Six months after 10 trucks with 50 armed terrorists on board broke into a village in northeastern Nigeria to kidnap more than 200 girls, time and the inefficacy of the Nigerian Army threaten to plunge the incident into oblivion.
The abductions occurred at Chibok village in the state of Borno, the worst-hit by Boko Haram extremists, a group that seeks to enshrine the Islamic sharia law in the Nigerian constitution.
The operation was executed April 14 night, just like every Boko Haram attack on schools or residential areas, but the difference was that instead of brutally killing teachers and students in their sleep, the group decided to abduct the girls.
At first, the Nigerian government and the army regretted the incident, but then shrugged it off, in a country where human life is usually cheap and even non-existent in the more remote areas where voters cannot make a difference.
Nigeria, the most populous African country with 170 million people and more than 200 tribes, has a huge economic gap between its wealthy south and poor north.
After the initial shock caused by the news of the abductions, the army, already known for its historic lack of credibility, began a war of statements aimed at quelling the fears of several governments abroad.
Five days after the kidnappings, the military alleged it had freed 165 of the girls, a news denied by their school director, the girls’ relatives and the governor of Borno.
Misinformation and silence over their fate lasted until May 5, when Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction in a video tape, prompting the governments of several countries, including the US and Britain, to offer their help for rescue efforts.
But international awareness of the incident took a few days and was fuelled by the Twitter accounts of several celebrities in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
US first lady Michelle Obama, singer Justin Timberlake, actors Sean Penn, Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel took part in the campaign, and posted their photographs next to banners reading “Real men don’t buy girls”.
The campaign was a success and drew massive support on social networks, but was soon diluted into a faint echo on the internet.
According to Google data, “BringBackOurGirls” registered millions of searches on internet in May and dropped dramatically the following month, only to disappear in September.
The US-led international military support and the firm belief in results also dwindled gradually.
The government of Barack Obama sent drones and dozens of experts to the area and intensified radar search operations in Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.
But the results of this impressive deployment is unknown or inexistent, as most fear.
Reality is more complex than a movie on spyware.
The latest news about the hostages was another mistake, when Nigerian army spokesman Chris Olukolade said Sep 23 that a group of girls had been released, raising hopes among anguished families, only to deny the news an hour later.