On the missing Nigerian school girls : #BringBackOurGirls

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On April 15th this year, 230 schoolgirls aged between 12 and 18 were abducted from the Chibok Government Secondary School by Boko Haram Terrorists in North East Nigeria. 43 were able to escape captivity and return to their families and about 187 girls still remain captive.

Armed men reportedly stormed the school hostel in Chibok, Borno state, on the night of April 15th and took the girls away in a convoy of vehicles. On the way, some of the lorries broke down, enabling the escape of some students from their abductors to their families. However, at least 190 girls still remain missing. According to media, the Nigerian security forces know where they are retained but several villagers around the boundaries between Nigeria and Cameroon reported that a group of high school girls had been seen transported in two minibuses to neighbouring Cameroon. This was disclosed to Nigerian military officers who mounted an attack against the terrorists on the 26th of April in Bulanbuli near the dreaded Sambisa forest, major base of operations of the Boko Haram, in search of the abducted girls but unfortunately to no avail. It was however communicated that over 40 terrorists and 4 soldiers were killed during the gunfire.

According to the Nigerian military, it is likely that Boko Haram has separated the schoolgirls into several groups because of the difficulties which come along with discretely keeping a group of 187 schoolgirls in one place. Boko Haram is believed to rear bases in the Far North province of Cameroon. It is alleged that they kidnap and recruit Cameroonians and Chadians on a daily basis. Moreover, deadly clashes with the Cameroonian army near Fotokol, at the frontiers, and the kidnappings of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun in this area last month were reported by the Cameroonian media.

The Islamist group emerged five years ago as a critic of “Western-style education”, and its militants frequently target schools and educational institutions. The circumstances of the kidnappings and especially the military’s incapacity to control the situation have exposed a deeply troubling aspect of Nigeria’s leadership. In Nigeria and Cameroon, the authorities are under fire from critics due to their inability to defeat the jihadist group. The actual number of militants of the sect, its means and its command and control still remain a mystery.

On the 30th of April, Nigerian protesters took to the streets of the capital, Abuja, demanding action from the government to rescue the hostages. Why these girls were kidnapped still remains unclear, but it is believed that they were to be converted to Islam and taken as brides in forced marriages by Boko Haram militants. In March 2014 Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, warned in a video that all students should leave university and girls drop out of school to get married. “In Islam, it is allowed to take infidel women as slaves,” Shekau said. “In due course, we will start taking women away.”

As a mother of two daughters, I shudder at the thought of the horror those girls are going through. I think of the trauma and sexual molestation these girls are most likely facing presently. This is no longer about religion or ethnicity, this is about people using the cloak of “religion and ethnicity” for their own selfish purposes. We are all connected by our shared humanity; beyond culture, tribe or nationality. We need to stand up, the best way we can and fight even if it is means writing this on our Facebook posts and hash tagging so authorities should take necessary action. If we can’t even fight for our children’s lives, how then shall we fight for Africa?

Use #BringBackOurGirls on social media to show our concern over this outrage.

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