Child Survivor of Boko Haram Attack to Brief Committee Members Prior to Hearing

Chairman Royce Opening Statement

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will convene a hearing TODAY to examine the Administration’s response to Boko Haram, particularly the terrorist organization’s recent kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian girls.  The hearing entitled, “Boko Haram: The Growing Threat to Schoolgirls, Nigeria, and Beyond” will begin at 9:45 a.m.

Immediately prior to the hearing, Committee Members will hear from Deborah Peter, a 15-year-old girl originally from the village of Chibok, Nigeria, the town where nearly 300 schoolgirls have been abducted by Boko Haram.  Deborah is the first female survivor of a Boko Haram attack to visit Washington, D.C. and is currently studying at Mountain Mission School in the U.S.   At the conclusion of this briefing, Ms. Peter, Chairman Royce, and Ranking Member Engel (D-NY) will participate in a brief media availability.  (More information on covering the briefing is available HERE.)

Live webcast of the hearing, as well as witness testimony, will be available HERE

Below is Chairman Royce’s opening statement as prepared for delivery at the hearing:

“Today – as we meet – nearly 300 school girls remain Boko Haram kidnap victims.  It has been five weeks since they were abducted.  And every passing minute makes their successful rescue less likely.  We meet today to ensure that the United States is doing everything it can to assist in their rescue.  Just yesterday, the House passed a resolution pressing for more aggressive action from the Administration. 

Many around the world are just now hearing of “Boko Haram.” Sadly, for communities in northern Nigeria, they know the death and destruction this group brings all too well.

This morning, Committee members had the chance to meet with Deborah Peter.  Deborah, a young woman of just 15 years of age, is from Chibok, Nigeria – the same town where the recent abduction took place.

Ms. Peter, seated in the front row, is one of only three Boko Haram survivors in the United States.  She courageously shared with us her traumatic experience at the hands of Boko Haram in 2011.  Her father and brother were executed in front of her eyes for not renouncing their Christian faith.  We thank Deborah for being with us today, travelling from rural Virginia to share her traumatic story in the hope that the world will act.  

We are faced with two challenges in northern Nigeria: in the near-term, seeing these school girls rescued; and in the long-term, rendering Boko Haram unable to threaten the region.  This is a group that has killed more than 600 students and teachers and destroyed some 500 schools.  Boko Haram means ‘Western education is a sin,’ and Boko Haram’s mission is to carry their war to those who educate or empower women. 

Over time, Boko Haram has developed a vast arsenal of weapons, received training from al-Qaeda affiliated groups, and built–up its resources.  This means greater terror for Nigerians, and greater challenges for Nigerian security forces.  Unfortunately, these forces suffer unprofessional elements with poor morale. 

That’s led some to say we shouldn’t get involved.  But it tells me otherwise: that U.S. involvement is critical.  U.S. forces are well positioned to “advise and assist” Nigerian forces in the search for these girls.  In this role, U.S. forces – expertly trained to deal with hostage situations and in jungle environments – could help Nigerians with intelligence, planning and logistics.  And if some U.S. laws would hinder such assistance, the Administration should use its waiver authority under these extraordinary circumstances. 

Why do we care?  We care about Deborah, her friends and family, and a girls right to an education.  We care about human rights and religious liberty and the future of Africa’s largest country.

And we have direct security interests.  Commanders at the Pentagon have stated that Boko Haram is a “threat to Western interests” and one of the highest counterterrorism priorities in Africa. 

Pressure from this Committee was critical in getting the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.  Indeed, the Administration made that announcement in this room.  As many have noted, it shouldn’t have taken so long.

We want to hear from the State Department and the Pentagon witnesses on the strategy we now have in place.

Boko Haram, with heavy weapons and grenade attacks, is waging a brutal war against schoolgirls carrying backpacks, books, and pencils.  We can’t sit on the sidelines.”