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Bring back our girls

Editorial

5/9/2014, 10:45 a.m.

It is shameful and a sign of the international indifference toward African tragedies that the world is now, for a moment, alarmed but not yet up in arms about the recent abduction of more than 275 young girls in northeastern Nigeria. The culprit is Boko Haram, one of its leaders boldly announcing in a video the other day that the girls would be sold as though they were slaves.

This is not the first time they have ravaged a community of young people whose only dream is to get a decent education. And education is the operative word here, especially when there is a curriculum that is despised by these anti-government bandits whose very name translates to “Western education is a sin.”

What is sinful is the ruthless violation of innocent children and their freedom. Several months ago, Boko Haram raided a school and killed some 50 boys, all because they too were seeking to improve their lives by learning to read and write.

While the outrage intensifies each day, with even President Barack Obama softly weighing in on the matter, it remains a question of what’s to be done about the girls, what measures should be taken to rescue them and what can be done to prevent this from happening again. The United Nations, the African Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, NATO and even the U.S. are in a quandary about the situation, absolutely baffled on how to proceed. Should a military unit—something akin to the NAVY Seals—be deployed to take the abductors out and rescue the children? What about the drones so widely in use now in Yemen and Pakistan? And since the leader of the group wants to sell the girls, perhaps the Nigerian government can arrange a deal to purchase them.

To mention the Nigerian government is to evoke another sad and powerless entity, and it is in the crosshairs of the Islamic militants who are hell-bent on destabilizing President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration while wreaking havoc on all things Christian.

We can now add the turmoil in Nigeria to the long list of flash spots in Africa that seem to be taboo to global interest or intervention. The so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a cauldron of genocide, and President Joseph Kabila is seriously considering a third term; warfare and famine continue to devastate South Sudan; and even in South Africa, often cited as a promising model of modernity, there are too many troubled townships in the ever-tightening grip of poverty and repression.

We could add to this stew of despair, but compiling a misery index is easy—the challenge is how do we move to end these problems, and what obligations do any of us have to that climate of catastrophe, given our own pressing dilemmas?

Joining our voice to the chorus of dissent is the first recourse—making sure our leaders at least begin to discuss the issues ravaging the African continent, and maybe when the girls are freed, we can take steps to ensure they get the kind of counseling and support they need after such a terrible ordeal. We know you have your own problems to confront, but the least you can do is to get informed on the condition that remains a constant threat to young people in Nigeria, who want no more than the education we take for granted.

Let’s not take them for granted nor allow those predators to take these young people without a hue and cry from this side of the world.