Fury at schoolgirls’ abduction mounts in Nigeria
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Hundreds of protestors gathered on Thursday in the northern Nigerian town where scores of schoolgirls are missing after gunmen kidnapped them two weeks ago. The movement has been spreading to large cities and on social networks.
Hundreds of parents in Nigeria, many dressed in red, held a day of desperate protest on Thursday in the town where the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls by Islamists has left families lurching from fury to despair.
The parents began their march outside the residence of a local chief in Chibok, the town in Borno state where suspected Boko Haram insurgents stormed into a school and abducted the girls at gunpoint over a fortnight ago.
The mothers and fathers -- some wailing, some chanting angrily -- marched towards the scene of the kidnapping, carrying placards reading "Find Our Daughters", before holding a prayer ceremony at the school gates.
"We want our daughters back. We want the United Nations to come and assist in rescuing our daughters. Through this march, we want to tell the whole world that we need their help to secure the release of our daughters," Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were abducted, told AFP.
The Borno government says 129 girls were taken and that 52 have since escaped. But locals, including the principal at the targeted Government Girls Secondary School, say 230 students were taken and 187 are still missing.
The leader of Chibok's elders forum, Pogu Bitrus, told AFP he had received information that the girls were trafficked into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad and sold as brides to insurgents for 2,000 naira ($12, nine euros). The report has not been confirmed.
Amina Shawok, a student who managed to escape after the abduction, took part in the protest. “We thought they were soldiers, and they forced us to get into a vehicle that was going to Demboa. My friends and I jumped from the vehicle and ran back home because we realised they didn’t look innocent,” she said.
Police fire tear gas at protest
"Death is preferable to this life of misery we have been living since their abduction," said one mother at the protest, without giving her name. "We call on our government to sit up and rescue our girls."
Our Security Team always knew that schools in NE are targets of attack, yet #Chibok Girls were left VULNERABLE and the ENEMY struck.— oby ezekwesili (@obyezeks) 2 Mai 2014
Anger at the government's ineffectual response has fuelled protests across the country.
Police fired teargas to disperse a group of protesters on Thursday in central Lagos, many wearing red T-shirts reading: "Chibok: bring our girls back alive" and "Nigeria is burning, Jonathan is dancing" -- a reference to President Goodluck Jonathan performing dance steps at a public rally this week in the wake of a bomb attack in the capital Abuja.
Babejide Fadoju, one of the Lagos protesters, told FRANCE 24 that one of his friend was arrested and briefly detained for taking part in the “peaceful protest by concerned people”.
“There have been bombings, kidnappings and President Goodluck Jonathan has not said anything about it,” Fadoju said.
Several hundred protestors also rallied in the capital Abuja on Wednesday, and more marches are planned in several towns and cities in the coming days.
Fadoju told FRANCE 24 the protesters were hoping to catch international attention.
“You’ve heard about this in Paris because of the clamour of the protest. If foreigners are watching, Goodluck Jonathan will be forced to do something,” he said.
A growing number of Nigerians, especially young urban professionals in Lagos and Abuja, have been using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to organise online.
“Our security team always knew that schools in the North-East are targets of attack, yet Chibok girls were left vulnerable and the enemy struck,” Abuja resident Oby Ezekwesili wrote on Twitter.
“Where are my sisters?” and “Please do something” were some of the slogans on the placards in photos of Wednesday’s Abuja protest posted by Mobola Atobatele.
(FRANCE24 with AFP)