UK
12/05/2014 11:23 BST | Updated 14/05/2014 08:59 BST

David Cameron's Awkward #BringBackOurGirls Pledge Provokes Cynical Reaction

BBC
Cameron looked distinctly uncomfortable after being given the paper, but transformed his face into a concerned grimace

David Cameron, seemingly ambushed by CNN's Christiane Amanpour on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, did not look overly comfortable being thrust the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

With no option other to embrace the hashtag-holding, Cameron posed again with the paper after the show, though still looking a tad bewildered.

The viral slogan has been used as a way to raise awareness of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from a Chibok secondary school by militant Islamist group Boko Haram almost one month ago.

The prime minister's split-second (but obvious) hesitancy showed a marked difference in reaction to his counterpart's wife across the pond.

Michelle Obama gave a long address on the issue on Saturday, and was pictured posing with the hashtag on a piece of paper.

Cameron's discomfort at being handed the paper was not enough to save the prime minister from online ridicule.

Several pointed out that the sign was not even a real hashtag, with spaces in between the words.

Several prominent African commentators have already expressed unease at the hashtag's use by world leaders.

The BBC reported that while 22% of the tweets were from Nigeria, some 44% came from the US. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai have also tweeted the hashtag.

Singer Chris Brown's #BringBackOurGirls tweet featured a picture of a girl from Guinea-Bissau.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Jumoke Balogun, the co-founder of Compare Afrique, said: "Simple question. Are you Nigerian? Do you have constitutional rights accorded to Nigerians to participate in their democratic process?

"If not, I have news for you. You can't do anything about the girls missing in Nigeria. You can't.

"When you pressure Western powers, particularly the American government, to get involved in African affairs, and when you champion military intervention, you become part of a much larger problem. You become a complicit participant in a military expansionist agenda on the continent of Africa. This is not good."

There has also been some controversy over the creator of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. In interviews, American filmmaker Ramaa Mosley said she was moved to tears by the abductions in Nigeria "began tweeting and hashtagging one particular phrase #bringbackourgirls," she posted on Facebook.

But the Wall Street Journal said that in face the slogan had been created by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim Musa, who adapted a chant he heard on television there.