Chi­bok girl re­fuses to be re­leased

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

ABUJA — A school­girl who was among more than 200 kid­napped by Boko Haram in 2014 re­fused to be part of a re­lease deal be­cause she is now mar­ried to a mil­i­tant fighter, Nige­ria’s gov­ern­ment said Tues­day.

The dis­clo­sure un­der­lines the com­plex psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of a lengthy cap­tiv­ity, and gives an in­di­ca­tion of the work re­quired to re­ha­bil­i­tate and rein­te­grate those re­leased.

Boko Haram has used kid­nap­ping as a weapon of war, seiz­ing thou­sands of women and young girls as part of its eight-year quest to cre­ate a hard­line Is­lamic state in north­east Nige­ria.

Men and boys have also been forcibly re­cruited to fight in its in­sur­gency, which since 2009 has killed at least 20 000 in Nige­ria alone.

Pres­i­dency spokesper­son Garba Shehu said the ji­hadists had ini­tially agreed to re­lease 83 of the teenagers who were ab­ducted from their school in the town of Chi­bok in April 2014.

But he told the lo­cal Chan­nels tele­vi­sion sta­tion: “One said, ‘No, I have a hus­band. I’m happy where I am’. And then 82 came back.”

The 82 were re­leased on Satur­day fol­low­ing months of talks and the ex­change of a num­ber of sus­pected mil­i­tants held in gov­ern­ment cus­tody.

Twenty-one of their class­mates were freed in Oc­to­ber last year; three had pre­vi­ously been found or es­caped. Talks are un­der­stood to have started to free all or some of the re­main­ing 113.

Com­plex sit­u­a­tion Tes­ti­mony from former hostages in the bru­tal con­flict has re­vealed that Boko Haram forced many women and young girls into mar­riage, and that rape and sex­ual vi­o­lence were com­mon­place.

Some were forced to work as do­mes­tic slaves for ex­trem­ist fight­ers and even de­ployed to the front line car­ry­ing am­mu­ni­tion dur­ing at­tacks.

El­iz­a­beth Pear­son, a Boko Haram spe­cial­ist who stud­ies women and con­flict, said the case of the Chi­bok girl who re­fused to leave was “likely to be quite preva­lent”.

“From what we know of other young women who’ve re­turned, the re­la­tion­ships with their cap­tors is very com­plex and at times quite am­bigu­ous,” she told AFP in an email ex­change.

“We as­sume be­cause they are ab­ducted they are there­fore likely to re­sist their cap­tors. In fact they have to de­velop re­la­tion- ships of some sort in or­der to sur­vive.”

Gen­uine re­la­tion­ships will emerge, as not all fight­ers be­have bru­tally to the women in the camps, par­tic­u­larly if chil­dren are in­volved, she added.

“It’s a much more com­plex sit­u­a­tion than the ab­ducted-res­cued-vic­tim nar­ra­tive we’ve seen at times,” she said.

There have been re­peated calls for more to be done to sup­port those re­leased, par­tic­u­larly with many women treated as so­cial out­casts be­cause of their time with the rebels.

Iden­ti­ties checked Shehu said the gov­ern­ment was work­ing to ver­ify the iden­ti­ties of the 82 re­leased so they can be re­united with their fam­i­lies as soon as pos­si­ble.

A list of the girls’ names was pub­lished on Sun­day evening and pho­to­graphs of them have been sent to Chi­bok and the sur­round­ing area for cross-check­ing.

“When we had the first 21, be­cause of sim­i­lar­i­ties in names, more than two, three sets of par­ents came to Abuja. So, we don’t want to cre­ate that con­fu­sion,” he said.

“When they get the pic­tures, they see them and ver­ify, then they come on board to Abuja to see their daugh­ters.”

Aisha Ye­sufu, co­or­di­na­tor of the #BringBack­our­girls pres­sure group, told AFP: “We have to reach out to the par­ents and ensure that we match the par­ents and the daugh­ters. “We are still work­ing on it.” Nige­ria’s gov­ern­ment has come un­der fire for the length of time it has taken to re­unite the former hostages with their fam­i­lies.

In De­cem­ber, fam­i­lies who are seen as key to the girls’ re­cov­ery com­plained they were blocked from cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas to­gether.

Hu­man Rights Watch has ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of fail­ing to re­spect the girls’ pri­vacy by pub­lish­ing their names and for parad­ing them at a photo-call.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said on Satur­day that hold­ing the re­leased girls in lengthy de­ten­tion and for se­cu­rity screen­ing “can only add to their suf­fer­ing and plight”.

Shehu said he hoped the ver­i­fi­ca­tion process would be con­cluded soon and pledged: “The gov­ern­ment will not stop any par­ents from im­me­di­ately es­tab­lish­ing con­tacts with their daugh­ters.” — AFP

SOME of the 82 Chi­bok school­girls who were re­cently freed from Nige­ria ex­trem­ist group Boko Haram cap­tiv­ity.

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