Boko Haram Releases 82 Of The Kidnapped Girls

May 7, 2017
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And a note, yesterday, on Weekend Edition Saturday, it was implied that WikiLeaks was the first to post the Macron documents. That's incorrect. For its part, WikiLeaks says it's trying to confirm their authenticity. To Nigeria next, where the government says Boko Haram has released 82 of the missing schoolgirls the group seized in a mass abduction three years ago. That kidnapping prompted global indignation and the creation of the high-profile Bring Back Our Girls campaign. NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is monitoring developments from Accra. Good morning.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ofeibea, what more do you know?

QUIST-ARCTON: President Muhammadu Buhari's spokesman has said that the release of these girls happened after mediation by the Swiss government and the International Red Cross. And it was like a prisoner swap, Lulu, because, apparently, Boko Haram detainees have been released. The presidential spokesman did not say how many but indicated that negotiations are continuing as the government has been saying over recent weeks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, we know that Boko Haram initially abducted almost 300 schoolgirls back in 2014. Twenty-one of those girls were released last October. Now we have 80 or so more. What about those who are still missing?

QUIST-ARCTON: That's about 115, all told. And, of course, they're not the only ones. Many, many children, girls, boys, women and men have been abducted by Boko Haram over its eight-year insurgency. But many people say this is hope because the government is talking to the insurgents who no longer hold territory. Lulu, they wanted to create a caliphate. They no longer hold territory, but they are able to strike at will with bombings and suicide attacks mainly using girls. So it's not over. But the fact that the two sides are talking is at least progress.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ofeibea, just briefly, when we've seen some of these girls come back, what condition are they in? What's happened to them?

QUIST-ARCTON: Many of them were pin thin when we saw them released in October. And, of course, Boko Haram's leader of the time boasted and bragged that they would be converted to Islam and married off to his fighters. So some of the girls - some of the young women, as they are now - and they were meant to be the brightest at the school - have brought back babies.

And you must also remember that some have been brainwashed. Apparently, some of these Chibok girls and other abductees do not want to return because they consider these Boko Haram fighters now their husbands. So it's a very difficult situation. And when they come home, sometimes they're shunned by the community who consider them Boko Haram wives and their children rebels.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, thanks so much for being with us.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHILHARMONIE'S "SEA HORSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.