In a recently released video, a man who says he is the leader of extremist group Boko Haram denied a claim that successful ceasefire talks had taken place between the group and Nigerian officials laying out a plan for the return of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in April. Now, their families are still waiting.
Nigerian officials had announced the ceasefire would lead to the release of the girls, but in the video a man named Abubakar Shekau claims the Nigerian government had negotiated with a man who does not represent Boko Haram. Nigeria will hold general elections in three months, a fact that some believe is leading the government to handle the situation with Boko Haram poorly. Others point out that Boko Haram is not always a unified group, and that one faction may agree to a ceasefire while another may not.
“[Boko Haram] has split into many factions with varying aims, to the point that some believe it is too fragmented to present a common front for dialogue,” wrote International Crisis Group in a report released earlier this year.
Instead of releasing the schoolgirls, Boko Haram has continued its attempt to takeover Nigeria’s northeastern region. According to residents in Mubi, the town has been renamed by Boko Haram from Mubi to “Madinatul Islam,” which translates to “City of Islam.” Thousands have fled the towns taken over by Boko Haram and have taken refuge nearby.
International activists and human rights organizations have pressured Nigerian officials to concentrate on the release of the schoolgirls during ceasefire talks, but Boko Haram has been unwilling to negotiate every step of the way. Directly after Nigerian officials seemed certain a truce had been agreed upon, Boko Haram reportedly kidnapped more girls and women. Veteran diplomat Bolaji Akinyemi told BBC News that peaceful negotiation may no longer be a reasonable solution.
“The government needs to stop sending mixed signals about the possibilities and now consider that maybe the solution is a military one,” Akinyemi said. “Unfortunately we have to accept that the loss of lives is inevitable and maybe we need to prepare ourselves for that.”
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign, which looks to rescue the kidnapped Nigerian girls and to quell the insurgency in the country, points out that the Nigerian government has been inconsistent – or flat-out wrong – about the narrative of rescuing the kidnapped schoolgirls; whether this is purposeful misinformation or a result of confusion in talks with Boko Haram’s factions is unknown.
Families of the kidnapped schoolgirls remain hopeful for the return of the girls, but are justifiably skeptical of any announcements of their release. Despite some analysts suggesting efforts should be concentrated on restoring stability in Nigeria instead of on rescuing the girls, #BringBackOurGirls insists the international community should not give up on bringing the girls back home.
“…We DEMAND the immediate rescue of our 219 Chibok Girls,” wrote the campaign in a statement on November 1. “We cannot but remind our Federal Government that time is running out and that these endangered daughters of our nation have been in travail for too long.”
Media resources: CNN 11/7/2014; AFP 11/7/2014; BBC News 11/5/2014, 11/3/2014; #BringBackOurGirls 11/3/2014, 10/31/2014; Feminist Newswire 10/23/2014, 5/5/2014; International Crisis Group 4/3/2014