Five years after being kidnapped by Boko Haram militia in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, 112 high school girls are still missing.
Aisha Musa Maina digs through an old, ruined classroom briefcase for some memories of her daughter Hauwa, a schoolgirl from Chibok, a town in northeastern Nigeria, abducted just five years ago by Boko Haram’s jihadists.
All that’s left is old paper gnawed by moisture and dust, his passing high school diploma, and a small photo ID. The girl, aged at the time of 12 or 13 years, wears a beautiful white dress and a pristine scarf.
“We have been suffering since the abduction of Hauwa,” says his mother. “The kidnapping of Hauwa really hurt us, and it’s like we were all kidnapped together. ”
On April 14, 2014, gunmen stormed the Chibok High School girls’ boarding school , during the baccalaureate exam week, forcing 276 students, aged 12 to 17, to climb onto front-end trucks. to go into the bush.
Fifty-seven hostages managed to escape by jumping vehicles and returning home. The fight for their release moved the world and became an election issue for Muhammadu Buhari, elected president a year later on the promise to return them to their families.
A total of 107 of them were released after negotiations with the group, including in exchange for prisoners, or escaped and were found by the army.
To keep hope
Hauwa is one of 112 girls whose families and authorities are still without news. Were some killed in bombing of the Nigerian army, as the jihadist group claimed?
Have others died of disease or hunger as a result of a strategy by the Nigerian army that has long tried to suffocate the group by blocking all its supply resources?
Have they been converted to the radical beliefs of the jihadist group? In a propaganda video broadcast by Boko Haram in January 2018, fourteen women claiming to be “daughters of Chibok”, three of whom held infants in their arms, warned their families that they would not “come home.”
They thanked the leader of the jihadist group, “” our “father, Abubakar Shekau, who married us”.
Hauwa’s father, Musa Maina, does not know anything about it. News is scarce in this remote little town where the literacy rate is very low. He ensures “do not lose hope”.
“We have heard that some parents have found their daughters, but ours has not come home yet. We are asking the government to put more effort into bringing back our girls and bringing us together. ”
In the rest of the country, time seems to have diluted the hopes of finding young women. On the big Falomo roundabout, in the center of the economic capital of Lagos, drivers no longer pay attention to their portraits hung along safety gates.
More than a thousand abducted children
The slogan “Bring Back Our Girls”, relayed at the time to the White House by Michelle Obama, is shared only by a handful of diehards, suffocated by other tragedies, in this country of 190 million inhabitants, plagued by crime and conflict.
Boko Haram has also strengthened in the last twelve months, after being weakened during the first years of Buhari’s presidency (re-elected for a second term in February). One of its factions, affiliated with the Islamic State group ISWAP, has mounted deadly attacks on military bases, killing several hundred Nigerian soldiers.
Last year, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping , Unicef also recalled that more than 1,000 children had been abducted since 2013 by jihadists.
In 2016, Human Rights Watch even put the number of 10,000 boys, “sometimes even five,” in the hands of the group. Part of these anonymous were probably released, as the Nigerian army progressed into the territory held by Boko Haram.
But like all the inhabitants of the north-east of the “liberated” areas, the children were sent to closed “de-radicalization” centers and then to IDP camps, where sanitary and food conditions are disastrous.
After nearly a decade of conflict, the Boko Haram insurgency has claimed 27,000 lives in Nigeria, where nearly 2 million people still can not return to their homes. It has also spilled over into neighboring countries: Niger, Chad, Cameroon.