Chibok Girls Have Spent Over 150 Days in Captivity
In the immediate aftermath of their abduction, 47 girls managed to escape either during the attack or shortly after their arrival at the camp. Since then, no other girls have been returned to their families.
Dr. Stephen Davis, an Australian cleric, was appointed as presidential envoy in the negotiations with Boko Haram. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that since nobody knows the girls’ location, he decided to use his contacts in the Shell gas company to see if they can help find the girls.
At the end of May, Dr. Davis expressed optimism that they would soon be able to secure the girls’ release. In fact, he succeeded in getting a commitment from 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, so I went to Nigeria on the basis of being able to secure their release.” The rebels honored their promise and brought 60 girls in 20 vehicles to an agreed upon location in Cameroon. But the release was sabotaged.
“We traveled 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. The police had offered a reward of several million Naira just 24 hours before we went to pick them up. I understand from the Boko Haram commanders I spoke to that the girls eventually ended up back with them.”
Dr. Davis has been in contact with the four girls who managed to escape from the camp. They left with the help of a young man who was also kidnapped by Boko Haram and forced to work as driver.
One of the girls had a cell phone with her. She had switched it off and kept it hidden in her clothing during their captivity, and was able to use it to call her parents while hiding in the bush after their escape. They had no idea where they were or how to get home. Their parents told them to continue walking west every evening – in the direction of the setting sun. They made it to the Cameroon border and were reunited with their families.
The escaped girls revealed that they were raped on an almost daily basis. They said that girls who do not cooperate face severe punishment.
Dr. Davis tried to make contact via text message with the young man that helped the girls escape and 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.”
Although the world’s attention to the plight of the girls seems to be waning, it remains clear that they are in the hands of brutal men.
In May, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram released two videos to the French Press Agency in which he claimed that, “These girls you’re talking about, some of them were Christian, but they converted to Islam […] They now accept that Allah is the only God and that Jesus is one of his messengers […] This is my message to the world and, yes, I’m content with that…The girls who did not convert to Islam will not be released as long as you detain our people […] But the Muslim girls are our sisters.”
He also said, “I repeat, I’m going to sell these girls. I’m not going to release them as long as you detain our people and brutalize our own women… You’re making too much noise about these schoolgirls.”
After spending four months in Nigeria attempting to negotiate the girls’ release, Dr. Davis returned to Australia. He said that through his dealing with Boko Haram, he realized that 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.”
In a telephone interview, he told Open Doors that in April, they were dealing with three separate factions that had agreed to work together. But now Boko Haram has become amalgamated, and is mutating very quickly. The involvement of outside forces such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and Al Shabaab is further radicalizing the group.
Although President Goodluck Jonathan remains under immense pressure to secure the girls’ release, a rescue attempt is simply too dangerous at this time. The crisis is also unfolding against the backdrop of a very complex political landscape. Allegations that very high ranking politicians and international sponsors are in collusion with Boko Haram further complicate any negotiated settlement. So for now, the Chibok girls’ ordeal drags on with their deeply distressed family members anxiously awaiting news about their daughters.
Father, we implore You on behalf of these young women to restore them quickly to their families. Protect and encourage them with a clear awareness of Your presence. As they seek ways to escape, give them wisdom and opportunity. Father, in the midst of their sorrow, we ask that You grant an uncommon peace to the parents of these girls, calming their gripping fear, and assuring them of Your presence with their daughters. In the name of Jesus, whose presence in us we reflect in this dark world, Amen.