Graca Machel prays for the girls and asks the government to do more.
Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, broke the traditional mourning period of her husband this week to deliver a message to the 276 abducted Chibok school girls, assuring them and their parents of the prayers of every African parent, and reminding the Nigerian government of its key responsibility of securing its citizens.
Ms. Machel said she stood amongst the parents of the kidnapped girls “holding hands, in pain and anguish; in solidarity”, in a stirring letter she sent out Tuesday.
“We send them waves of love and comfort, to warm their hearts and dry their tears. We pray for them and look forward to the day when they will embrace their parents and families at home,” she wrote.
“We send them waves of energy to keep their inner selves strong and resilient. When the dark night in the forest is overwhelming, they must lift their eyes to the sky. The stars are watching over them. They must not lose hope and they must not succumb to fear and despair, even in the most adverse of circumstances they find themselves in.”
The nearly 300 girls were kidnapped by Islamist extremists Boko Haram, on April 14 from a government school in Chibok, a remote community in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.
There are fresh reports the girls initially thought to be held in the notorious Sambisa forest, were being moved to another jungle in Gombe State.
An international effort led by the United States, United Kingdom and France is underway to help locate and rescue the girls nearly a month after their abduction.
The foreign team is to assist the Nigerian security forces that have so far failed in rescuing the girls, with surveillance, intelligence and satellite capabilities.
The attack, one amongst several by Boko Haram, has shocked the world sparking calls for action against the group. The group has killed thousands in a five-year-old insurgency.
The Nigerian government has come under intense scrutiny over its handling of the kidnapping after it took more than two weeks to respond to the raid.
President Goodluck Jonathan was in Kano State for a political rally a day after the attack which occurred same day as a car bomb that killed at least 75 people in Abuja. Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for that attack.
Mr. Jonathan has said the abduction of the school girls is the “beginning of end” of Boko Haram.
In a tone that appears also critical of the government’s effort against the insurgents, Ms. Machel said the Nigerian government must do everything in its power to locate all the girls, make sure they are safe, and bring them back home.
“It is government’s first and foremost responsibility to protect its citizens, and keep them safe,” she said.
She also encouraged the international community to act.
“If the world can mobilise all the means possible to search for a plane carrying 239 passengers, certainly it can also mobilise the means to find our girls. They deserve nothing less,” she said.
“We want to see the same resolve, commitment and focus from the Nigerian government, African governments and of course those governments who have the capacity and resources to save our girls.
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