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Africa

HRW: 'Boko Haram might have played on the timing of that video'

Hundreds of Nigerian protestors, angry with the government over its inability to secure the release of Chibok girls kidnapped two years ago, were prevented by police from marching on the presidential palace in Abuja.

The militants abducted 276 school girls from Chibok on April 14, 2014, of which 57 escaped but 219 are still missing.

The protests were staged a day after CNN has released a new video showing some of the missing Chibok girls. Parents of the girls who saw the video have been able to identify some of their children.

In an interview with DW, Mausi Segun, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Nigeria, expressed her doubts about the new video released by Boko Haram.

DW: What was your initial reaction upon seeing this new video supposedly showing some of the missing Chibok girls?

Mausi Segun: This was well planned and highly scripted video shooting by Boko Haram. I think that the 15 girls who are shown in that video were deliberately chosen. There's also a little bit of confusion about the dates. If you watch it and compare it with the first video released by Boko Haram after the girls were abducted – this was in May 2014, it looks pretty similar. The girls look healthy, considering the environment in which we know Boko Haram has been living, that is moving from place to place. How have they been able to keep the girls so healthy? I guess part of it was also relief. At least we know that this number of girls might be alive at this time.

Do you actually doubt whether what we saw was true?

Yes. Boko Haram might have played on the timing of that video. One of the girls in the video mentions December 25 - which means its a couple of months ago. I wish there was anything else that could have indicated the date of the day. I have my doubts about the timing because there's really no way to verify that.

Some of the girls who escaped from Boko Haram have reportedly become mothers or are expecting - more than 200 are still in captivity. What state of mind do you imagine them to be in?

To clarify, none of the Chibok school girls that escaped are pregnant or have children. However, other women or girls who have escaped from Boko Haram, who suffered rape or other forms of sexual abuse in captivity, have been found pregnant. Many of them were forced to convert to Islam because they were Christians. There are also those who were forced to marry their captors, of course, they have suffered rape and other abuses.

There has been a lot of criticism by parents of the girls and BringBackOurGirls activists that the Nigerian government is simply not doing enough to rescue these girls - do you share these sentiments?

I would consider it as a failure that the government is not engaging enough with parents with regular updates on what it is doing. It does appear, for example, with the release of this video that the government has been aware of it but it didn't share it with parents. It also appears that there was a demand for ransom by Boko Haram, which means some form of engagement was going on with Boko Haram by the government. None of this was made known to the parents of the girls.

Watch video 00:44

Chibok girls shown in Boko Haram video

Do you think the government should agree to Boko Haram's previous demand of swapping prisoners for the girls?

It is up to the government to weigh their options. For us one of the key recommendations is that those who commit crimes and human rights abuses must be held accountable. Whatever the terms of agreement would be, it should not include impunity for the crimes that were committed by Boko Haram members.

Who, in your opinion, should bear the responsibility for the girls?

First of all, it is Boko Haram. These girls were not combatants in any way, they were civilians in school. Secondly, the responsibility would be that of the government for failing to secure the school, protect those girls when other schools had been shut and just few schools were open like the Chibok school. There was no reason why there wasn't sufficient protection around the area. There's also the failure of the government to act quickly and pursue the captors of these girls and get them rescued early on. This is the reason we believe Boko Haram has gained the upper hand and that's why they are making this kind of demands.

Mausi Segun is the researcher for Human Rights Watch in Nigeria.

Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu

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