Outrage over kidnapped Nigerian girls fading

Apr 15, 2016, 8:13 AM EDT
(Source: Michael Fleshman/flickr)
(Source: Michael Fleshman/flickr)

Thursday marked the second anniversary of Boko Haram’s nighttime kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Chibok. Two years later, the search continues, Boko Haram -- now in bloody partnership with the Islamic State -- still stalks the region, and the ephemeral nature of hashtag campaigns has been exposed for all the world to see.

What’s more, there is the dispiriting sense that, in official circles, the date drew little more than a perfunctory nod, an unstated acknowledgment of a horrific truth – that Nigerian officials do not expect the missing girls, which includes the vast majority, ever to make it back home to their loved ones.

After #BringBackOurGirls faded from the collective consciousness, there came word that 57 improbable survivors of repeated gang rapes and beatings had escaped. But while that made for sensational reading and TV viewing, it had little lasting impact on the global audience. Even a recent CNN “proof of life” video, showing some of the remaining abductees alive and still hopeful of being saved, drew nowhere near the earlier fevered reaction. Nor did news that Boko Haram is increasingly using these female captives as suicide bombers noticeably move the needle of global public sentiment.

One would think that, even if the rest of the world has moved on, Nigeria couldn’t possibly. Yet that seems to be exactly the case for a government that initially vowed to track down the extremists. Then-president Goodluck Jonathan made a number of promises, but they largely went unfulfilled. As a result, Chibok residents took much-needed comfort in his subsequent election loss to Muhammadu Buhari.

But Buhari seems even less inclined to spend much time on the missing daughters of what he may dismissively view as a politically insignificant number of constituents. Instead, consumed by the country’s oil crisis, he recently vowed to crush pipeline saboteurs the same way he “crushed Boko Haram” -- disregarding the fact that he has done no such thing, as Blouin News has reported.

Now, the national -- and even international -- mood concerning the unrescued Nigerian schoolgirls’ fate seems rooted in a sort of there’s-nothing-we-can-do despair. And barring the eradication of Boko Haram and the emancipation of its captives, this story seems unlikely to change much even as the annual reminders pile up and push #BringBackOurGirls into historical irrelevance.