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Frank Gray

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Timing, responses to Nigeria crisis odd

When news first broke about the kidnapping of nearly 300 school girls in Nigeria, it definitely caught my attention.

It was only a couple of months before that I had learned of a book about a similar event that had happened in Uganda.

That event, though, had happened about 18 years earlier. Nearly 140 girls were kidnapped in that case, and a nun had managed to swap herself for 109 of the girls, who were set free.

But in that case, 30 of the girls who had been kidnapped weren’t released. Years later, they were still held captive.

Now here were more kidnappings, though in a different country.

Kidnappings in Africa, it seems, are a common occurrence. Oil field workers are kidnapped. Foreign workers are kidnapped. And schoolgirls are kidnapped.

But the kidnappings don’t seem to get much publicity. I’d never heard of the mass kidnapping that happened in 1996.

What surprised me about last month’s event was that it was first reported, then largely forgotten. It was nearly three weeks, not until the terrorists who kidnapped the girls sent out a video saying they were going to sell the girls into marriage, that anybody paid attention and realized that now was the time to become aghast.

And now, politicians and others all around the country and the world are posing for selfies holding signs that say #BringBackOurGirls.

Personally, I don’t think postings like that will accomplish anything. Terrorists, the type who make videos saying they are going to sell the girls for $12 each, aren’t influenced by Western selfie campaigns.

The campaign of people with signs is, I suppose, meant to show solidarity among Western nations condemning mass kidnappings, as though anyone really would support something like that.

What I’m curious about, though, is why it took more than three weeks for people to become outraged.

Reportedly, various countries offered Nigeria help in trying to find the girls, but that country initially turned it down.

Eventually someone in a Western country showed up with one of those hashtag signs, and now it has become all the rage. Everyone wants to get in on the act.

It shows they care – finally, after three weeks.

Exactly what role the United States is going to play in this latest chapter is unclear.

It’s up to the Nigerian government to handle these problems in a country about 1.5 times the size of Texas and 177 million people.

There’s no denying that events like this are abominable and intolerable and the world should be outraged and offer assistance to rescue the girls if possible – but forget all the selfies.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.