The Nigerian girls are still missing

It is to be hoped that President Jonathan is still being advised by British and other experts on how to deal with Boko Haram

Share

How quickly the outrage passes on from the front pages. A month or so ago much of the world seemed united in its condemnation of the kidnapping of more than 200 girls by Boko Haram, the Islamist sect, in Nigeria. But despite Hollywood stars and Michelle Obama taking pictures of themselves holding up placards saying "Bring Back Our Girls", it has proved impossible to return them to their families.

As the complexities of the security situation in northern Nigeria became apparent, the campaign's intensity has weakened. At an early stage, it was reported that 300 people were killed in a Boko Haram attack near Chibok, the town from where the students were taken, because the Nigerian security force protecting the mostly Christian population had been deployed to join the search.

Then it seemed that a deal might have been concluded to release the students, but Goodluck Jonathan, the President of Nigeria, was persuaded by the US, Israeli, French and British foreign ministers that if a deal were done with terrorists it would encourage more kidnappings. Two days later, the Nigerian chief of defence staff said his forces had located the abducted students, but that a rescue attempt would be too dangerous.

That was more than a month ago. Since then the bodies of two of the students were reported found, and there have been reports, sometimes disputed, of more kidnappings, although none on the scale of the Chibok attack. Boko Haram continues its campaign of intimidation and murder – it was probably responsible for a bombing on Friday in Bauchi that killed at least 10 people in what is believed to have been a brothel.

Today, we report from Kaduna about the wider problem of girls' education in Nigeria. In the desperately poor Muslim north of the country, about half of girls are married before the age of 15, which usually means that they come out of school – if they were among the two-thirds in school in the first place. Education is widely considered to be incompatible with the submissiveness required of a good wife. Our report quotes the 27-year-old former husband of Maimuna, who ran away from him aged 14, as saying: "She had too much ABCD. Too much ABCD."

Boko Haram is, therefore, the extreme manifestation of attitudes that are common in Nigeria. The girls were kidnapped to be converted to a local absolutist form of Islam and to be taken as wives by militia members.

There are two separate problems highlighted by the Chibok kidnappings, then. One is the security situation in northern Nigeria; the other is the widespread attitude towards women and girls as possessions to be married off, for a dowry, at puberty.

International opinion must continue to exert pressure on President Jonathan, and it is to be hoped that he is still being advised by British and other experts on how to deal with Boko Haram. It is hard to maintain the interest of outsiders when easy results seem unlikely, but The Independent on Sunday will do what we can to continue reporting, and to increase understanding about the wider questions behind the kidnapping.

Just as we will try to keep the focus of international attention on the crises in Egypt and Ukraine too. Plainly, we cannot report on, and the international community cannot act on, every problem in the world, but it is worth trying to sustain the pressure on the few worst cases, and to guard against the temptation to lose interest if immediate results are not forthcoming. It may not be possible to "Bring Back Our Girls" soon, but the more we understand about Nigeria's problems, about Boko Haram, the better.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence