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The Negotiators A co-production with Doha Debates

How a Motley Group of Negotiators Freed the Chibok Schoolgirls


The 2014 abduction prompted a huge social media campaign, but was it helpful?

In 2014, members of the Islamist Boko Haram group abducted around 300 mostly Christian girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria, prompting outrage around the world and triggering an unparalleled social media campaign that included A-list celebrities and world leaders.

Despite global attention, it ended up taking three years to negotiate the girls’ release. Many of the girls had died by then or were forced into marriages with fighters. 

On The Negotiators podcast this week, we hear from Zannah Mustapha, one of the key mediators in the affair. He spent many months building up contacts with the group and winning support from the Nigerian government, which ended up paying ransom money to Boko Haram.

We also hear from Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw from the Wall Street Journal, who published a book about the ordeal called Bring Back Our Girls: The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria’s Missing Schoolgirls. The authors analyze how the social media campaign affected the war against Boko Haram and the efforts to release the girls.

About The Negotiators:  Conflicts don’t just get resolved on their own. Most are settled through a grueling process of give and take, usually behind closed doors. On the new podcast The Negotiators, Foreign Policy is teaming up with Doha Debates to put listeners in the room. Hosted by FP deputy editor Jenn Williams, each episode will feature one mediator, diplomat, or troubleshooter, describing one dramatic negotiation. You’ll hear about a nuclear standoff, a hostage crisis, a gang mediation, and much more: successes and failures that shaped people’s lives.  See All Episodes

More The Negotiators episodes:

How a Finnish Diplomat Negotiated Release of Mothers, Children From Syria

Finnish ambassador Jussi Tanner spent nearly two years bargaining with the Kurdish-led autonomous government.

The Long Road to Libya’s Election

From civil war to digital dialogues, an insider’s account of the Libyan peace process.

Negotiating With the Taliban

A former Afghan government official describes what it was like to sit at the table with the armed group.

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