Activists calling for the return of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram on Thursday said they feel “vindicated” by a video showing some of the girls alive, boosting hopes for their release.
The mass abduction from Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state two years ago is still viewed with suspicion by some Nigerians, who allege it was a political ploy to topple the previous government. The governor of southwestern Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, said recently the kidnapping was fake and “that is why you can never find them.” But Chibok parents have since confirmed the 15 girls in the video, clothed in black and standing in two rows in front of a yellow wall, are in fact their missing daughters.
Ayuba Alamson Chibok, who lives in the remote town, told AFP he recognized two of his nieces who were among those captured on April 14, 2014 in the so-called “proof of life” video. “It [the video] has given some hope. Now we can believe these girls are still alive and we pray that they are released soon,” he said by telephone from Chibok. “I was very happy to hear their voice,” he added.
Supporters from the #BringBackOurGirls movement said the footage showed the regular protests had not been in vain. “For us it [the video] is vindication that the abduction happened,” said #BringBackOurGirls member Habiba Balogun in the commercial capital, Lagos. “This is proof that we were right to continue with the advocacy.”
Balogun was marching to the state governor’s office in Lagos with a procession of some 100 #BringBackOurGirls activists wearing red T-shirts and carrying signs saying “we cannot wait any longer.”
“The girls who were there, 15 of them were identified by the parents,” she added. “You can imagine the reaction of the other parents, they were devastated.” One of three women shown the footage by broadcaster CNN broke down after failing to spot her daughter.
A total of 276 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok. Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath. The Nigerian government of former president Goodluck Jonathan was criticized for its slow response to acknowledge the kidnapping and for its inability to find and recover the girls. Jonathan’s successor, Muhammadu Buhari, has devoted more attention to the conflict but has also been unable to find the schoolgirls, despite the military winning back swathes of territory.
Dayo Olabiro, a middle-aged protester said the girls’ return should be a priority. “Our governor, our president, they are forgetting the issues. They have to remember, they have to help us,” he said.