Yesterday for the first time Michelle Obama gave the weekly presidential address, in order to speak up about the kidnapped and enslaved Nigerian schoolgirls.
Speaking for the first time instead of the US president, before what is Mothers’ Day in the US on Sunday, she said the couple were “outraged and heartbroken” over the abduction of more than 300 girls from a school in Chibok on 14 April.
“What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.
“I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home. In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”
She also said, with angry emphasis: “grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.” Yes.
Ken Wiwa, an adviser to the president and son of playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, wrote in an article for the Observer that there was something “reassuring” in the fact that the world cared about the plight of the girls. He said that, with support, Nigeria could “overcome this challenge”, and called it the turning point in the battle against terrorism.
The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the security council should act quickly to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group and hold “its murderous leaders to account”. The security council has demanded the release of the girls and is threatening to take action.
“The members of the security council expressed their intention to actively follow the situation of the abducted girls and to consider appropriate measures against Boko Haram,” the 15-member council, which includes Nigeria, said.
The logistics are appallingly difficult though.
In her speech, broadcast nationwide on radio and uploaded as a YouTube video, Michelle Obama said: “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.”
She noted that the Chibok state secondary school where they were abducted had been closed because of terror threats, but the girls had gone back to take exams. “They were so determined to move to the next level of their education … so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud,” she said.