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Opinion

Opinion: Nigerian leaders have failed Chibok girls

Two years ago, Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok, 219 of them are still missing. In Chibok, parents are angry with the new government. DW’s Adrian Kriesch thinks they are right to feel that way.

They opened old wounds as they met for prayers. Two years after the kidnapping of their children, more than 100 parents met for the first time at the remains of the school, where their daughters were forcefully taken away by Boko Haram Islamists. As they prayed together hoping for their children to come back home, many could not hold back their tears.

"We did not come here today to cry," Yakubu Nkeki, one of the parents leading the group said aloud. "We have come here so that the world finally listens to us and does something." The crowd claps, and looks more serious again – even angry.

Neglected and betrayed

They have good reason to be angry. For two years, they were prmoised help by the government - help that never came - they have simply been left alone.

On the evening of April 14, 2014, Boko Haram attacked a remote school in Chibok, a small, poor village in northeastern Nigeria. The terrorist group abducted hundreds of schoolgirls and escaped with them without any resistance from security forces. Even after the news broke out, the government and the army denied the reports, thereby rejecting the window of opportunity which had been opened in which the entire group of girls could have been rescued.

Three weeks later, the girls appeared in a video where Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the abduction and said the girls were now slaves to the jihadists. His statement was followed by an international outcry under the Twitter handle "#BringBackOurGirls."

The parents wanted to go after their children in Sambisa forest, the heartland of Boko Haram, but the Nigerian army blocked them. The government said it was too dangerous out there. It took former President Goodluck Jonathan three months before he met some of the parents and he promised to rescue the children in three weeks.

Jonathan also said the destroyed schools in the region would be renovated. That was the beginning of an endless cycle of lies and failure.

Jonathan's barrage of misinformation

Top ranks in the Nigerian army twice announced that the girls had been rescued. They also twice declared the death of Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau without providing any proof. This could only mean that the military knew the location of the girls but did nothing to rescue them.

In March 2015, the government of Goodluck Jonathan was voted out. The man under whose leadership the terror group had flourished and claimed thousands of lives, was hailed as a statesman after celebrating a peaceful and democratic transfer of power. This is the same man who thanks to high oil prices during his tenure, had a billion dollar budget at his disposal to fight the terrorists,but most of those funds disappeared into corrupt pockets under his leadership.

Buhari's great promises but small achievements

Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler took over from Jonathan. Buhari was celebrated as a redeemer, especially in the north where Boko Haram was very active. A man with a backbone! A fighter against corruption and terror! This was how many northeastern residents described him in the run up to the elections.

DW West Africa correspondent Adrian Kriesch

Adrian Kriesch is DW West Africa correspondent

Upon assuming office, Buhari announced that Boko Haram would be defeated in six months. This followed several military offensives and the first successes against the militants in years. Buhari obviously takes his job more seriously than his predecessor. But like Jonathan, he too also breaks promises.

Boko Haram is still terrorizing the northern part of the country with continued suicide bombings. At least 1,000 civilians have been killed since Buhari came to power. And there is still no trace of the Chibok schoolgirls. Not a single one of the 219 girls has been found despite international offers to help search for the girls, despite the promises from the Buhari led government.

Of course, no realist can assume that all the girls will return back safe and sound. They will be severely traumatized after this long period in the hands of their brutal captors. But everyone should be optimistic enough to believe that in this technological age, 219 girls cannot simply disappear without any trace.

A new video released by CNN showing 15 of the 219 abducted Chibok girls might be an indication that negotiations are taking place in the background. But it is high time for results, not speculations. One can only hope for the hostage girls and their agonizing parents that Buhari's remaining term in office is more successful than his predecessor's.

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