Nigeria: Chibok girls missing for 150 days

by Colin Dexter

11 September 2014

Today it is 150 days since 275 girls were abducted from the Chibok Government Secondary School by Boko Haram, on the night of 14 April. Although 47 of these girls have managed to escape, the others remain captive.

One of the girls was able to hide a mobile phone in her clothes and called her parents after she escaped with some others. The girls had no idea where they were. Their parents told them to continue walking west every evening, in the direction of the setting sun, and eventually they made it to the Cameroon border and were reunited with their families.

The escaped girls said that they were raped almost every day. Girls who do not cooperate face severe punishment.

Release sabotaged

Dr Stephen Davis, an Australian cleric, was appointed as presidential envoy in the negotiations with Boko Haram. Dr Davis was able to persuade Boko Haram to release some of the girls: “They told me they’d be prepared to release some as a goodwill gesture towards a peace deal with the government.”

The rebels brought 60 girls to a location in Cameroon as promised, but the release was sabotaged: “We travelled for four-and-a-half hours to reach them, but 15 minutes before we arrived they were kidnapped again by another group who wanted to cash in on a reward… I understand, from the Boko Haram commanders I spoke to, the girls eventually ended up back with them.”

Dr Davis has had contact with four girls who were able to escape the camp, with the help of a young man who was kidnapped by Boko Haram and forced to work as driver. However, when Dr Davis tried to make contact via text message with the young man, he got a chilling response: “The person you are trying to contact has gone on a journey from which there is no return. He was an infidel.”

The kidnappings will not end

After spending four months in Nigeria, Dr Davis returned to Australia. He says the kidnappings will not end. “It became very clear that if I was able to get 50 girls released then another group would kidnap 70 or 80 more.”

He told Open Doors that in April they were dealing with three separate factions of Boko Haram that had agreed to work together. However, Boko Haram has now unified and changed. The involvement of other groups such as Al-Qaeda, IS and Al Shabaab is further radicalising the group.

There are also allegations that high ranking politicians and international sponsors are in collusion with Boko Haram, further complicating any settlement.

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