Res­cued kid­nap vic­tims: It’s not all good news

Finweek English Edition - - IN BRIEF -

Nige­ri­ans know bet­ter than to take news at face value. Noth­ing is straight­for­ward; like those Magic Eye paint­ings (3D images) that were so popular in the 1990s, it’s only very few peo­ple who find that the longer you look, the clearer the pic­ture be­comes. No news can be taken straight; lit­tle news is agenda free; all news is un­trust­wor­thy.

So when the in­ter­na­tional me­dia sees what it thinks is an un­equiv­o­cal good news story com­ing from Nige­ria, that’s not to say we’re sit­ting here in Nige­ria tak­ing it for granted that what the BBC, Sky News or CNN is say­ing is the whole story, the right story or even a story at all.

Take this week just gone: the Nige­rian Army res­cued 293 women and girls from Sam­bisa For­est, which has been a hide­out for Is­lamist mil­i­tants Boko Haram over the past year or so.

Now, if peo­ple out­side Nige­ria know of one news story from here in the past year or so, it’s Bring Back Our Girls, thanks to the au­dac­ity of the crime and no small amount of hash­tag ac­tivism. It was easy to think res­cued women + #BBOG = the school­girls taken from Chi­bok just over a year ago were fi­nally on their way home.

In Nige­ria, the re­sponse was more nu­anced and more com­pli­cated.

The f i rst thing to know is that we’ve been here be­fore: hopes raised, hopes stoked, hopes dashed. Just six months ago the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment an­nounced a Boko Haram ceasef ire and the im­mi­nent re­turn of the chil­dren from Chi­bok. Less than 24 hours later Boko Haram had killed yet more peo­ple in Borno State on their way through three more vil­lages. To this day no one can re­ally ex­plain what hap­pened: was it a mis­take, a l ie, a sick joke? So this time around, while in­ter­na­tional me­dia trum­pets the good news, those of us in Nige­ria tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions. We’re happy, but we don’t want to overex­tend our­selves just yet.

The sec­ond di­vi­sion be­tween the good news on the sur­face and the re­al­ity is that while oth­ers might think that the even­tual re­turn of the Chi­bok girls will rep­re­sent an end to a sad chap­ter, Nige­ri­ans know Chi­bok is a prom­i­nent case within a years-long cam­paign of kid­nap­pings that has seen thou­sands taken from their homes across the North­east.

When the army conf i rmed that the group res­cued last month were not from Chi­bok, they also con­firmed what Nige­ri­ans know all too well: that there are many more peo­ple miss­ing and just as in need of res­cue and re­turn. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional es­ti­mates that 2 000 women and girls have been ab­ducted over the past 18 months dur­ing a con­flict that has also seen many men and boys taken from their fam­i­lies.

Yes, in­roads have been made against Boko Haram. Yes, feel­ing to­wards the mil­i­tary has turned more pos­i­tive. Yes, it is pos­si­ble that the army is closer to find­ing the Chi­bok girls. But Nige­ria strug­gles to cel­e­brate one safe re­turn whole­heart­edly with­out cel­e­brat­ing them all.

This pic­ture re­leased by the Nige­rian army on 30 April pur­port­edly shows a mem­ber of the Nige­rian Army stand­ing next to a group of women and chil­dren res­cued in an op­er­a­tion against Boko Haram.

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