The fate of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by an outlaw Muslim group in northeast Nigeria is wracking the conscience of people throughout the world, including many Americans.
The fact that the government of Nigeria, with 130,000 security forces, does not appear to be trying to recover the girls, three weeks after the attack on their school, is almost as disturbing as their abduction. Nearly as appalling was the order this week by the wife of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to arrest the women who met with her to protest the government’s inaction.
The U.S. and British governments are offering Nigeria help in trying to rescue the girls from Boko Haram, the violent Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. That is an appropriate humanitarian response and should be lauded. But it does not relieve the Nigerian government of its responsibility for the fate of the girls.
Any rescue operation faces difficulty because of the remote countryside in which the girls were abducted. The region borders three countries — Cameroon, Chad, and Niger — to which the students may have been transported in the last three weeks. At the same time, Nigeria’s security forces are divided into factions, including Islamists who might not want to confront Boko Haram.
America can provide drone or satellite surveillance of the area where the kidnap victims might be. It can coordinate international efforts, involving Nigeria and the three neighboring states, in a united effort to recover the girls.
Violent conflicts inevitably take a terrible toll. But targeting children for abduction, assault, and even sale is an egregious crime against humanity.