West & Central Africa

Uncertain wait for Chibok parents who want to hear about fate of their girls

 

Anxiety and excitement follows the release of 82 Chibok school girls’ exchange.

“A lot of people are happy; a lot of people are excited… But there is also anxiety. Everybody hopes that his or her daughter is part of the 82 who’ve come home now,” said Pastor Enoch Mark whose own two daughters were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terror group.

“This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released,” he told AFP.

The pastor was unsure but hoped that his daughters are among the released girls.
The girls were exchanged for five Boko Haram terrorist commanders according to a government statement. Human rights organizations in Nigeria, especially the ‘Bring back our girls’ campaigners are calling upon the government to release the names of the 82 girls.

The girls were flown by helicopters from Maiduguri in North Eastern Nigeria to Abuja the capital city in central Nigeria and were met by Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to the president.

It is expected that, like the previous 21 girls released by Boko Haram, the girls will be kept in government care ‘for counselling and medical treatment.’

Yesufu, the leader of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign, said that the girls need to be rehabilitated. “It’s not just to bring them back home, we must ensure that they get the education they are supposed to have,” she said. “It is time for them to be reunited with their families. Psychosocial therapy … there has to be rehabilitation. And at the end of the day, we want to have world leaders out of every one of them so that they can be what the terrorists did not want them to be.”

However, Amnesty International say the girls need to be released to their families and not be taken into another government detention. The group cautions against using the girls for “publicity stunt that largely doesn’t reckon with their privacy.”

Amnesty International also called for greater efforts by the government to secure the release of “less-publicized mass abductions” by Boko Haram Jihadists.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, (ICRS) in a comment, said its role in the exchange was as a ‘neutral intermediary’.  All it did was to transport the 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls and hand them over to the Nigeria’s government. The ICRC tweet shows a line of girls wearing shirts with the Red Cross logo walking across a runway to a waiting helicopter.

“A happy sight for families missing moved ones,” the aid group says

The Nigerian government reiterated that it was committed to the release of everyone abducted by Boko Haram Islamists.

“The president has said that as many of the girls are alive, his administration will strive to get them back,” said Femi Adesina, a spokesman for the president. “So 21, and 82 now, plus three that were recovered by the military, till the very last of the girls are recovered, the Nigerian government will stay on the matter.”

Fifty-seven of the girls had escaped soon after their abduction. The remaining 219 were held by the armed group. Following a negotiation shrouded in secrecy 21 were freed last October. Three were found by the military.

Authorities say 113 of the 276 girls are unaccounted for. Reports by some of the girls who escaped said that some of them had died from illnesses, others were killed by aerial bombardment by Nigerian air force planes. According to some unconfirmed reports others have refused to leave because they had been radicalised by the terrorists.

UNICEF’s Pernille Ironside, said it was heartening to hear the release of some of the girls. “They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram… UNICEF calls on Boko Haram to end all grave violations against children, especially the abduction of children and the sexual abuse and forced marriage of girls,” said Pernille.