‘No man is an island/Entire of itself/Every man is a piece of the continent/A part of the main’. So famously wrote the great 17 century English poet John Donne. No women should be an island either but the response to the kidnapping of up to 300 teenage schoolgirls in Nigeria on our continent over three weeks ago, particularly the reaction of that country’s government, has been tardy at best and shameful at worst.
BOKO HARAM SELLING SCHOOLGIRLS INTO SLAVERY
It was on April 15 that Boko Haram terrorists raided a girls’ school in Chibok in the north eastern Nigerian state of Borno. Reports vary as to how many girls were abducted, perhaps 276 or more, and taken in a convoy of lorries into the Samblis Forest.
The girls may still be being held there, or, as several reports suggest, they are being sold off as ‘wives’ and slaves for $12 each (Sh1,045), to militants, or taken over the border to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.
The girls, Muslims and Christians, were at school to take their exams with the hope of moving on to a better life but for the time being, perhaps forever, their hopes and dreams have been dashed in a most cruel and inhumane way.
NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT’S SLOW RESPONSE
The reaction of the Nigerian government and security services seems to have been lack lustre to say the least. Nigeria’s
President Goodluck Jonathan only made his first public comment on the crisis on Sunday of last weekend and even that appears to have been provoked by the imminent arrival of delegates for the World Economic Forum being held in Nigeria.
The parents of the abducted girls are understandably distraught but from this distance the reaction of Nigeria’s security services seems more aimed at controlling their out-pouring’s of anger and grief, and their pleading for international help, rather than getting on with the job of rescuing the unfortunate girls.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE LAX AND LATE
The US government has shown its support and it is now reported in the last few hours that a handful of American troops have been sent to help in the search for the girls. [Update, 11:30 – We now see that US First Lady Michelle Obama has thrown her weight behind the campaign to ‘Bring Back Our Girls” – see photo at the foot of this posting]
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that his country is pushing the Nigerian authorities to take immediate action over what he described as “not just an act of terrorism… It’s a massive trafficking movement and grotesque.” But overall the international response has also be late and lax.
Many have noted that the navies and air forces, plus other resources of several countries, were mobilized (quite rightly) in the search for the missing Malaysian flight MH370 but the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian girls, at least for a while, seemed to induce a less concerned and active response.
Private individuals and campaign organisations, some set up overnight, have responded, called for action and tried to put pressure on the Nigerian government to act.
Viral pressure has been brought to bear through websites such as Change.org who are gathering a worldwide petition in support, and international support for the social media campaign via Facebook’s “#BringBackOurGirls” which has been taken up by thousands of individuals, civil society groups and campaigners.
“THESE SCHOOLGIRLS ARE MY SISTERS”
Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban, has stated: “These abducted schoolgirls are my sisters and I call on the international community and the government of Nigeria to take action to save my sisters”.”
Poet John Donne concluded: ‘Any Man’s death diminishes me/Because I am involved with Mankind/And therefore never send for whom the bell tolls/It tolls for thee’.
The same is true for all of us when it comes to the kidnapping of these innocent girls. We have all been diminished. We are all involved. We are part of mankind. These girls are our sisters. Help them Forum readers – #BringBackOurGirls.