Boko Haram kidnapping outcry goes evermore viral

Public protest and social media in Nigeria, and in places like New York and Washington, have created a tipping point for help in recovering the abducted school girls.

Olivia Harris/Reuters
Protesters demonstrate against the kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria, outside the Nigerian Embassy in London May 9, 2014.

A version of this post first appeared on the Africa in Transition blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Recently there's been great amounts of social awareness and dissent among Nigerians over how the government has handled Boko Haram. The impetus for this reaction has been the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls from four towns in Borno State: Izge, Lassa, Ashigashiya and Warabe.

Inside Nigeria there have been protests in KadunaAbuja, and as far south as Lagos. Through the use of social media these protests have now spread across the world to include Washington and New York City. 

On May 3, activists in New York City organized an event in Manhattan’s Union Square Park around the viral social media tag #bringbackourgirls. The event had a turnout of an estimated 300 people. The goal of these people was to bring awareness of the issues facing the Nigerian people to the US public.

Interestingly, the New York protest took on a Pan-African dimension. The organizers identified themselves as South African and Zimbabwean. Many of the people in attendance were from other African nations. They all stressed that they empathized with the Nigerian people as fellow Africans and that they stood with them in support to chants of “we support all Africans.”

The protesters questioned the actions of Boko Haram and the Nigerian government; but they also asked why there has been a lack of Western media coverage and concern.

In the past social media campaigns have successfully raised awareness and caught the attention of governments. It appears that the current social media campaign and protests in and outside of Nigeria have succeeded in pressuring the Nigerian government and drawing the attention of foreign powers.

The Nigerian government has asked for international help and the White House has announced it will send advisors to help the Nigerian government.

China along with FranceCanada, and the United Kingdom have also pledged their support to help the Nigerian government in its efforts to find and rescue the kidnapped girls.

Hopefully, this international involvement can help turn this situation around.

Mr. Grane is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program as well as an officer in the Army National Guard. 

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