The reactionary Islamic fundamentalist paramilitary group Boko Haram has kidnapped over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and threatened to sell them into effective slavery. According to reports of some escaped girls, the captured children have already been subjected to mass rape. Unlike the Nigerian government, which seems virtually powerless in the face of Boko Haram's continuing assault on Nigerian civil society, the whole world has been outraged by the kidnapping. Even President Obama's wife Michelle has been participating in the #BringBackOurGirls social media protest storm.
While the seizure of the schoolgirls is indeed an outrage, before people go clapping their hands about how awesome Michelle Obama is, we should remember the agenda of US imperialism in Africa. Her husband is a man who orders the murder of children. Which illustrates a key problem with this campaign: As Jumoke points out in her article below, U.S. imperialism has long had deadly designs on the African continent. As I wrote about similar western outrage over anti-gay abuses in Africa, what starts out as a "humanitarian mission" is likely to end badly. How many "collateral" deaths inflicted by an ongoing imperialist "mission" in Nigeria would be too many?
In the U.S. people are constantly offered symbolic and empty ways to '"feel like we did something" about the horror of the world. And like the creepy Kony2012 campaign, much "#BringBackOurGirls" sentiment flirts dangerously with old white man's burden tropes about the allegedly civilized west needing to intervene in allegedly barbaric Africa. For their own good of course. The sad truth is that much of this horror is the fruit of imperialism itself. And what exactly is happening to women's rights inside the US? The domestic assault on reproductive rights, for example, has been strengthened by liberal concessions to the right wing.