from AHMED OBAFEMI in Maiduguri, Nigeria
MAIDUGURI, (CAJ News) – KIDNAPPED as girls, released as mothers.
This is the predicament of the young women abducted by the Islamist Boko Haram sect in northeastern Nigeria over eight years ago.
The incident sparked global outrage and brought the international community’s attention to the atrocities in that volatile region of Africa’s most populous country.
All of the 11 girls released since June this year are now mothers. One of them has four children. This higlights the extent of the sexual abuse and forced marriages to the militants that victims suffer in captivity.
Some of these young mothers have returned to find their parents dead from depression, emanating from the kidnap horror of 2014. This adds a tragic dimension to the crisis.
Alarmingly, it can also be hard for communities to accept children fathered by terrorists. History suggests they struggle to shake off the stigma.
“Please pray that the children and their mothers will be welcomed, and that there would be no stigmatisation,” Open Doors, the pro-Christian advocacy group has pleaded.
The young women and their children are being taken care of at the Bulunkutu Interim Care Centre in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. They are allowed to visit their parents and family members.
They have begun their journey to recovery and healing from ordeals before they can be integrated into society.
On the night of April 14–15 in 2014, some 275 girls were preparing for exams at Chibok Girls State Secondary School when Boko Haram militants arrived, pretending to be government security officials who had come to offer protection.
They coaxed the girls from their dormitories onto trucks and headed for the precarious Sambisa Forest, a stronghold of the terrorists, located towards the Cameroon border.
Some 47 of the girls managed to escape during and shortly after the attack.
A number have been released as negotiating pawns in prisoner exchanges.
The group, at its peak, offered to release some girls in exchange for some of their captured commanders in jail. They have been released in batches.
According to the Nigeria government, 96 women remain missing.
Rejoice Senki, one of the young women recently released, told local media how she was violated constantly while in captivity, forcefully married to a Boko Haram fighter and pushed into converting to Islam.
“They will do whatever they like to you if you don’t obey whatever they tell you,” she said.
Senki has two children.
Some of the young women have expressed a desire to return to school and complete their education.
Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Movement reveals more than 20 parents of the young women have died from health complications induced by the protracted wait for the return of their children.
“The level of engagement with the parents should change,” said BBOG’S Dr Allen Manasseh.
He is also the Publicity Secretary of the Chibok Development Association.
“We have over 20 parents that died already from blood pressure-related complications; renal failure as a result of blood pressure,” Manasseh lamented.
Some parents of the young women still missing believe the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is not doing enough to rescue their daughters.
They seek closure as they live with the trauma of the ignorance whether their children are still alive.
This amid reports some of the women have died in captivity and others had lost their lives as so-called suicide bombers when the Boko Haram terror was it its peak.
“We are however, hopeful that one day, they will return,” a parent said.
Open Doors urged Buhari’s government to continue efforts to liberate those held by Boko Haram militants.
Among those in captivity is Leah Sharibu, a 14-year-old when she was kidnapped in February 2018 when a Boko Haram faction, Islamic State – West Africa Province (ISWAP), stormed the Government Girls Science and Technical School in Dapchi, Yobe State, also in the northeast.
Sharibu was among 110 students abducted. One girl died in captivity.
All others were released within a month but Sharibu remains in captivity for reportedly refusing to comply with the militants’ demands and convert to Islam.
Years after her abduction, the teenager refuses to denounce Christianity and is prepared to pay the ultimate prize at the mercy of of a terror group feared as among the most brutal in the world.
ISWAP’s most recent threat has been to keep Sharibu as a “slave for life.”
She has become an international symbol of courage and resistance against the oppression of girls and women by Islamist fundamentalists.
The Nigerian government has said it “will not relent in efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home.”
Buhari ascended to power in 2015 with a pledge to eradicate the insurgency in the northeast.
He has repeatedly declared that the Boko Haram has been “technically defeated.”
To his credit, attacks by the group have subsided.
In addition to the military intervention, the breakthrough is also attributed to infighting within the terror group, which led to the reported suicide of Boko Haram leader, Abu Mohammed Abubakar al-Sheikawi, when capture by ISWAP was imminent.
Buhari will vacate office in early 2023. He is ineligible for presidential elections scheduled for February because of term limits.
The release of civilians under Boko Haram captivity will be top of the in-tray of his successor.
– CAJ News