For Nigeria’s embattled government, October 20 is a date worth circling on the calendar: That day will mark 42 days since Nigeria’s last confirmed Ebola case, which, at twice the 21-day incubation period, will allow the country to declare itself free of a disease that has ravaged its West African neighbors.
Tuesday, Nigeria reached a milestone it would much rather ignore: Six months ago, militants from the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the country’s Chibok region, and, despite a worldwide campaign to free them, 219 remain in captivity. While the kidnapping has attracted significant publicity—epitomized by the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign on Twitter—violence attributed to Boko Haram has killed thousands in Nigeria’s northern provinces.
One major reason is Nigeria’s political geography, which, throughout the country’s post-colonial history, has caused great turmoil. A country of some 170 million people split into numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, Nigeria has struggled to bridge the gap between its relatively affluent Christian south and its poorer Muslim north.