Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

May 20

Rescued from Boko Haram

I am always both pleased and apprehensive to see “Nigeria” on the front page of The New York Times. Two days ago I found a sad, indeed horrific, story by Adam Nossiter which describes the girls and women rescued from Boko Haram who are now in displaced persons’ camps in northern Nigeria.

They tell of rape, imprisonment, and mistreatment, although some later don’t want to say they were raped. Many girls and women are pregnant.

Rescued women and girls, photo from Carol Giacomo's blog post

Rescued women and girls, photo from Carol Giacomo’s blog post

Nossiter says, “The full human toll of that occupation is only now emerging. More than 15,000 people have sought shelter at the camp, at an abandoned federal office-worker training center, most of them women, relief officials said. Over 200 have so far been found to be pregnant, but relief officials believe many more are bearing the unwanted children of Boko Haram militants.”

He says one of the rescued girls, Meriam, had seen said a few of the Chibok girls, who she said were being treated differently. But none have come into the camp as far as Nossiter knew.

It was hard to read his story, and harder still to imagine what the women and girls have been through. Then I read his Reporter’s Notebook piece. That was amazing. I am so impressed and so grateful to him for being willing to report from such a difficult place, with death threats coming at him.

Two days later there was an editorial on the topic in the NYTimes Editorial Page Editor’s blog, by Carol Giacomo, called Boko Haram’s Calculated Campaign of Sexual Violence.

She says, “Now that neighboring African states have joined to help Nigeria’s incompetent government in the war against the militants, Boko Haram appears to be on the retreat. But the group and its extremist appeal will not be defeated without political efforts to address the grievances of Nigeria’s Muslims.”

Major General , now President-elect Muhamadu Buhari

Major General , now President-elect Muhamadu Buhari

That’s a tall order. I think Buhari, the incoming president, will have to tread lightly so as not to be accused by his fellow northerners of being too harsh. At the same time he will have to put his military training and experience to use.

Giacomo ends by saying, “Sexualized violence appears to be a recurring feature of many wars. . ” though it doesn’t have to be if combatants are trained to follow anti-rape procedures just like they are trained to fire their weapons. I wonder if she’s right?

Ghana Protests, Nigeria Accepts

In recent days there have been protests in Ghana over poor electricity, led by Ghanaian celebrities.

The article I read in AllAfrica refers to Dumsor, but doesn’t explain what that means. If you know or can find out, please tell me in the comments!

I find this fascinating. Why are Ghanaians coming out in protest over what the article describes as “epileptic power supply,” while Nigerians are quiet?

I learned about the Ghanaian action from Vinnie Ferraro’s blog. He said, “Reliable power is one of the most debilitating characteristics of many African economies. Energy infrastructures are expensive and difficult to maintain, but it is virtually impossible to have sustained economic growth if electrical supplies are irregular and sporadic.”

So true, so why are Nigerians not out in the streets protesting? Is it because the super rich, and even the middle class, have bought their generators and are too busy making money to protest? And the rest of the people don’t believe their protest would have any effect, or they would even be treated as criminals if they protested? Both are probably true – how sad.

So in addition to dealing with Boko Haram, rehabilitating rescued women and girls, and challenging corruption, Buhari will have to improve infrastructure, especially the power sector, an extremely difficult task. I hope he will have good advisers and appoint ministers who can take on the challenges one by one.

A huge part of the challenge for his government will be to keep people informed of what they are doing and to manage expectations.

Western Book Tour

Next week I’m leaving for the west coast. I have three stops on my western book tour – San Francisco and Fairfield, California, and Park City, Utah. In San Francisco, or more precisely,  Berkeley, I’m on a panel with other memoir writers at Peace Corps Connect, the gathering of former Peace Corps volunteers.

In Fairfield I’m presenting a program at the Paradise Valley Estates where my college classmate Kimmie lives. And in Park City I’ll be the guest of Karen, my high school classmate. I’ll speak with two book clubs in a joint meeting and at two bookstores and a library.

I’m excited! If you are near any of these locations, please let me know and I’ll tell you where to come!

Vacation Time? No Visa?

Royal Zanzibar, one of places Nigerians can visit without a visa

Royal Zanzibar, one of the places Nigerians can visit without a visa

And for those Nigerians who have the money and time for a vacation, I found this informative piece.

It describes 10 vacation spots you can visit if you a Nigerian passport and no visa.

The locales look appealing even if you have a U.S. passport and don’t need a visa!

The picture is from Zanzibar.

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Catherine — This post was distinctly chock-full of intriguing news and your responses to the headlines! Good luck as you venture to the Left — oops! — West Coast on your book tour. How exciting — & how good to see you offering wannabe memoirists some tools to help make it happen! Ever think about writing a slender e-book on, well, 10 Tips on How to Write Your Memoir? Safe travels…Here’s hoping you can share a few photos, too. 🙂