Nige­ria marks 500 days since school­girl ab­duc­tions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY OLA AWONIYI

Rel­a­tives of over 200 Nige­rian school­girls kid­napped by Boko Haram mil­i­tants marked, on Thurs­day, 500 days since the ab­duc­tions with hope dwin­dling for their res­cue de­spite a re­newed push to end the in­sur­gency.

The land­mark comes amid a wors­en­ing se­cu­rity cri­sis in north­east­ern Nige­ria, where Is­lamists have stepped up deadly at­tacks since the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, killing more than 1,000 peo­ple in three months.

Boko Haram fight­ers stormed the Gov­ern­ment Sec­ondary School in the re­mote town of Chi­bok in Borno state on the evening of April 14 last year, seiz­ing 276 girls who were pre­par­ing for end-of-year ex­ams.

Fifty-seven es­caped but noth­ing has been heard of the 219 oth­ers since May last year, when about 100 of them ap­peared in a Boko Haram video, dressed in Mus­lim at­tire and recit­ing the Ko­ran.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has since said they have all con­verted to Is­lam and been “mar­ried off.”

The Bring Back Our Girls so­cial media and protest cam­paign has an­nounced a youth march in the cap­i­tal Abuja to mark the grim an­niver­sary along with an evening can­dle-lit vigil.

Spokes­woman Aisha Ye­sufu said she was hope­ful that the “right thing will be done” un­der the new regime of Buhari, who re­placed Good­luck Jonathan on May 29, vow­ing to crush Boko Haram.

“We have a new gov­ern­ment. Yes, we have seen the kind of things he has done, his body lan­guage, what he has said about our girls. He has made them an is­sue,” she told AFP.

Bru­tal­ity

“So we are hope­ful that the right things (will) be done but at the same time we Nige­ri­ans should un­der- stand that the res­cue of the Chi­bok girls is not a priv­i­lege ... It’s their right as en­shrined in the con­sti­tu­tion of the fed­eral re­pub­lic of Nige­ria.”

The mass ab­duc­tion brought the bru­tal­ity of the Is­lamist in­sur­gency un­prece­dented world­wide at­ten­tion and prompted a vi­ral so­cial media cam­paign de­mand­ing their re­lease backed by per­son­al­i­ties from U.S. first lady Michelle Obama to the ac­tress An­gelina Jolie.

Nige­ria’s gov­ern­ment was crit­i­cized for its ini­tial re­sponse to the cri­sis and Western pow­ers, in­clud­ing the U.S., have of­fered lo­gis­ti­cal and mil­i­tary sup­port to Nige­ria’s res­cue ef­fort, but there have been few signs of progress so far.

The mil­i­tary has said it knows where the girls are but has ruled out a res­cue ef­fort be­cause of the dan­gers to the girls’ lives.

“The pres­i­dent’s state­ment in his in­au­gu­ra­tion — that we can­not say we have suc­ceeded with­out the res­cue of our Chi­bok girl — we are hold­ing onto that pledge,” Oby Ezek­we­sili, a for­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter and also a spokes­woman for the cam­paign told re­porters in Abuja on Mon­day.

AFP

A file pic­ture taken on July 8 in Abuja shows mem­bers of the Bring Back Our Girls group cam­paign­ing for the re­lease of the Chi­bok school­girls kid­napped by Boko Haram Is­lamists march­ing to meet with the Nige­rian pres­i­dent.

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