Last Friday, the Nigerian government described failed attempts to negotiate the release of more than 200 girls kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. Officials reported that communications between the government and Boko Haram terrorists have been ongoing since July 2015, shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office.
Negotiations were stalled three different times. In one occasion, according to a government statement, Boko Haram demanded the release of prisoners involved in “major terrorist actions” and others who were explosive experts in return for the release of some of the kidnapped girls. Although the conditions were difficult to accept, the president agreed, the government’s statement said, “believing that the overall release of these girls remains paramount and sacrosanct.” However, on August 4, 2015, as prisoners who were part of the swap arrangements were transported to Maiduguri, a city where Boko Haram is active, “the group, just at the dying moments, issued new set of demands, never bargained for or discussed by the group before the movement to Maiduguri,” the statement said.
On November 13, 2015, a new round of negotiations was initiated. This time the talks failed because key members of Boko Haram’s negotiation team were killed either “during combat action or as a result of the emerging rift amongst members of the group then,” the statement said.
By December 10, 2015, another negotiation process was in order. The renewed talks were hindered by varying demands from the terrorist group which officials did not specify.
The government’s decision to report on negotiations with the terrorist group is intended to quell criticism from family members of the girls and others. Activists had arranged a two-week campaign to protest the government’s failure to keep them and family members abreast about rescue attempts. On Friday, some advocates were reassured by the president’s description of negotiation attempts.
“We welcome the communication, specifically factual communication, and hope this signals a period of continuous feedback. Every day we expect that is the day our Chibok girls will come back. And if they are not back, we expect the government to come out and tell us what they are doing,” Aisha Yesufu, chairwoman of the Bring Back Our Girls Nigerian advocacy group told the New York Times.
Some girls managed to escape shortly after their capture in April 2014, but Amina Ali was the first to be rescued since the early days of the episode. She is now in protective custody in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, government officials confirmed.
Following the statement on Friday, some family members expressed their skepticism towards the government’s descriptions of attempts to rescue their daughters.
“There’s been such promises since Day 1 of the abduction up till today. They have not done anything. If I see my baby back, I hold her arms, we embrace each other, then fine. But for now, I don’t think so,” Esther Yakubu, the mother of one of the kidnapped girls told the New York Times.