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#BringBackOurGirls

While ISIS and Hong Kong dominate headlines, an issue that used to command international attention is slowly concluding away from the cameras.

Six months after extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from a government boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, activists continue to hope for a happy resolution, even as the world fixes its attention elsewhere.

“I think that (hope) is the word, that hopefully one day the girls, those who are still alive (will be rescued),” said Rebecca Otitoju, a Nigerian-born Canadian who lives in White City. “I think it’s just a fight that has to continue, but we hope that one day they will be able to get these girls back.”

Otitoju and Jane Ekong were just two of the many Regina residents who rallied to support the girls back in May. With the issue making daily front page news, a group of Nigerian women organized a rally at the legislature on May 16. However, while many people have turned their attention to other issues, Otitoju and Ekong are still watching.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Ekong, who, like Otitoju, was born in Nigeria before moving to Canada. “That had some life when it happened and as soon as all the other things happened, the attention turned away.”

Even with the strong emotions surrounding the issue, both women maintain a pragmatic view of the issue and the media coverage it generated.

“So many other critical things have happened in the world, so it has kind of fallen off the radar, which is kind of unfortunate, but that’s just how it is,” Ekong explained.

 

“(The Nigerian government) felt that the more they give out information to the public, the more that would jeopardize the safety of the girls and (the negotiations), which I think is fair,” Otitoju said. “A lot of times, even here, you get an investigation and not everything is released to the public.”

Media scrutiny may be at an all time low for the issue, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a shortage of developments. According to media reports, between 53 and 63 girls escaped their captors in July and made their way back home, giving supporters something to celebrate.

"That was a little bit of good news,” Ekong said.

As for the rest of the girls, accounts vary, but most media reports say they are still being held in Nigeria, with Boko Haram trying to trade them for prisoners. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathon, who is up for re-election in February, has so far refused to make such a trade.

There have been a few setbacks too. The Nigerian Army has major supply problems, and morale is dropping after the government recently cut their pay in half. Meanwhile Boko Haram has expanded from their foothold in the northeastern part of the country and into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The problem has all four countries worried enough to establish a joint command centre to co-ordinate the fight against the Muslim extremist group.

“It’s a delicate issue. One has to tread carefully. I don’t know if there is anything in Canada that one could liken it to,” Ekong said. “Boko Haram is almost like ISIS now. These are people who don’t have a viable code of conduct. It’s really difficult to negotiate with them.”

“With what we have happening right now in Iraq, with ISIS, I think it’s comparable to some extent,” Otitoju agreed. “Nigeria has had issues with Muslims attacking Christians for years, even before people like me left Nigeria, and nothing was done.”

Both women say they aren’t aware of any plans to hold more rallies in the city, but they still hope Canadians won’t forget about the issue. The only way these intimidation tactics will work, they say, is if the world forgets about them.

“I know that the spotlight is no longer on the issue, but I would tell people not to forget,” Ekong said. “These young ladies cannot be forgotten.”