#BringBackOurGirls lost in public consciousness

Filed under COLUMNISTS, COMMENTARIES

00-anthonyhallLast week marked the second anniversary of the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram.

This kidnapping incited universal outrage that manifested in people – most notably celebrities like Rihanna, Madonna, and Michelle Obama – posting #BringBackOurGirls on their social media pages.

Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of these girls on those pages since then. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that this tragic anniversary passed for so many as if “the Chibok girls” never entered public consciousness.

Terrorist rampage
Boko Haram has kidnapped many more schoolchildren (i.e. girls and boys) with nary a mention in mainstream or social media. In fact, having killed 20,000 and displaced 2.8 million across five regional countries, its unrelenting reign of terror is now preventing over 1 million Nigerian children from going to school.

On the one hand, parents are too afraid Boko Haram might kidnap them. On the other hand, the Nigerian military has commandeered their schools to repurpose for the fight against these Islamic terrorists. Hence illiterate, traumatized kids now lie in wait to continue Nigeria’s never-ending conflicts for another generation.

That this anniversary garnered so little media coverage reflects not only the fecklessness of this fight, but also the disinterest in the schoolgirls’ plight.

Indeed, it speaks volumes that the media marked it primarily by sharing the forlorn pleas of Chibok mothers who are still wailing and wondering about the fate of their daughters. Sadly, we now know they were doomed from the night they were kidnapped.

According to a London Independent report, “Boko Haram is forcing and duping young women into suicide missions for refusing to ‘marry’ members of the West African Islamist militant group.”

‘Fleeting’ outrage
I waited to mark this second anniversary to see if those in the vanguard of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign would belie my cynicism about the fleeting nature of their viral outrage. They did not.

In fact, there is nothing new about the lack of interest. For it was already such that I marked the first anniversary by pooh-poohing the self-flattering, self-serving and self-delusional hashtag posts it generated.

I shan’t bore you with the sectarian and geopolitical reasons Nigerian authorities have failed to rescue them; or with the dispiriting fact that Boko Haram terrorists have kidnapped hundreds more since then; or that they have kidnapped almost as many boys.

The point now is that these rampaging Islamic terrorists are brazenly defying all boots-on-the-ground efforts to stop them, making a mockery of patently feckless protests on social-media.

Accurate and cynical
I am often accused of being too cynical. But my accusers can never cite a single case where my cynicism proved unwarranted.

Moreover, as I found with my friends, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who tweeted #BringBackOurGirls, who can show that her concern for them extended beyond that tweet.

There’s clearly no vindication in being so right about hashtag protests in this case. It’s just that I was informed enough to know they would do nothing to help.

Indeed, I am all too mindful that other terrorist groups (like Al Shabaab and Lords Resistance Army) are terrorizing just as many innocent children across Africa. Millions of others seem fated to lives of chronic strife in war-plagued countries like Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

According to the NGO War Child, 5.4 million people died, including 2.7 million children. This explains why the New York Times described the conflict in the DR Congo as “The World’s Worst War.” The government and rebel forces signed a truce in mid-2013, but vast areas are still veritable war zones.

The point is that media reports or mentions about the killing of so many children in the DR Congo were few and far between. Alas, civil conflicts, including “rape as a weapon of war,” have become so commonplace in Africa they don’t even incite viral outrage.

African solutions necessary
That said, decades of futility and fecklessness have demonstrated that Western intervention would prove no more helpful than hashtag protests. In fact, the record of America’s intervention in the Middle East over the past decade is such that intervening in Africa would be tantamount to jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Therefore, no matter how heartrending this latest scourge, former Western patrons would do well to leave Nigeria and the other countries affected to their own devices.

“African Solutions to African Problems” is gaining currency as the new motto for African self-reliance. Cynics argue that this is just a Madison Avenue ploy to solicit more Western aid for the money pit Africa has become.

But if ever there were a cause to prove the cynics wrong, bringing back the Chibok girls is it. And given the growing number of “lost” girls and boys Boko Haram is leaving in its wake, it behooves Africans to do so – as soon as possible.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.

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