Have you been following the Boko Haram’s activity? You should. According to Reuters, on March 24, local residents claimed that the militant Islamist group kidnapped at least 400 more children in their northeastern town of Damasak, Nigeria. This news comes just days after 70 decaying bodies with slit throats were found under a bridge near the town; it is widely believed that those killed were also victims of Boko Haram.
These latest news developments are an unfortunate reminder that although social media has significantly quieted down on this issue in recent months, #BringBackOurGirls is still an extremely urgent topic that warrants our unwavering attention. This bitter episode in international history is a glaring example of how vulnerable and objectified young Black girls are in their own communities. Even worse than that, it’s also an example of how governments that are built to protect can still undermine the value of their own citizens’ lives in weak and futile efforts to detract from their nations’ problems and to project a united front.
Among the terror that the people of Damasak have been facing from militant Islamists, the Nigerian government has gone as far as to deny Boko Haram’s recent kidnappings. President Goodluck Jonathan has been conceding that the government will be able to capture and defeat Boko Haram within a month, but it all sounds like propaganda he’s spewing to increase his chances of re-election on March 28. In this recent interview he had with the BBC, you can see that Jonathan sports a really good poker face in the wake of the recent tragedies. However, when you listen closely to what he has to say, he doesn’t appear to have any solid answers or strategies for the problem that can convince us he has the situation under control.
Jonathan evades one of the interview’s most basic and important questions: where have the Jihadists gone? Jonathan struggles to finds his words, eventually saying they “scatter” throughout different regions when they are under “pressure.” The interviewer then points out that the military still doesn’t know where the girls that were kidnapped in Chibok last April are. Jonathan is absurdly nonchalant in his answer, saying he’s sure they’re still alive because their dead bodies haven’t been found.
These are the words of a man who leads the richest country in the African continent. The Nigerian government had the resources to put a stop to the Boko Haram at the outset and now we’re seeing the effects of their failure to act. Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigerian people for six years. Why should we believe that the Nigerian government will conquer them within six weeks as they’ve stated?
Despite the government’s disappointing handling of the events, citizens impacted by the Boko Haram’s violence have been outspoken about their frustrations and the changes they want to see happen in their country. There is a grassroots movement in Nigeria to save the Boko Haram’s victims and these organizers deserve every bit of help they can get.
In a meeting with journalists back on March 9, Chibok parents spoke at a press conference to criticize how the government treated them after their children were abducted and condemned them for prioritizing the reconstruction of local schools while their children are still missing. The outcry against Boko Haram also stretched as far as Cameroon, as sizable protests kicked off in Yaounde in late February to build support for the Cameroon military as they set out to help conquer the militant group and to discourage others from joining the Jihadists.
Does this call for Western military intervention? I would like to wholeheartedly say yes, but I’m hesitant to do so given the way our country has dragged itself through years of wars with the Middle East, costing us money and resources that may have been better utilized on our own soil and that interfered with the lives of people who may not have wanted our help in the first place. I also question if Western intervention may exacerbate the problem even more—building Boko Haram’s brand as an even greater threat in the light of their recent allegiance to ISIS. It’s worth noting here that ISIS was born out of a US prison located in Iraq called Camp Bucca.
Regardless of what Nigeria’s government decides to do in the upcoming days to combat the Boko Haram (and if the U.S. military gets involved), it is imperative that we as ordinary people keep our ears and our eyes open. The young women and children that have been captured by Boko Haram need our help more than ever and we have to keep them in our hearts and minds—even when they’re not making the headlines.