It’s been two years. Two long years since over 200 girls were abducted from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State of Nigeria by Boko Haram. Two long years since parents saw their daughters. Two long years of fading hopes that the girls would ever be found. Two long years of broken promises. Two long years until last week, when a proof-of-life video obtained by CNN showed 15 of the abducted girls.
The video makes for difficult viewing as the girls, each clad in a hijab and a long Islamic chador, line up for the cameras. It is even more heartbreaking to watch a group of mothers identify their daughters in the video and subsequently break down in tears especially when you realize that this is the first time in two years that some of the parents have had a glimpse of their daughters. One can only wonder what other parents, whose abducted children were not a part of the video, must be feeling right now with still no news or sightings of their girls.
The abduction of the over 200 girls from Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014, was probably the single biggest act that brought the attention of the world to Boko Haram. It sparked a global outrage under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls and was supported by millions of people including figures like Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States. The campaign helped to put pressure on the Nigerian government to find and release the girls from captivity as well as put an end to the Boko Haram menace. In fact, these promises are believed to be part of the key factors that helped President Muhammadu Buhari win the 2015 Presidential elections in Nigeria. It is difficult to understand why the girls have not been found or released yet.
In May 2015, the Nigerian military claimed it had reclaimed most of the areas previously controlled by Boko Haram in Nigeria including many of the camps in the Sambisa forest, one of the strongholds of Boko Haram, where it was suspected the Chibok girls had been kept. Although many women were found in these camps, a reminder that the Chibok girls were not the only victims of Boko Haram, none of the Chibok girls were found. In fact, President Buhari’s statement in December 2015 that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” seems hollow when the kidnapped girls have not yet been found. At various times, there has been news of imminent deals between the Government of Nigeria and the leadership of Boko Haram for the release of the girls but nothing has yet materialized. Meanwhile, other girls who have managed to escape from the clutches of the terrorist group report claims of being raped and forced into marriage. Claims of sightings of the girls in neighboring Chad and Cameroon are still unsubstantiated and Boko Haram representatives have previously threatened that the girls have either been sold into marriage, slavery or trained to be suicide bombers.
Two years on from the kidnappings, the campaign has waned significantly especially internationally but people like Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Federal Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, continue to spearhead the campaign to get the girls back to their families. This new video, like a drop of oil on fire, has ignited passions and the desire to get the girls back. It has also ensured that the #BringBackOurGirls discussion never takes a backseat. It has been over 700 days since the lives of those Chibok girls and their families were changed forever. Uniting daughters and families will not erase the horrors of the past two years but it will surely help begin the healing process. The Nigerian Government and its military have severely floundered in previous attempts to release the girls but this new video offers one more chance to take action and work to get the girls released. They must not fail again.
Author: Ferdinand Senam Hassan, threesixtyGh Writer