Thanks to one of the world’s deadliest terrorist group in Nigeria, 112 girls are far from celebrating the Christmas holidays for the fifth time since their capture in April 2014 by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has killed about 20,000 people and forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes since 2009 in an insurgency aimed at creating a state adhering to strict Islamic laws in the northeast of Africa’s most populous nation.
It’s been 1,716 days since the abduction of the Chibok girls, a name the schoolgirls were popularly called after over 270 of them were initially kidnapped from the dormitories of the Chibok Girls’ Secondary School in the northern town of Chibok.
Over 50 girls managed to escape at the time, leaving 219; and in May 2016, another girl escaped. Later in October that year, 21 girls and a baby were released after negotiations facilitated by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government.
A girl was also found by Nigerian troops on January 5, 2017, with a baby and confirmed to be one of the missing Chibok schoolgirls. Another girl was also rescued in the Sambisa forest where the group is based. Later in May that year, 82 of the girls were released leaving 112 girls in the hands of the terrorist group led by Abubakar Shekau.
“You’re only coming to school for prostitution. Boko [Western education] is haram [forbidden] so what are you doing in school?” This was a question posed by a member of the Islamist group Boko Haram to one of the Chibok girls who was one of the lucky few who escaped the harrowing experiences.
Some of the girls who were released described their time with the terrorist group as horrific and narrated how the Christian captives were forced to convert to Islam. The group has also threatened to give some of the girls out for marriage in Cameroon and Niger.
A global outcry for their release under the #BringBackOurGirls campaign did not provide results after nearly five years except another kidnapping of another 110 girls from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe state, in February 2018.
104 of the schoolgirls were released, five were reportedly killed and a girl named Leah Sharibu is still in captivity for refusing to denounce her Christian faith. Leah Sharibu and the five unaccounted girls, if they are still alive, would have spent 309 days in Boko Haram captivity.
While the world has toned down on the advocacy to have the girls released, Nigerian soldiers are still at war with the insurgent group and dozens die every day to end the terrorist group’s mission.
The country is also busy preparing for its general election in February 2019 and the plight of the schoolgirls is still in the hands of negotiators who have helped secure the release of over a hundred girls.
“112 Chibok girls are still in captivity. They were determined to get back the Dapchi girls and they got them back. We need the same magic for our remaining 112 Chibok girls. No longer should citizens allow government to get away with their acts of not being accountable,” Florence Ozor, the leader of #BringBackOurGirls, said in March when the Dapchi girls were released.
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has maintained that the government is still negotiating their release and they will do everything to get them home to their parents.
Meanwhile, the days are running and it is no parent’s wish to have their children spend 5 years in the hands of terrorists.
This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on face2faceafrica.com