By Mark Ellis
The sweet joy of freedom’s air filled 21 Chibok schoolgirls released from captivity in Nigeria. Now delicate negotiations are underway to release 83 more of the 275 Chibok schoolgirls originally kidnapped by Muslim extremists in 2014.
“Praise the Lord! We are thankful,” Helen Musa exclaimed, one of the 21. “We never imagined we would see this day.
“But with the help of God we were able to come out of bondage,” she declared.
More than two years have passed since 275 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their dormitories in Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria. Their disappearance generated headlines around the world and fueled a social-media storm, with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.
Nearly all the kidnapped girls are Christians. During their captivity they lived in grass huts and were forced to convert to Islam. In the beginning their diet consisted of rice and maize. When food became scarce, a few of them died.
Some parents who met with the girls said one of the schoolgirls died of snakebite, one died in childbirth, and four died in a bombing, according to the New York Times.
Videos of the reunion ceremony showed families leaping up and down in celebration, singing songs of praise to Jesus.
“I felt like it was the day that I born her into this world,” said Ruth Markus, the mother of Saratu Markus, one of the freed girls. “I danced and danced and danced.”
It is hoped more of the girls will be released soon. “This is only the first step in what we believe will be total liberation and release of all the remaining girls,” said Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Information Minister.
“Already we are on phase two and we are already in discussions,” he said October 16th. “But of course you know these are very delicate negotiations, there are some promises we made also about the confidentiality of the entire exercise and we intend to keep them.”
A faction of the terror group Boko Haram is willing to negotiate the release of 83 more girls, according to a government spokesperson.
CNN reported that the other 114 girls are either dead, or don’t want to leave their captors because they are married or have been radicalized.
If negotiations to release 83 more are successful, that there will still be 100 girls unaccounted for, according to
World Watch Monitor (WWM).
The government denied there have been any deal made for the girls. But AP reported that four Boko Haram commanders were freed as part of an arrangement, along with a large ransom paid by the Swiss government on behalf of Nigerian authorities.
The released schoolgirls had a joy-filled reunion with their parents on October 16th. Some had travelled for days to reach their daughters.
“We are all very excited that you are here,” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told the girls. “We are all happy that God has preserved your lives and brought you back.”
Pictures released by local media and a government official revealed one of the girls carrying a baby when she met Vice President Osinbajo. Many of the girls looked frail.
The names of the 21 girls released include:
- Mary Usman Bulama
- Jummai John
- Blessing Abana
- Luggwa Sanda
- Comfort Habila
- Maryam Basheer
- Comfort Amos
- Glory Mainta
- Saratu Emmanuel
- Deborah Ja’afaru
- Rahab Ibrahim
- Helen Musa
- Mayamu Lawan
- Rebecca Ibrahim
- Asabe Goni
- Deborah Andrawus
- Agnes Gapani
- Saratu Markus
- Glory Dama
- Pindah Nuhu
- Rebecca Mallam
Video: In Thanksgiving service girls offer praise to God