While it captured the attention of the world six months ago, #BringBackOurGirls — the online campaign to free 200 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by the extremist Boko Haram group — has faded from view almost as fast as it appeared. Here's just one depressing chart illustrating this (there are many more):
There are many reasons for this, but one important one was that it was tough to keep the public interested in the protracted, messy and ultimately complicated negotiations that the Nigerian government entered into to free the girls, who were kidnapped from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok.
For a good example of the messy nature of these negotiations, look no further than the events of the past week.
First, there was a glimmer of hope: Last Friday, Nigeria said that Boko Haram had agreed to a cease-fire, and that there could soon be talks to free some or all of the girls. “I can say with some optimism, cautious optimism, that were are moving toward a situation where we’d be able to, in the very near future, to be able to get back our girls," Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Aminu Wali told reporters.
However, less than a week later, things appeared to have soured. Not only were there reports that Boko Haram was still fighting past the cease-fire, there were also multiple reports that Boko Haram militants had pulled off another large-scale kidnapping. On Thursday, the BBC reported that "dozens" of women and children from two villages in Nigeria's northeastern Adamawa state had been kidnapped. Other reports put the number of those kidnapped at 60.
The reported kidnapping has led to further skepticism about the Nigerian government's talk of a cease-fire and hopes for the release of the original Chibok girls. "We are confused that hours after the so-called cease-fire agreement has been entered between the federal government and Boko Haram insurgents, our girls were abducted by the insurgents," John Kwaghe, a witness to the attack who lost three daughters, told Reuters.
Some explanation was offered Friday by officials from Chad, the neighboring nation that was mediating the talks between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. Moussa Mahamat Dago, the No. 2 official at Chad's foreign ministry, said that he believed that while some Boko Haram factions were refusing to abide by the deal, he saw no reason to believe that the broader talks had collapsed. "What I can say is that those that negotiated with the Nigerian government did so in good faith," Dago told Reuters. "We are waiting for the next phase, which is the release of the girls."
It means further anguish for relatives of the original girls kidnapped, who have frequently complained about a lack of communication from Nigeria's government. It may also be a worrying sign for the talks. Dago disclosed to Reuters that Boko Haram was seeking the release of its fighters imprisoned by the Nigerian state in return for the girls. But if all Boko Haram factions won't agree to the deal, what hope is there?