Twenty-one girls released last week by Boko Haram militants have been joined by their parents in Abuja. The government has promised that dozens more will be freed soon.
Tears, joy and dancing erupted in Abuja late on Sunday as the parents of 21 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram were reunited with their daughters. Although the Islamic extremist group released the girls on Thursday, it had taken days for many of the relatives to arrive in the capital from the remote town of Chibok.
"I never expected I will see my daughter again and I pray that those girls still left behind, that God will bring them out safely the way our own daughter came out alive," said the mother of Raha Emmanuel, one of the freed girls, speaking with the Associated Press.
Emmanuel and 275 other schoolgirls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in April 2014. Their kidnappers were militants loyal to the Boko Haram insurgency, which not only seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria but in its very name expresses a staunch disapproval of Western-style education.
Over the following months, dozens of the girls were able to flee their captors. Many who remained were forced to convert to Islam and marry one of the militants.
Abuja: 83 more girls will be free 'very soon'
The release of 21 girls on Thursday marked the first time the government and Boko Haram successfully negotiated for a peaceful release of some of the girls. According to the government, the terrorists are willing to release 83 of the 197 still in captivity "very soon."
"Very soon, another batch, bigger than this would be released," said Information Minister Lai Mohamed, adding that Abuja would not rest until all the girls were back with their families.
At a Christian ceremony for the rescued girls in Abuja, some survivors spoke about their harrowing experiences.
"We had no food for one month and 10 days but we did not die. We thank God," said Gloria Dame, speaking with AFP. The girls are reportedly undergoing medical treatment and trauma counseling in the capital's hospitals.
While all the parents were overjoyed, some expressed their outrage at how their daughter's abduction had been politicized.
"People's children aren't money, people's children are not clothes you wear to campaign, people's children are their pride," father Muta Abana told the Associated Press.
Since beginning its insurgency in 2009, Boko Haram has claimed more than 20,000 lives, with the violence often spilling over into neighboring countries.
es/cmk (AP, AFP)