With marches, chants and prayers, Nigerians have marked the painful second anniversary of the mass abduction of the Chibok girls, still angry and frustrated the teenagers have not been found, but hopeful a new video might lead to their safe return.
“BRING BACK OUR GIRLS NOW & ALIVE” proclaimed a banner carried by red-shirted protesters marching in the capital of Abuja, using the phrase that made the captives a worldwide cause after their kidnap from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok by Islamic extremists of the Boko Haram militant group.
The fighters stormed and firebombed the Government Girls Secondary School on April 14, 2014, and seized 276 girls who were preparing for exams.
Dozens escaped within hours, but 219 remain missing.
Boko Haram has killed and kidnapped thousands in a campaign of violence in recent years as it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Africa’s most populous country of 170 million people that is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims.
It has forced young men to be its fighters and girls to be sex slaves or even suicide bombers
But it was the mass kidnap in Chibok that grabbed the world’s attention.
Since then, the inability of Nigeria’s government and military to rescue them has led, in part, to the electoral defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan.
A BringBackOurGirls social media campaign reached to the White House, where US first lady Michelle Obama tweeted in May 2014: “Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls.”
While much of the world has moved on, the girls are not forgotten in Nigeria, where there were marches on Thursday in major cities.
Hundreds chanted “We want them back!” as they demonstrated in Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari was visiting China on Thursday, but his office issued a statement that said “he understands the torment, frustration and anxiety of the parents, and will not spare any effort to ensure the safe return of the girls”.
Noting that thousands of people kidnapped by Boko Haram have been returned to their families, the statement added that Buhari shares the hope that “the Chibok girls will ultimately be rescued and reunited with their families as well”.
In Chibok, some parents of the girls joined officials at the burned-out school to pray for the safe return of the victims.