What #Bring Back our Girls doesn’t tell you: The Other Victims of Boko Haram


First lady Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama

In April, a group of soldiers for an extremist militia in the north-eastern Borno State of Nigeria stole into a school and kidnapped close to 300 high school aged girls. Most of them haven’t been seen since, except in grainy video.

What we didn’t know then, is that the media attention would shed light on other victims of the terrorist group. It’s child soldiers.


A child soldier known as “Kadogo,” meaning “small one” in Swahili, is shown here near the front lines in eastern Congo, in November 2008. Snatched from their homes by armed men who force them to carry ammunition, fight and kill, beaten if they refuse, east Congo’s child soldiers are teenage victims of an unforgiving war. (Finbarr O’Reilly / Reuters )


In the days immediately after the kidnapping, the Nigerian Government said that the girls had been freed. It was the first misstep of many.

When the parents entered the forests to search for their daughters, one group that they didn’t encounter was the Nigerian military, even though officials said that they were searching.

By April 23rd, a local state governor went on record that only 80 more girls remained in the hands of the Boko Haram kidnappers. The school’s headmistress said that the estimated that the actual number of missing girls was 190; more than double the governor’s estimate. A week later, another official said that the figure was estimated at 223, after 53 more of the students had managed to escape.

A lawyer in Abuja Nigeria pinned the first #BringBackOurGirls tweet out of frustration. It went viral. Even the First Lady, Michelle Obama picked up a poster board and sharpie and joined the campaign. It’s been tweeted well over one million times since then.

Folks throughout the land of Social Media demanded that the girls be found, and Boko Haram be met with harsh, immediate justice. I did too. The only problem is, who is going to bring back the other children?

Those girls aren’t the first children taken by the militant group. In a  recent article in The Wall Street Journal, one reporter interviewed 35 children, as young as 9 years old, that had either been kidnapped and then forced into service, or recruited by Boko Haram.

Boko Haram is an army populated by child soldiers.

When Islamic militants stormed an onion field here in December, 17-year-old Ibrahim Mallam and his 14-year-old brother Bana became two more youths forced into the Boko Haram insurgency… ‘I haven’t heard anything from them since,’ said their father, Modu Mallam. He fled on foot as gunmen also abducted his neighbor’s wife on December 11.

The WSJ article said that children are sometimes lured with cash handouts as little as $6. But the group also routinely uses kidnapping as a method of recruitment.

Boko Haram is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths, the displacement of a half million people and the destruction of hundreds of schools, not to mention hundreds of kidnapped children and women.

If and when the girls are freed, what will happen to the children who remain in their hands? The Nigerian government probably won’t send in their cavalry. For now, they are just a sidebar in another tragedy, but what happens when the world moves on?