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South Florida joins world in demanding return of Nigerian Girls

Erick Johnson | 5/15/2014, 9 a.m.
Community organizations in South Florida are joining an international chorus of activists who are demanding political intervention for the return ...
Demonstrators protested downtown at the Government Center for the return of 276 Nigerian teenage girls who were abducted in April Photo by Miami Times File Photo

In New York, hundreds of demonstrators, including children, filled Union Square in Manhattan for a loud rally that dwarfed another recent protest supporting the legalization of marijuana just weeks prior.

In Glaslow, Scotland, about 200 people attended a demonstration in St Enoch Square, which was part of the larger 'Bring Back Our Girls' campaign.

In the Nigerian capital of Abuja last Sunday, protesters were calling for the rescue of the girls Sunday, shouting: “Bring back out girls now and alive!  What are we saying?   Bring back our girls now and alive!”

But the police intervened to disperse the crowd and the rally ended.   

CRITICISM OF NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT

There was also widespread criticism that the Nigerian government was being too slow in taking action to return the girls home.

After almost three weeks, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan finally spoke on the issue this last week. In a televised address, he said, “Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out.” This was as he announced a fact-finding committee to investigate the April 14 kidnapping. The Nigerian government has offered a $300,000 reward to get these girls home

Goodluck has also declined international assistance from Britain and other countries as his country remains under pressure to resolve the crisis on their own.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Nigeria did not welcome U.S. help earlier because it wanted to pursue its own strategy. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said Friday that it took “far too long” for Jonathan to accept U.S. offers of aid, and he is holding a hearing next week to examine what happened. A senior State Department official also said Friday that the U.S. offered help “back in April, more or less right away.”

President Obama and Kerry have been closely following the developments in Nigeria. They have sent a team of technical experts to the region to share the U.S. military and law enforcement skills on intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, and information sharing and victim assistance.

Nigeria is a country of 170 million in West Africa that receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid from the U.S. every year to address a rising insurgency in the north and growing tensions between Christians and Muslims. The northeast, where the girls were kidnapped, is remote and sparsely populated, far from the southern oil fields that help to power Africa's biggest economy.

In a rare move on foreign policy, first lady Michelle Obama took over her husband’s weekly radio address last Saturday to speak out against the kidnappings.

“In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,” the first lady said. “We see their hopes, their dreams — and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

Freelance writer Jimmy Davis and AP news wire reports contributed to this story.