22 July 2014

Nigeria: President Jonathan Meets Boko Haram Victims

Photo: Premium Times
President Jonathan interacting with mothers of abducted Chibok girls at State House.

Nigeria's president has met with parents of kidnapped schoolgirls and their classmates who managed to escape their captors. On April 14, 276 girls aged 12 to 17 were seized in Chibok, a remote corner of Borno state.

On Monday, for the first time in person, Goodluck Jonathan assured families that he will see that the kidnapped girls "are brought out alive," presidential spokesman Reuben Abati told reporters. Some of the escaped girls described their escapes to Jonathan, who gave assurances that neither their education nor that of their still-captive classmates would suffer in any way, Abati said.

Since the abductions on April 14, parents of the kidnapped girls had asked to meet with Jonathan. On July 15, he finally agreed to the request after meeting with the Pakistani girls-education activist Malala Yousafzai, who had spoken with the families earlier in the month.

When Jonathan met the 177-strong delegation on Tuesday, he brought along Nigeria's ministers of education and finance and his national security adviser, as well as Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima, who accuses the president of not doing enough to rescue the girls. The governor has also said that fighters for Boko Haram - the organization that has claimed responsibility for the girls' kidnappings - are better armed and more motivated than Nigeria's military.

Since spring, the international campaign BringBackOurGirls# has held regular rallies in Abuja, Nigeria's capital. Jonathan has said that activists from #BringBackOurGirls have politicized the abductions.

Officials from Nigeria's Defense Ministry have said they know where Boko Haram is holding the girls but that they fear any military campaign could get them killed. Some of the parents and community leaders of Chibok have made public statements urging Jonathan to negotiate with the girls' captors. Boko Haram has demanded a swap for detained fighters, but so far Jonathan has refused.

At least 11 of the parents have died since the kidnappings - seven in a village attack this month and four of heart attacks and other illnesses that Chibok residents blame on trauma.

mkg/pfd (AFP, AP)

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