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Pretoria - Nigerian national Kingsley Egwim believes it is time religious leaders in his country stopped being silent about terror attacks carried out by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The group, led by Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls at a boarding school at Chibok in the Borno State on April 14.
Carrying a poster bearing the slogan “Islam by choice”, Egwim joined the Young Communist League (YCLSA) members and other organisations outside the Nigerian High Commission in Hatfield to protest against the kidnapping.
“Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in Africa. There are a lot of Christian and Muslim leaders, but they are silent over this.
“We cannot keep on asking what the government is doing, we need to know what the religious leaders are doing,” he said.
“What is going to happen to those girls? They are either going to be killed or raped.
“Religious leaders need to come out and say this cannot happen in the name of religion.”
Egwim said more organised protests should happen in Nigeria to put pressure on the government to rescue the girls.
Last week, Boko Haram released a video claiming the kidnapped girls had not been harmed and had converted to Islam.
The Young Communist League secretary Buti Manamela said: “This is the time for African leaders and the AU to take action. It is an act of cowardice to abduct young girls to use as slaves or for political deals. Boko Haram should leave young girls alone and engage with people their age.
“We want to say to the AU that we, as the children of Africa, have realised that they seem to be procrastinating in dealing with this situation. We appreciate the role of France and the US, but we also want our leadership to take action. We note the length of time taken to (initiate the) rescue (of) the schoolgirls. If they were daughters of chief executives of multinationals or heads of the UN, Boko Haram would have been burnt to ashes.”
The Young Communist League is not the only organisation interested in the plight of the schoolgirls. The ANC Women’s League yesterday announced that in addition to the petition they want the public to sign for the release of the girls, a moment of silence is also going to be observed at midday on Wednesday.
The petition is available on their website and will be delivered to Nigeria later this month by a delegation from the Women’s League and government.
From yesterday afternoon, the league also started a campaign to light 230 candles outside the Nigerian High Commission every day until the girls have been released.
League spokeswoman Edna Molewa said: “The abuse of women and children anywhere in the world must be confronted with every might at our disposal. The 230 flames of hope represent the number of missing children and will burn until the safe return of our girls.”
Molewa said the league’s actions were inspired by its firm conviction that injustice anywhere in the world should not be tolerated.
“As the women’s league, we are determined never to sit back or turn a blind eye while our girls’ human rights are so blatantly and tragically violated,” Molewa said.
“We urge all women of South Africa who gather every Thursday for their regular women’s prayer services to observe a special prayer service for the Nigerian girls,” she said.
Picketing has been planned from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at public buildings.
Student movements would also picket and march at various institutions of higher education, she said.
“In addition, there will be candle-lighting at selected places that will serve as shrines.
“This programme will be led by the Umkhamba Project,” Molewa said.
She urged women to use Africa Day to highlight the plight of the Nigerian girls.
The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities is also expected to highlight the schoolgirls’ plight as part of the Children’s Day celebrations on June 1.
In a statement condemning the kidnapping, President Jacob Zuma said: “The government and the people of South Africa condemn in the strongest terms the abduction of schoolchildren in the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the armed group, Boko Haram, and calls on the kidnappers to release the children without further delay.”