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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bring back our girls

The Nigerian government is accused of pilfering billions of dollars of oil reserves and may have played a role in giving birth to Boko Haram, the group behind the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls, experts say.

As the world focuses attention on Nigeria, we learn about the corrupt government who steal millions for themselves and let their people starve.  Money from oil revenue, supposed to go to health and education, instead ends up in the pockets of senior government officials and civil servants.

Today Boko Haram Islamists released a video of a small group of the frightened kidnapped schoolgirls.  The kidnappers said many have been converted from Christianity to Islam and they are all dressed accordingly.  The group leader says they will release the girls but only if militant prisoners are set free.

British PM David Cameron said yesterday Britain is doing everything it can but rescue won't be easy.  The girls are being held in thick jungle three times the size of Wales.  Military action isn't an option he said, we can't just "pile in and do whatever we like." Military intervention would only serve to further radicalize the group but he did confirm that counter-terrorism and intelligence experts are on the ground with the Americans.

President Goodluck Jonathan

So far Boko Haram has killed more than 1,500 people in their attempt to stamp out education for girls - Boko Haram translated means "Western education is forbidden."

In the latest attack, over 1,000 shops, dozens of houses and 314 trucks were bombed and burnt out and hundreds of people have crossed the border into Cameroon to escape the violence.

Parents of the girls are praying for a miracle but so far, all they've got is a hashtag and famous people holding up signs.

Keeping the girls in the headlines is getting harder as interest begins to wane.  Two years ago there was another campaign involving Joseph Kony, the man who stole Ugandan children and groomed them to become fighters and sex slaves.  Social media was outraged and went wild for a while but eventually lost interest and today, he's still out there, a free man.

As recently as February, questions were raised about Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's sacking of the central bank governor who was investigating the disappearance of $20 billion in oil revenue over an 18 month period.  

So this is a messy business.  Amnesty International spokesman Netsanet Belay said "The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram's impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime."

Michelle Obama wasn't expecting this response from an unidentified supporter of Boro Haram.