Tag: abducted schoolgirls

#BringBackOurGirls protesters mark six months since Nigerian girls’ abduction

Campaigners for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls hold candles at a vigil for them on October 12 2014 in Abuja. (Pic: AFP)
Campaigners for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls hold candles at a vigil for them on October 12 2014 in Abuja. (Pic: AFP)

Protesters calling for the release of 219 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants are set to mark the six-month anniversary of their abduction with a march on the presidency on Tuesday.

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign are┬áplanning to walk to President Goodluck Jonathan’s official residence in Abuja to keep up the pressure on the government to bring the missing teenagers home.

The march is the culmination of a series of events in the past week, including a candlelit vigil, to keep the fate of the girls in the public eye, as media coverage and on-line interest wanes.

The daughter and niece of Enoch Mark, an elder in Chibok from where the girls were abducted, are among those missing.

“At one point we contemplated holding funeral rites for the girls as our tradition provides,” he told AFP.

Parents have run the gamut of emotions in the last six months, from initial hope to despair and back again, he added.

“But the discovery of a girl last month… who was kidnapped by Boko Haram in January gave us renewed hope that our girls would be found.

“If this girl could regain freedom after nine months in captivity all hope is not lost that our daughters would one day be free.

“This has rekindled our hope and strengthened our patience. We are ready to wait six years on hoping to have our daughters back with us.”

Some 276 girls were seized from their dormitories at the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, on the night of April 14.

Fifty-seven managed to escape and Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau later threatened to sell the remainder as slave brides, vowing they would not be released until militant prisoners were freed from jail.

In late May, Nigeria’s most senior military officer, Chief of Defence Staff Alex Badeh, said the girls had been located but ruled out a rescue because of the danger to the girls’ lives.

Since then, nothing has been seen or heard from the girls while back channel talks with militant leaders have stalled.

The girls’ initial weeks in captivity sparked a frenzy of media coverage and interest online, where the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls trended on Twitter and was retweeted the world over.

Worldwide efforts
Nigerian Bring Back Our Girls campaigners have since held regular marches in Abuja, even as global attention shifted elsewhere and foreign missions involved in the search grew frustrated at the lack of progress.

“Globally, the movement has definitely slowed down,” acknowledged Molade Alawode, of the Washington-based non-profit organisation Act4Accountability, which spearheaded protests in the US capital to highlight the girls’ plight.

But she said efforts were continuing, including providing relief supplies for the tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Nigeria’s far northeast.

An online petition on change.org launched earlier this year by Ify Elueze, a Nigerian student in Germany, has drawn more than one million signatures, with more names being added every day, many of them from the United States.

In Los Angeles, documentary filmmaker Ramaa Mosley keeps a running total of the number of days the girls have been held on her social media accounts, taking inspiration from the Nigerian protesters still on the streets.

“Of course, since there is less information to print, there is less of a focus in the news but my experience is that individuals that first came forwarded to organise events and rallies have held strong and continued to support the cause,” she said.

“Our followers on Facebook want to help and continue to take actions both big and small to keep the girl’s plight in the minds and hearts of their community.

“My feeling is, the pain of this travesty is so big and there are so much other painful world news but there are many, many who have not stopped working daily on behalf of the Chibok girls.

“We will continue until they are home safely.”

‘Find our daughters’: Desperate parents protest in Nigeria

Hundreds of parents in Nigeria, many dressed in red, held a day of desperate protest on Thursday in the town where the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls by Islamists has left families lurching from fury to despair.

The parents began their march outside the residence of a local chief in Chibok, the town in Borno state where suspected Boko Haram insurgents stormed into a school and abducted the girls at gunpoint over a fortnight ago.

The mothers and fathers – some wailing, some chanting angrily – marched towards the scene of the kidnapping, carrying placards reading “Find Our Daughters”, before holding a prayer ceremony at the school gates.

“We want our daughters back. We want the United Nations to come and assist in rescuing our daughters. Through this march, we want to tell the whole world that we need their help to secure the release of our daughters,” Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were abducted, told AFP.

Fidelis Olubukola, a member of the Civil Society, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre, chants slogans for the release of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram during a workers' rally in Lagos on May 1 2014. (Pic: AFP)
Fidelis Olubukola, a member of the Civil Society, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre, chants slogans for the release of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram during a workers’ rally in Lagos on May 1 2014. (Pic: AFP)

One father drew a damning parallel with recent international efforts to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

“Imagine 25 countries joining hands in a search for a missing aircraft in Malaysia whose passengers are presumed dead. Here we are talking of scores of living girls abducted by people known to have no mercy, but the government doesn’t seem to care much,” said a tearful Yakubu Maina.

The Borno government says 129 girls were taken and that 52 have since escaped.

But locals, including the principal at the targeted Government Girls Secondary School, say 230 students were taken and 187 are still missing.

The leader of Chibok’s elders forum, Pogu Bitrus, told AFP he had received information that the girls were trafficked into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad and sold as brides to insurgents for 2 000 naira ($12).

The report has not been confirmed.

“Death is preferable to this life of misery we have been living since their abduction,” said one mother at the protest, without giving his name. “We call on our government to sit up and rescue our girls.”

Criticism of government
Anger at the government’s ineffectual response has fuelled protests across the country.

Police fired teargas to disperse a group of protesters on Thursday in central Lagos, local media reported, a day after hundreds rallied in the capital Abuja.

Speaking at a separate May Day rally in Abuja, the head of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwahed Omar, said: “Our hearts bleed and we pray for their safe release.

“The war on terrorism does not seem to be going well at the moment. We demand better initiatives and more commitment,” he told a crowd that included President Goodluck Jonathan, who has faced harsh criticism over the government’s response.

The mass kidnapping is one of the most shocking attacks in Boko Haram’s five-year extremist uprising, which has killed thousands across the north and centre of the country, including 1,500 people this year alone.

A delegation from the Senate in Abuja met with Jonathan on Wednesday to discuss the rescue operation, Senate spokesman Eyinnaya Abaribe told AFP on Thursday, but he declined to give details.

Aminu Abubakar for AFP