The majority Muslim island nation of the Comoros has banned a march over the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic extremists, amid accusations the government wants to dodge religiously sensitive issues.
Officials in the capital Moroni rejected a request to march from children’s rights group Maeecha, saying “it is not possible to grant you permission to walk in the streets of the capital, for reasons related to the circulation of traffic.”
But NGOs accused the government of the Indian Ocean island of trying to silence debate on the actions of Islamist radicals.
The non-governmental Solidarity Association of the Indian Ocean Islands had appealed to the government to speak out on the kidnapping by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, but met a wall of silence.
“Authorities that I consulted just after the kidnapping told me to wait because according to them it concerned a sensitive topic, religion,” said the group’s Soilha Said Mdahoma.
Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden”, kidnapped the girls from their dormitory on April 14, has claimed they converted to Islam and has threatened to sell them.
“No verse in the Koran, no religious principle justifies this kidnapping,” said the rights group’s Nasser Assoumani. “Boko Haram is an enemy of Islam which does not follow the prophet’s doctrines.”
With a long history of political violence, including more than 20 coups, the Comoran authorities suggested Maeecha issue a statement rather than march in protest at the abduction.