This is not an open letter. It is an expression of agony penned in tears, fears and sweat. I have been trying to write this letter for at least a week now and I, still, am not sure of how best to string words together in a logical and coherent sense. I struggle with my own politics as well as national and supposedly collective political stands.I am conflicted by ‘terrorist’ attacks and claims in Kenya, in Somalia, in Nigeria and elsewhere. I am disturbed by the gradually escalating xenophobia and the connections that states have made linking supposed acts of terrorism, modes of criminality and ‘illegal aliens’ (sigh!). I am haunted by lives lost and bodies maimed everyday in Africa. I do not wish to downplay those disconcerting thoughts.
By writing this letter, and by raising some oh-so-easy-to-disagree-with claims, I do not wish to ask you, Africa, to ‘depoliticize’ the abduction of 200+ Nigerian school girls in Borno State allegedly by Boko Haram insurgents. Bring along all your politics and all the claim making. Today marks exactly 20 days since the abduction of the 276 young women (recent reports) at a hostel in North Eastern Nigeria. No one has given us the names of these girls. We need names. I need names. There is something about making human beings only a statistic. A number. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) yesterday released 180 names of only those among the abducted who are Christians (a very worrying move). I have searched for the rest of the names with no success.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s address yesterday stated that “everything must be done” to free the girls. That was only yesterday; 19 days later. Today, reports coming in claim that Naomi Mutah, a woman from the Chibok community who has been leading protests in Abuja demanding the release of the 276 girls has been detained. According these reports, Mrs Mutah was ‘held’ by order from Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan. I am battling to find a language with which to speak of all these events and the numerous deaths in Abuja, in Maiduguri, in Kano and elsewhere in Nigeria. I am not sure that I could possibly make English do all the things I want it to do with my fear and that of others. I believe despite our differences we, as a people, can find common ground for action (if only sometimes). The abduction of 200+ girls in Borno State in Nigeria is such a ‘sometime’.
While acknowledging the many different ways of taking action I still believe that there is a place for direct action. I am appealing to you to take a stand on this abduction. These young girls are prisoners of war. Their kidnapping highlights the systemic vulnerability of children and women. Of those who cannot wage wars. The relative silence and inaction regarding the abduction and the selling off of these girls possibly as sex slaves calls into question our ideas about militarist masculinities and the normalization of violence. I ask you Africa to organize wherever you are to have solidarity marches across the continent. Africa needs to stop. We all need to pay attention to this and to the lives of young girls everywhere: in the DRC, in Chad, in Kenya, in South Africa, in Burundi. Everywhere even beyond moments of crises. African governments must be put under pressure to speak out against the silence. We cannot afford the luxury to forget.
Please share this within your networks and let us know what suggestions you might have to make a same-day continent-wide solidarity march possible.
In solidarity and community,
facebook: Neo Musangi