Abuja - The commemoration of the 700 days to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls at a restive state in Nigeria has been marked amid false hopes raised by the West African country mending its strained relations with South Africa.
In an act that sparked international outrage, on the night of April 14-15, 2014 members of the Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram, stormed the Chibok Girls Government School’s dormitories and kidnapped some 276 learners.
A few of the schoolgirls managed to escape.
As many as 220 remain captive, with reports suggesting some might have been used to carry out incessant suicide bombings while others have been forced into or sold for marriage.
The ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ (BBOG) campaign amid false hopes, counting their optimism on skepticism South Africa would be sending troops to complement regional forces’ of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
“Following President Zuma’s visit to Nigeria on the same day (International Women’s Day recently) South Africa will send Special Forces to aid the fight against Boko Haram. We hope that, like the Ikorodu girls and Ese of Bayelsa, the Chibok girls will also be found and reunited with their families,” BBOG stated in Abuja.
However, the Southern African nation recently dashed such hopes.
South Africa National Defence Forces (SANDF) Chief Lieutenant General, Solly Shoke, dismissed the reports as “reckless” and “unfortunate.”
“There is no such decision to send any military elements by the Republic of South Africa to assist with the fight against Boko Haram,” Shoke told media in Pretoria, the South African capital.
He argued such speculation could have emanated from the bilateral discussions that took place between the South African Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her Nigerian counterpart, Mansur Dan Ali.
The discussions were held at the sidelines of President Jacob Zuma’s state visit to Nigeria at the invitation of his counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari.
“Our hearts and prayers are always with the Chibok Girls. We remain hopeful and trust that your efforts will bear positive results,” Zuma told Buhari during the visit.
With hopes on South Africa sending troops seeming misplaced, BBOG is encouraged by recent strides the Nigerian Army has made in rescuing other civilians kidnapped by Boko Haram.
While efforts to rescue the girls kidnapped in Chibok in the terror-riddled Borno State have not yet yielded results, the plight of the girls and their families have been on the spotlight internationally.
Coinciding with International Women’s Day, a march against Boko Haram was held at The Hague, Netherlands.
Also read: Captured female bomber tells how she joined Boko Haram
Subsequently, a campaign was launched to encourage support for women and girls that have returned to their communities after rescue from militant groups.
Obiageli Ezekwesili, the founder of the #Bringbackourgirls campaign, and former Minister of Education, was last weekend rewarded with the 2016 New African Woman Award in Civil Society.
Organisers said her tenacity and zeal over the abduction of the Chibok girls had been exemplary.
“Despite the girls still being missing she remains resolutely steadfast in the belief they will one day come home, and making sure they are not forgotten. Ultimately her fight is not only for the abducted girls but for the disenfranchised and for those groups who have often, through their circumstances, lacked a voice,” organisers said.
International groupings such as the African Union (AU), European Union
(EU) including the United Sates spoke strongly about putting joint military operations aimed at hunting down the terror Boko Haram group.
- CAJ News