working with the African Union to strengthen efforts to prevent grave violations against children. Such grave violations breach commitments on children’s basic rights under the African Union’s Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, they are also an attack on the future of the continent.

“In 2014, #BringBackOurGirls was created to bring the world’s attention to the plight of children in Nigeria. However, we have seen that merely condemning heinous acts against children is not enough. From security sector reform to dialogue with community groups we need to change the attitudes and behaviors with respect to children’s protection,” says Dr. Whitman. “Peace is possible, violence is preventable, and children must be at the heart of the solutions.”

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