The news did not get better from Nigeria over the weekend, not for the kidnapped girls or the general populace either.
And in fact, the particular way it got worse just goes to show you how ugly this situation is, and how much uglier it's bound to get before anyone resolves it. And developments also brought pretty convincing calls from Nigerians themselves about the need to contextualize any Western calls to #bringbackourgirls.
1. On Friday, the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan announced that he'd be forming a "fact-finding committee" to help with the rescue efforts underway for the abducted girls in the northeast. The creation of committees is never exactly an inspiring governmental move, but this one, born in the midst of crisis, may take a new cake for tone-deafness. The novelist (and recent Beyoncé-song cameoist) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie laid out her frustrations in an editorial yesterday:
I find our president's actions and non-actions unbelievably surreal.
I do not want a president who, weeks after girls are abducted from a school and days after brave Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest the abductions, merely announces a fact-finding committee to find the girls.
2. Protests continue all over Nigeria over the Jonathan government's perceived inaction in finding the girls. And while the government has occasionally expressed solidarity with the protesters, the threadbare nature of its support became clear last night when the police detained Naomi Mutah Nyadar, one of the protest's leaders. And the plot is thicker than that: according to the BBC, Nyadar's arrest followed a meeting she'd had with the President's wife, who just a few hours before had been crying on television about the abduction of the girls.
Among others, the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole, on Twitter, has been pointing out that the First Lady of Nigeria's tears may be of the crocodile variety:
3. Last night President Jonathan, sensing the growing crisis of confidence in the government, got on Nigerian television to try and justify his country's efforts. Incredibly, he seemed to want to shift blame to the parents of the girls themselves for being insufficiently forthcoming with the authorities:
What we request is maximum cooperation from the guardians and the parents of these girls. Because up to this time, they have not been able to come clearly to give the police clear identity of the girls that have yet to return.
4. In what perhaps is the least surprising development so far, Agence France-Presse says it has a video in which the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, claims responsibility for kidnapping the missing girls.
5. American calls for action on the matter of the Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school last week reached their zenith yesterday with the highest blessing on a developing-world cause that the American press knows how to offer: A Nick Kristof column. His point is the point the internet has been making:
While there has been a major international search for the missing people on Malaysian flight MH370, and nonstop news coverage, there has been no meaningful search for the even greater number of missing schoolgirls.
The difference between a blog commenter and Nick Kristof, however, is that when Kristof is angry about something, he can pick up the phone and call someone. Someone like, say, John Kerry. And Kerry took Kristof's call:
I asked whether the United States could use satellites or intelligence assets to try to locate the girls. "We're engaged and cooperating," he said, declining to discuss details. Kerry also emphasized the broader effort to disrupt Boko Haram and its financial flows, while supporting the training of Nigerian authorities to respond to terror attacks without violating human rights. "We're upping the game with them," he said.
It apparently does not occur to Kristof that there might be some danger involved in calling for an American intervention involving "intelligence assets." His column doesn't mention, for example, that one distinction between this situation and the loss of flight MH370 is that in one case people disappeared over water, arguably subject to international jurisdiction. And in the other, people disappeared in a region within the national boundaries of a country, and occurs in a context of serious and violent turmoil. In fact in the middle of all this a car bomb in the capital Abuja killed at least 12 people on Friday.
But Nigerian commentators are much better at understanding this. Here, again, is Cole on Twitter this morning:
[Photo via AP]