Nigeria march over girls’ abductions

Angry relatives of the missing schoolgirls staged a protest outside Nigeria’s parliament on Tuesday

Demonstrators are to march through the Nigerian capital Abuja to press for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by militants two weeks ago.

They say they will march to the National Assembly and demand more action from the government, which has been criticised for not doing enough.

The Islamist group Boko Haram has been blamed for abducting the girls from their school in Chibok, Borno state.

Boko Haram has not yet made any response to the accusation.

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The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has been blamed for 1,500 deaths in attacks this year alone.

‘Million-woman march’

A “million-woman protest march” has been called by the Women for Peace and Justice organisation on Wednesday to demand more resources for securing the girls’ release.

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Million-woman protest

March organiser Hadiza Bala Usman tells the BBC about the protesters’ concerns:

It is not clear why the rescue operation is not making headway considering the fact that there’s a clear idea of the perimeter area where these kids were taken in the first week: to the Sambisa forest. And the camps of the insurgents are within the Sambisa forests.

Information is coming out that our own soldiers are not well equipped, that they do not have the ammunition required to do this – how come our soldiers are having some of these challenges in the field?

What matters is you’re having 200 young girls abducted so people need to rise above politicising an issue like this. We need to understand that these are lives we are talking about.

When you look at the north-east and when you look at girls’ education there, it’s very low. Parents are going to be very apprehensive about allowing their girls to go to school. Indeed there will be a whole generation of girls who will not be educated within that region.

Anger has mounted in recent days. Parents have criticised the government’s search and rescue efforts and the number of missing girls has been disputed.

March organiser Hadiza Bala Usman told the BBC that the women wanted to know why soldiers seemed so ill-equipped to find the girls.

She warned that the abductions would discourage parents from sending their daughters to school in an area where few girls are given an education.

Saruta, a woman from Chibok, told the BBC’s Newsday that the community was desperate for help.

“For how long are we going to wait for the government to help us? We can’t bear it anymore. We can’t,” she said, breaking down in tears.

“We just want the government to help us, we want the whole world to hear this and help us,” she said.

On Tuesday, a local official said some of the girls may have been taken to neighbouring states and forced to marry the militants.

Mr Bitrus, a Chibok community leader, said 43 of the girls had “regained their freedom” after escaping, while 230 were still in captivity. He was adamant that this figure – higher than previous estimates – was correct.

Swathes of north-eastern Nigeria are, in effect, off limits to the military, allowing the militants to move the girls towards, or perhaps even across, the country’s borders with impunity, says the BBC’s Will Ross in Abuja.

The girls were seized from their school late at night

On Tuesday, dozens of women from Borno state staged a demonstration outside Nigeria’s parliament, calling for the rescue of their daughters, AFP reports.

“Our grievance is this: for the past two weeks and this is the third week, we have not heard anybody talking to us,” protest leader Naomi Mutah was quoted as saying.

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A 60-second guide to Boko Haram

The government has said the security forces are searching for the girls, but its critics believe more could have been done.

The students were about to sit their final year exam and so are mostly aged between 16 and 18.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau first threatened to treat captured women and girls as slaves in a video released in May 2013.

It fuelled concern at the time that the group was adhering to the ancient Islamic belief that women captured during war are slaves with whom their “masters” can have sex, correspondents say.

Are you taking part in the protests? Do you have further information on this story? Send us your comments. You can email us at using the subject line ‘Chibok abductions’.

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April 30th, 2014

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