ABUJA, Nigeria, Oct 14 – Protesters calling for the release of 219 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants were set Tuesday to mark the six-month anniversary of their abduction with a march on the presidency.
Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign were planning to walk to President Goodluck Jonathan’s official residence in Abuja to keep up the pressure on the government to bring the missing teenagers home.
The march is the culmination of a series of events in the past week, including a candlelit vigil, to keep the fate of the girls in the public eye, as media coverage and on-line interest wanes.
The daughter and niece of Enoch Mark, an elder in Chibok from where the girls were abducted, are among those missing.
“At one point we contemplated holding funeral rites for the girls as our tradition provides,” he told AFP.
Parents have run the gamut of emotions in the last six months, from initial hope to despair and back again, he added.
“But the discovery of a girl last month… who was kidnapped by Boko Haram in January gave us renewed hope that our girls would be found.
“If this girl could regain freedom after nine months in captivity all hope is not lost that our daughters would one day be free.
“This has rekindled our hope and strengthened our patience. We are ready to wait six years on hoping to have our daughters back with us.”
Some 276 girls were seized from their dormitories at the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, on the night of April 14.
Fifty-seven managed to escape and Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau later threatened to sell the remainder as slave brides, vowing they would not be released until militant prisoners were freed from jail.
In late May, Nigeria’s most senior military officer, Chief of Defence Staff Alex Badeh, said the girls had been located but ruled out a rescue because of the danger to the girls’ lives.
Since then, nothing has been seen or heard from the girls while back channel talks with militant leaders have stalled.
– Campaigns still running –