Missing girls: UDM pushes AU to help

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IOL pic may14 nigeria girls protesters with placards Reuters Activist Aisha Yesufu (centre) shouts slogans as she holds placards with fellow protesters in Abuja on May 13, 2014. Yesufu, a businesswoman who is originally from Kano and has two children, has joined daily protests calling for the release of secondary school girls abducted from the remote village of Chibok. Picture: Joe Penney

Johannesburg -

The United Democratic Movement on Friday urged the African Union to help ensure that more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria were found.

“The UDM is calling upon the African Union and United Nations to establish contacts with Boko Haram to find a solution,” UDM secretary-general Bongani Msomi said in a statement.

The UDM recommended the co-ordination of a team composed of religious groups acceptable to all stakeholders from civil society to negotiate a solution with the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group which reportedly kidnapped the girls.

“The military option should be ruled out to ensure that the safety of these girls is a priority,” he said.

He urged their parents to not lose hope and said the girls' safety was a concern around the world.

He said warnings should be issued about militant groups' expanding reach not only in Nigeria, but also in other African countries and elsewhere.

The use of innocent civilians to “settle political scores” must be discouraged and condemned, he said, acknowledging the support so far of the international community to free them.

He ended his statement with the social media slogan #BringBackOurGirls to reflect a campaign for their safe return.

Earlier, the Young Communist League of South Africa said it planned a picket at the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria on Monday about the kidnapping.

“The YCLSA will show its support and demand the immediate release of the more than 200 schoolgirls that have been kidnapped,” spokesman Khaya Xaba said on Friday.

The demonstration was scheduled to begin at 11am.

The schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok in north-eastern Borno state on April 14.

According to the Associated Press, Boko Haram would reportedly sell them into slavery unless the government freed detained insurgents.

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan was expected to visit Chibok on Friday before heading to France for a summit on strategies to deal with the security threat posed by Boko Haram and other “terrorist” groups in west and central Africa.

He has ruled out a swap for the girls in exchange for detained insurgents.

The AU released a statement earlier in May condemning the kidnappings.

A spokesman asked that a request for information about action taken so far by the AU be sent by email. A response is expected later.

British prime minister David Cameron has offered Nigeria surveillance aircraft and a military team to help find the girls, and the US was flying drones over the area to find them.

Nigerian police have offered a reward of 50 million naira for a lead on their whereabouts. - Sapa

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