For weeks, #BringBackOurGirls trended on social media, drawing international attention to the plight of more than 240 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, a radical Islamic insurgency, in April of this year. Now, #BringBackGoodluck2015 has surfaced throughout Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja in support of President Goodluck Jonathan’s reelection campaign leading up to the Nigerian General Elections, set for February of next year. Many feel the hashtag’s re-purposing for political gain should be seen as an offense to the abducted girls, their families and to all those terrorized by Boko Haram.
09/09/2014 Nigeria (Washington Post) – It was the social media campaign of the year. #BringBackOurGirls awoke the world to the ravages of Boko Haram, an al-Qaeda-linked terror group in Nigeria, and the plight of the millions of people who live in the midst of their insurgency. At the heart of the message were hundreds of missing schoolgirls, abducted in April from the remote village of Chibok by Boko Haram fighters, who vowed to make them into slaves. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag channeled both sympathy from abroad and local outrage and concern in Nigeria, with many angry at the government of President Goodluck Jonathan for being unable to free the captured women.
But four months later, the girls have yet to be brought back despite the efforts of the Nigerian military as well as U.S. counter-terrorism forces deployed in neighboring Chad. More than 200 girls remain missing in suspected Boko Haram captivity. Others have perished from snakebite, illness and deprivation in the wild.
Boko Haram itself has continued its slaughter this summer, and seized more territory in the country’s restive northeast. Over the weekend, it stormed towns along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, killing dozens of innocents.
Nigerian forces are now fighting Boko Haram in pitched battles around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, the main hotbed of Boko Haram’s operations. The U.N. reports that at least 1.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict since Jonathan’s government declared a state of emergency in May.
Boko Haram is a fanatical, murderous outfit, but its insurgency gained sway in a region that has been historically marginalized and neglected by Nigeria’s central government. Jonathan’s seeming indifference toward the missing girls hardly helped. In the early stages of the protests, his wife even reportedly had a number of #BringBackOurGirls activists detained.