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Africa

Opinion: Chibok girl rescued - many unanswered questions

More than two years after more than 270 girls were kidnapped in Chibok in northern Nigeria, one has reappeared. This is certainly reason to rejoice but there are also questions to be asked, says Thomas Mösch.

At long last the day has come for which many people in Nigeria and the whole world had been waiting. At last one of the girls kidnapped in April 2014 in Chibok has reappeared. Above all, this is cause for joy for her relatives: their waiting and their prayers were not in vain. Supporters of the abducted girls' families, especially the Bring Back Our Girls group, can also be happy as they had constantly worked to make sure the girls were not forgotten. The pictures of the first young woman rescued also raise hope, since she is reported to have said that most of her fellow captives were still alive.

But the images from northeastern Nigeria also confirm the fears of the last two years: that young woman emerged from the forest with a baby in her arms, accompanied by a man she described as her husband and whom the military suspect is a Boko Haram terrorist. Soon after the mass abduction, experts had predicted that the girls could be married off to members of the terror organization or 'sold' elsewhere in Nigeria. The sect's leader Abubakar Shekau had said as much in a video message and other young women kidnapped by Boko Haram and who later escaped told similar stories.

Now, in addition to the joy and hope, there are also many questions. Members of local vigilante groups and the military are all hailing the rescue as their own success. They all claim credit for finding the man, woman and child on the outskirts of the infamous Sambisa Forest.

Thomas Mösch

Thomas Mösch is the head of DW's Hausa service

Media reports say the man led the woman, together with the child, away from a Boko Haram camp where they were facing death from starvation. Meanwhile, the terror group is said to have the more than 200 "Chibok girls" still under its control.

But if Boko Haram is able to keep such a large group of kidnapped women together, how come one of them was able to escape after such a long time? What should we make of the explanation repeated many times by experts and military that the girls had been split up and that was why it was so difficult to find them?

Are the internationally famous Chibok girls perhaps the last bargaining chip held by the terrorists, because they know the military cannot risk an attack during which the girls could die? In recent weeks, it has been heard repeatedly, also from sources close to President Buhari, that talks were under way to get the girls freed. A recent video showing some of the girls appeared to back up this theory. It was said that the video had been sent to government negotiators to prove the girls were still alive.

Questions should also be asked about the way in which the military and politicians are celebrating the discovery of these young girls as a victory. Even the official reports make it clear that this was in no way a military or political success but rather a stroke of luck. In view of the further 217 Chibok girls whose fates remains unknown – and thousands more who are not mentioned so often – a restrained response would be more appropriate. Boko Haram has been considerably weakened and pushed back into some inhospitable regions but the group remains dangerous. Boko Haram members kill people almost every day.

Public opinion should not let pictures of the first rescued girl being reunited with her mother and other relatives distract attention from the fact that thousands of men, women and children freed from the clutches of Boko Haram are now vegetating in military camps, where they are questioned about their own possible involvement in terror activities. Just last week, Amnesty International put the spotlight on conditions in a military detention center close to Maiduguri. 1,200 people are believed to be incarcerated there, 150 are said to have died this year alone. The pictures of the celebrations for the young girl from Chibok should not let us forget that Nigeria's military and government still have a lot of questions to answer before the Boko Haram chapter can be closed.

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