Credit: Michael Fleshman on Flickr, under Creative Commons
A protest in New York City to demand the release of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

(WOMENSENEWS)–Earlier this month, Nigeria elected Muhammadu Buhari, a former dictator. Although his supporters praise him for crushing an extremist religious sect during the 1980s, one of the key challenges facing his administration is how he handles Boko Haram, the militant organization that has been using violence in a bid to impose a caliphate in Africa’s largest nation, The Guardian reported.

On the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 276 girls from Chibok, a village in northeastern Nigeria, by Boko Haram, Buhari issued a statement about the kidnapped girls.

Buhari’s statement said: "Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them."

Others, such as Nigerian senator-elect Shahu Sani, sounded more hopeful.

Buhari did, however, promise to do more to work for the girls’ release. "I want to assure all of them, and particularly the parents, that when my new administration takes office at the end of May, we will do everything we can to defeat Boko Haram. We will act differently from the government we replace: we hear the anguish of our citizens and intend to respond accordingly."

Children have been killed, along with their families, in numerous Boko Haram bombings and massacres over the past six years. The group is believed to be at least partly waging a campaign against secular values. The kidnapped girls were both Christian and Muslim; their only offense, it seems, was attending school.

The day after the girls were abducted from their school, the Nigerian military claimed that it had rescued nearly all of the girls. A day later, the military retracted its claim; it had not actually rescued any of the girls. And the number of missing that the government had announced was less than half of what parents and school officials counted.

The circumstances of the kidnapping, and the military’s deception, exposed that when it comes to Boko Haram, the outgoing government could not be trusted, The New Yorker reported.

Global Support

In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, demonstrators held a silent protest to mark the one-year anniversary of the abduction, Arirang news reported. Rallies were also staged in London, New York City and Paris.

BBC World service encouraged people globally to have a say about the girls. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who survived an attack from the Pakistani Taliban, also sent the Chibok girls a message.

Last year, when the campaign for #bringbackourgirls began, it received global support. Michelle Obama, the first lady, also stood in support of the movement.

The 57 girls who escaped and returned home did so on their own, without local or international intervention, The Huffington Post reported.

The Way Forward

The Bring Back Our Girls movement has held daily rallies in Nigeria since just after the girls were taken.

On April 14, school-age girls took part in a protest march as "ambassadors" for the Chibok girls. The tone was that of resigned determination as the group chanted its now familiar refrain.

No one is ready to give up hope.

Victor Ibrahim Garba, uncle of 18-year-old kidnapped teen Naomi Stover, told Al Jazeera English: "Whatever it takes, however long it takes, we are pleading for more voices. We are here every day under the sun and in the rain for others in our community and around the world to see that we are here. We will not stop until the girls are back even if it takes 100 years, even if it is just one person that remains standing."

The official campaign tweeted that silence about the missing girls is not an option.

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