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July 03, 2014

Nigeria Girls Missing, 11 Weeks After Abduction

by Mariama Diallo

It's been almost three months since more than 200 school girls were abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. The kidnapping made headlines worldwide, and several countries, including the United States, promised to help bring the girls back to their families. The girls are still missing, however, and advocates for their return are growing frustrated.

Three weeks after the girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, demonstrations demanding action took place in many cities, including Washington. The hashtag #bringbackourgirls trended on social media, along with a photo of the U.S. first lady holding up a sign to show her support.

But nearly 90 days after the abduction, there are those who feel the drive and the passion to find the girls seems to have diminished. Omolola Adele-Oso was the lead organizer of a rally in front of the Nigerian embassy in Washington. She spoke to VOA via Skype.

"I think the unfortunate part is we are in a world of life-cycle news where everything is two days and it's out of everybody's memory," said Adele-Oso ."Right after the rally, the issues of Iraq and the rescued soldier from Afghanistan, all these things have been happening, especially in American news."

Some say because of the new demands in Iraq, the U.S. has scaled back its intelligence and surveillance mission in Nigeria.

Coalition partnership

Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby refuted that presumption, and he said that since the original surge of efforts, the U.S. has been joined by more coalition partners.

“Are we flying exactly as many flights as we were at the outset? No. But the same level of effort is being sustained now internationally by everybody,” said Kirby.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said the U.S. still maintains a significant level of cooperation.

“Obviously, the kidnapping, other attacks that have happened since then have prompted us to increase our assistance, to do more training, to do more to boost the capacity of the Nigerian military and of the Nigerian Government,” she said.

As days pass, Sylvester Okere, a Nigerian-American businessman and advocate, said time is running out.

"Some of these girls are already getting pregnant. These are someone's children. This could be my daughter. I have an 18-year-old and 12-year-old daughter, this could be my child, and this could be my sister," he said.

Violence continues

Since the school girls’ abduction, other attacks have taken place and more people have been kidnapped.

Adele-Oso said her group is planning another rally in Washington on July 14 and still holds the Nigerian government  accountable.

“Why is it that we cannot negotiate with Boko Haram? If it's money they want, give them money. Sixty more women were taken. Why is it so hard for the [Nigerian President Goodluck] Jonathan administration to do something?" she asked.

But as support dies down in some places, new people have joined the global campaign to free the Nigerian girls, like thousands of Filipino students who recently rallied in Manila.