LONDON – The fate of almost 280 Nigerian girls abducted a month ago by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram from their school in northeastern Borno State hangs in the balance. But, while their families fear for their safety, the power of global public opinion is forcing action for their release to the top of the international agenda.
One million people have now signed petitions, and a month from now, on June 16, the international Day of the African Child, there will be vigils in every continent of the world. In 20 countries, young people will take over national parliaments to highlight the girls’ fate – and that of the 57 million other children who cannot go to school.
A safe schools initiative has been established to rebuild the girls’ own school in Chibok and to make the roughly 5,000 schools in northern Nigerian safe from terrorist attacks. And Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will meet on Saturday with world leaders at a security summit convened in Paris by French President François Hollande to consider what action the international community can take.
Given Boko Haram’s threat to sell the girls across Africa as sex slaves, the abduction is now an issue not just for Nigeria but for surrounding countries, including Chad and particularly Cameron, where they are likely to be sent. Indeed, there are already fears now that the girls have been trafficked out of Nigeria into neighboring countries, where it is possible that the international “responsibility to protect” doctrine will be invoked.