Nigerian Girls Brought Back — Maybe
More than six months after the highly publicized kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, a newly reached cease-fire deal between the Nigerian government and the terrorist group will return the girls to their families, a spokesman for the Nigerian government announced Friday. The world has long awaited the return ...
More than six months after the highly publicized kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, a newly reached cease-fire deal between the Nigerian government and the terrorist group will return the girls to their families, a spokesman for the Nigerian government announced Friday.
The world has long awaited the return of the Chibok girls, whose disappearance prompted an international call to action for the Nigerian government to wipe out the Islamist group wreaking havoc across the country’s northern regions. A massive social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, raised awareness about the high school girls who were kidnapped while preparing for final exams in April. Some of them were able to escape in their first few days of captivity, but more than 200 remain missing.
Despite multiple promises from the Nigerian government to find and return them, no progress was made.
In fact, false alarms from the Nigerian government repeatedly raised hope that the girls had been located and were being transported to safety, frustrating the more than 200 families still waiting for their daughters to return.
So while Friday’s cease-fire, first reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP) after an announcement by Hassan Tukur, principal secretary to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, could be the best news Nigeria has heard in more than six months, it also wouldn’t be out of the question for the deal to fall through.
Nevertheless, Tukur said Friday that a deal was reached in peace talks negotiated by Chadian President Idriss Déby. "We have agreed on the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, and we expect to conclude on that at our next meeting with the group’s representative next week in Chad," Tukur said.
Déby has already hosted two such talks between government officials and Boko Haram intermediaries. Boko Haram, which translates to "Western education is sinful," has attempted to impose strict Islamic law across Nigeria, which has a substantial Christian population but a mainly Muslim north.
Since their disappearance in April, the Chibok girls have been a hurdle for Jonathan, who will face re-election in 2017. He hasn’t only faced criticism from Internet activists, but also from international governments, for his lack of initiative in finding the girls. Some have even gone so far as to claim the group is a ploy organized by Jonathan’s administration to destabilize the north and up Jonathan’s chances in the 2015 election.
AFP reported that despite the insistence from Nigerian government officials Friday that the deal was in place, the Boko Haram negotiator they claim to have dealt with released a radio broadcast on Voice of America, also on Friday, in which he made no reference to the Chibok girls. He also called the group Boko Haram, which is unusual for the militants, who exclusively call themselves the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which translates to "people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad."
And if that’s any sign that this whole deal is just another one of Jonathan’s botched attempts to fix his tarnished reputation, then his path to maintaining the presidency is looking as rocky as ever.