According to a news report on CNN, hopes soared recently when the Nigerian government said it had reached a deal with the terrorist group Boko Haram to free more than 200 girls and young women still missing after a mass abduction in April.
But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that the girls will be freed.
In fact, Boko Haram has kidnapped numerous other young people in at least two incidents that have happened since the Nigerian government reported a deal.What’s going on?
Some excerpts from the report:
What was agreed upon in the ceasefire deal?
Nigerian officials said on October 16 that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government had reached a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram after a month of negotiations.But officials provided few details about the release.
Doyinn Okupe, a government spokesman, did not specify when the girls would be freed. He said not all would be let go at once, but a “significant number” would be released soon.
The Nigerian government had also consented to some demands by Boko Haram, but Okupe declined to provide details. Boko Haram has remained silent on the deal the government said it signed with the group in neighboring Chad last week. Nigerian officials have emphasized there is no set time line for release of the girls, which likely would happen on a piecemeal basis instead of all at once.
So is there actually a deal?
David Cook, who studies jihad, wrote on October 18 that he had doubts about a deal going through. “It remains to be seen whether this truce will actually materialize, whether it is merely an election ploy for Nigeria’s embattled President, Goodluck Jonathan, and most crucially whether it will bring about the release of numerous captives taken by Boko Haram during the past year,” he wrote in an analysis for CNN.
“While Boko Haram has suffered some reverses during the recent past, there is no indication that the group has suffered any mortal damage. The most plausible interpretation of the truce is that it is a bought one (probably in tandem with the Cameroonian release of captives), and that Boko Haram is merely using it (assuming that it holds to the truce at all) as a respite in order to regroup.”
In an article written for CNN the day after Nigeria announced the ceasefire, Brookings’ Richard Joseph wrote: “This is a case when we will actually need to see the girls emerging from their six-month confinement before we can truly believe.”
What are the chances of the girls’ safe return?
Jacob Zenn, an expert on Boko Haram with the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based research and analysis firm, said in May that the mass kidnapping may have been part of an effort by Shekau to reinforce the loyalty of largely uneducated recruits by providing them with “free servants or sex slaves.”
“Many will likely end up becoming mothers — it’s a real horror and over the next years we’ll slowly hear the stories of girls few-by-few as they manage to make it out,” Zenn told CNN.
“Boko Haram has likely split up or sold the girls into many small groups,” and they can be used as human shields in the event of an attack, he said.
However, if the ceasefire announcement is real, it would appear the girls are alive, leaving hope for the chance of their return.
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