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Bruni, Trierweiler join Paris rally for #BringBackOurGirls

Photo: AFP

Two of France’s former first ladies, Valérie Trierweiler (pictured centre) and Carla Bruni, joined a Paris rally on Tuesday calling for the release of the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram last month.


Under a grey Parisian sky with the Eiffel Tower looming behind them, France’s former first ladies joined a demonstration to demand the release of the abducted girls.

Holding a sign that read, “Rendez-nous nos filles! #BringBackOurGirls,” Trierweiler called for increased security for women across the world, particularly in conflict zones.

“We demand the liberation of the young girls, but we also demand protection for all women and young girls,” said Trierweiler. “Schools need to be secured and women need to be protected during conflicts and dangerous periods.”

Bruni, singer, songwriter and wife of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, was also present at the demonstration.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s rally, there were reports that actress Julie Gayet, who recently made headlines for her affair with President Hollande, would also take part in the march. But Gayet was not present at the rally at Trocadéro in the affluent 16th arrondissement (district) of the French capital.

Trierweiler, Bruni and a collection of French celebrities – including film stars, musicians and female politicians – joined the growing global campaign that has rallied around the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to express sympathy and support for the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants on April 14 from the remote northeastern Nigerian village of Chibok.

‘All they want is money’

The Paris demonstration came a day after Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant Islamist group, released a video calling for a release of Boko Haram militants in Nigerian jails in exchange for at least some of the abducted girls.

Most of the celebrities at the Paris demonstration on Tuesday declined to comment on whether the Nigerian government should negotiate with Boko Haram to secure the release of the kidnapped schoolgirls.

But speaking to FRANCE 24 on the sidelines of the demonstration, French supermodel Inès de la Fressange said she did not support a prisoner swap.

“We can’t accept this craziness. Nobody can ensure that this is something serious,” said de la Fressange. “We’re in the 21st century, this is just not possible. This is craziness, nothing else.”

Standing on the staging platform from where tourists snap their quintessential Paris shot of Eiffel Tower, Toulu Akerele did not mince her words when asked her opinion about Shekau’s prisoner exchange offer.

“It’s all bullshit. All they want is money. I don’t think we should be negotiating with terrorists,” said the 23-year-old British-Nigerian student.

While the gathering of about a dozen French celebrities called for the liberation of the schoolgirls and demanded respect for women’s rights, many of the Nigerian diaspora members focused their ire on the Nigerian authorities.

“The problem is not just Boko Haram. The problem of Nigeria is very large,” fumed Dennis Caesar Oduware, a retired librarian. “The government is involved. The government is the mother of Boko Haram.”

While there is no evidence of official state complicity in the militant Islamist threat confronting Africa’s most populous nation, the April 14 mass abductions have highlighted the country’s deep frustrations over the Nigerian authorities’ failure to tackle the problem.

“It’s very sad because the government is not doing anything. Any money that comes from the international community will probably go into corruption,” said Akerele.

“But at least this time the government will have to do something because the fact is, the rest of the world is disgusted and shocked.”

In photos: #BringBackOurGirls rally in Paris

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