The kidnapping in April 2014, that had shocked the world, has come to a merciful end, but only partly. The heartbreak is over for the families of the 82 schoolgirls of Chibok in Nigeria, who were kidnapped by the country’s Islamist entity, Boko Haram. Just as the Taliban in Pakistan has targeted girls in search of learning, pre-eminently Malala Yousufzai, so too did the Boko Haram resort to this large-scale abduction. Sad to reflect that the enormity of the tragedy has been somewhat overshadowed over the past three years by another Islamist variant, ISIS, which has killed and killed with abandon across the world.
Considering that Nigeria witnessed the mass kidnapping of 300 girls, the enormity of the tragedy now boils down to the fate of the “300 minus 82” girls… cut off for as long as they have been from their parents and school. They have sacrificed their childhood at the altar of the Islamist fundamentalist. More accurately, less than one-third of the children have been freed.
A distressing thought when one reflects that the release translates to a degree of very partial freedom at best and horribly belated at worst. Nor for that matter must the freedom be confused with a belated expression of profound sympathy on the part of the militants. On closer reflection, the release was the outcome of a give-and-take deal, in which the militants would appear to have dictated the terms of engagement. It took the Nigerian government three years to play the honest broker; the 82 children were freed only after the authorities agreed to release the detained Boko Haram detainees. The swap has been confirmed by the office of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Details of whether the government had to pay a ransom are still rather hazy; it is improbable that further details will emerge this Sunday when the freed girls are scheduled to meet President Buhari in the capital, Abuja. The mass abduction had exposed the mounting threat posed by the Islamic Statelinked fighters; by releasing the militants, the government has of course taken a calculated risk ~ an unnerving thought that must temper what has been described as the “amazing joy” of families across Nigeria. No less distressing is the fact that two-thirds of the abducted children are still in the custody of Boko Haram.
The April 2014 abduction had brought the extremist group’s rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention, and since then it has been a horrendous experience for the families of the schoolgirls.
Some parents did not live long enough to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, predominantly Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without ever knowing if they would see their parents again. Other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers. The ordeal must now end for all.