“All we are saying, is give back our girls,” the marchers chanted to the tune of the Vietnam-era protest song “Give peace a chance.”
“No more Boko Haram,” was another chanted slogan. Boko Haram translates roughly to “No Western education.” The rebel group in the 50-percent Muslim nation, on the Atlantic Ocean, has carried out kidnappings for years, as well as assassinations and terrorist bombings.
According to a U.S. State Department news release, Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, released a video earlier this week claiming that his group was behind the kidnappings.
“I abducted your girls,” Shekau said, adding that Boko Haram was holding the girls and would “sell them in the market.” The United States designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organization in November 2013. The label permits bank assets to be frozen, and places members of Boko Haram on no-fly lists.
Lady Emilia, former president of the Nigerian Community of Rhode Island and an organizer of Friday’s demonstration, shouted, “Our children are our future — we want our children home.”
As the protesters, some in colorful Nigerian costume — Emilia wore red from head to foot — continued their circling, Emilia demanded, “No more terrorism — no more al-Qaida.” She said she has been in the United States for 30 years.
Rep. John J. Lombardi, D-Providence, who joined in the march for a time, called the kidnapping “an atrocity.”
He added, “People need to deal with it up front and do what they have to to get those young ladies back to their families.”
In Washington, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline cosponsored a resolution condemning the kidnapping.
Cicilline, a member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees issues related to Africa, released a statement that said, “Abducting innocent young girls and forcing children into marriage or slavery is unconscionable, and no child in any part of the world should live in this fear. Today the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a strong message condemning Boko Haram and their heinous acts and terrorist activities.
“In addition, earlier this week President Obama and [Secretary of State John] Kerry dispatched American assistance, military officials, and hostage negotiators to support Nigeria’s rescue efforts, and I am hopeful this assistance will help the Nigerian government quickly bring these girls home to their families. … Unfortunately, there are examples all over the world of human trafficking and child slavery and we have to aggressively combat these horrific activities wherever they occur.”
Originally part of the British Empire, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Ethnic and religious tensions are of long-standing status.
More than 250 ethnic groups form the population. Christians make up 40 percent of the inhabitants, and 10 percent maintain indigenous religions.