from Africa in Transition

Boko Haram Kidnapping Protests Go Viral

May 08, 2014

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This is a guest post by Allen Grane, intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. Allen is currently an officer in the Army National Guard. His interests are in Africa, conflict, and conflict resolution.

Recently we have seen a great amount of social awareness and dissent among Nigerian’s regarding how the government has handled the conflict with Boko Haram. The impetus for this reaction has been the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from four towns in Borno State: Izge, Lassa, Ashigashiya and Warabe. Within Nigeria there have now 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 U.S. public.

Interestingly, the protest in New York took on a Pan-African dimension. The New York City 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 also 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 that it will be sending advisors to help the Nigerian government. China along with France, Canada, 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.