About 500 protesters – mainly women – marched through the capital city of Abuja in an attempt to force the Nigerian government to do more to secure the release of some 230 school girls abducted by Islamic militants.
March organizer Mercy Abang told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio program that the government should do whatever necessary, including holding negotiations with the abductors, to make sure the girls are returned home “alive – not in body bags.”
The abductors, or the Islamist group Boko Haram, has been blamed for taking the girls from their school in Chibok, Borno state. The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has yet to respond.
Another march organizer, Hadiza Bala Usman, doesn’t understand why the rescue operation isn’t making any headway when it is clear the girls are in the Sambisa forest. But it is also believed that many of the girls may have been taken to neighboring states and forced into sex slavery.
Nigeria’s Interior Minister Abba Moro says the government has to be “discreet” because Boko Haram had threatened to kill the girls if “certain steps” were taken, not to mention the Nigerian soldiers lack ammunition and thus are ill-equipped to handle the situation.
Usman also points out that abductions can discourage parents from sending their daughters to school in an area where few girls are even given an education to begin with.
Saruta, a woman from Chibok, tells BBC Newsday that the community is 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 says, breaking down into tears.