Nigeria: ‘Million-woman march’

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Demonstrators were preparing to march through the Nigerian capital Abuja to the National Assembly to press the government for more action on finding nearly 200 schoolgirls abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants two weeks ago. 

The students were about to sit their final year exam at their school in Chibok, Borno state and so are mostly aged between 16 and 18. Gunmen stormed their school at night on April 14th and forcibly drove the students away in a convoy of trucks

A “million-woman protest march” has been called by the Women for Peace and Justice Wednesday to demand more resources for securing the girls’ release. Support for the movement has been growing on Twitter under #BringBackOurGirls.

The outrage that followed the unprecedented mass abduction has been compounded by confusion over the numbers involved and criticism of the government and military response. Officials In Borno have said 129 girls were kidnapped and that 52 have since escaped. However, locals, including the school’s principal, dispute those numbers, insisting that 230 students were taken and that 187 are still being held hostage.

 Anger has mounted in recent days, with parents criticizing government search and rescue efforts. Parents have trekked through the bushlands of the remote northern region in a desperate search for their daughters amid fears the girls will be used as human shields or sex slaves. One local Chibok leader said information had been received that the girls were taken into Chad and Cameroon.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau first threatened to treat captured women and girls as slaves in a video released in May 2013.

Security sources said on the 26th that the military had already identified the various camps in which the girls were being held, but was being cautious about executing a full onslaught against their captors, in order to avoid collateral damage.

On April 29th, dozens of women from Borno staged a demonstration outside parliament, calling for the rescue of their daughters.

Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is forbidden”, has repeatedly attacked schools and universities during an uprising aimed at creating a strict Islamic state in northern Nigeria. Amnesty International (AI) estimates that 1,500 people have died in Boko Haram-related attacks and government counter-attacks in 2014, while local human rights groups say the official figures for deaths due to terrorist attacks are heading towards 2,000.

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