CHIBOK, Nigeria (BP) — Parents of the nearly 200 missing Chibok schoolgirls continue to pray with hope three years after Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped the girls from a government boarding school in Chibok.
Of the 276 girls kidnapped in an overnight raid in the mostly Christian town, an estimated 195 remain missing after the April 14, 2014 attack on the Government Girls Secondary School. Some of the missing are feared dead; others have been forced to birth children of Boko Haram fighters believed hiding deep in the Sambisa Forest in Borno.
The Nigerian government has made progress in freeing some of the girls, negotiating the release of 21 in October of 2016. But parents and advocates say the remaining girls have been missing too long.
“Only a few parents got their daughters back,” Yana Galang, a parent of three missing girls, was quoted by CNN. “Over 100, including myself and my husband, are still groaning for … those who were not found.”
The 81 who have gained freedom are an increase over the 58 who had gained release by the time parents noted the second anniversary of the kidnapping in April, 2016. Since then, two additional girls have been found by the Nigerian army and 21 others have been freed through government negotiations.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that Boko Haram has been weakened has done little to combat fear among parents and families of the missing, World Watch Monitor reported on the eve of the anniversary, noting a new wave of Boko Haram attacks near Chibok. About 23 parents have died of heart disease and many are sick from stress-related conditions, World Watch said.
“We feel deceived by the government,” Yakubu Nkeki Maina, a parent whose 18-year-old daughter is still missing, told World Watch. “Promises are made publicly but nothing is done to make this promise a reality. We are subjected to sleepless nights and pain [in our] hearts, which increases by the day. We feel cheated.
“It seems that we cannot count on the government,” Maina said. “We look up to God, Who is able to come to our rescue.”
Nigerian military troops are stationed in Chibok and 13 of the town’s schools have partially reopened, according to World Watch.
In one of his latest statements, Buhari said April 13 that “the government is in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence, to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed. … My appeal is that we must not lose hope on the return of our remaining schoolgirls.”
Buhari claimed in late 2015 a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram, saying the terrorists’ tactics had been reduced to sporadic suicide attacks, rather than having the military power to overtake towns and set up illegal caliphates that at one point covered 20,000 square miles. But Boko Haram continues to strike, with the towns of Mifah, Kautikari, Makalama and Balakle among its latest targets, World Watch said. The attacks displaced “scores of families” to Mbalala three miles from Chibok, World Watch said.
About a week after the October 2016 negotiated release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls, Boko Haram attacked a military base in northeast Nigeria and destroyed Goptari village, just six miles from Chibok.
Boko Haram has killed between 20,000 and 25,000 people since 2009, according to official estimates, and has displaced about 2.6 million others, creating a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in the region that has been termed the gravest in the world.