Devastated Mothers of Missing Nigerian Girls Rally Against the Government That's Failed Them
Perhaps even more powerful than the sheer number of girls missing in eastern Nigeria is the image of their mothers, distraught and grief-stricken, begging the government to do more to help them.
After two weeks and with little recourse, mothers of the more than 200 girls kidnapped from Chibok, a village in eastern Nigeria, marched to the nation's capital on Tuesday and Wednesday demanding that the government aid them in bringing back their daughters.
Legislation is not likely to appease the growing outrage among Nigerians at the lack of government response to the abduction case.
The girls were kidnapped from a boarding school by members of Boko Haram on April 16. Since then, their families have had to take recovery efforts into their own hands.
Parents of the kidnapped girls led their own search team through Sambia Forest, near the boarding school where the girls were taken, and which is known to house Boko Haram members.
The military has also been of little help to the missing girls and their families. Pogo Bitrus, leader of the Chibok Elders Forum, told local press that after they were unable to reach their senator, community members approached the military with information about the girls' whereabouts. Instead of intervening, the military asked them to submit the tip in writing.
The girls have reportedly been transported through the country in open trucks, some in their school uniforms, and have still not been located by security forces. Twenty-eight managed to escape from their captors, no thanks to any kind of rescue effort from the military.
The military has said it cannot disclose any details of its efforts or it may jeopardize the girls' rescue.
Even the official count of the missing girls is disputed; Borno State officials say 129 were initially abducted, while community members say 243 of their own are missing.
In addition to the march to the capital, Nigerians have rallied online with hashtags #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters, along with petitions to raise awareness and call for intervention.
The online push coincided with this week's march in Abuja, where the girls' family members were joined by high-profile voices like former vice president of the World Bank's Africa division and ex-Nigerian cabinet member Obiageli Ezekwesili. At the march, Ezekwesili joined the scores of Nigerians criticizing the government and military for their lack of a coherent and systemized rescue plan.
"If this happened anywhere else in the world, more than 200 girls kidnapped and no information for more than two weeks," she said, "the country would be brought to a standstill."