(GIN) – Weeping, sobbing, embracing, singing – the abducted girls from Chibok, Nigeria, were finally reunited with their mothers, fathers, and other relatives after three years in Boko Haram captivity.
The girls were freed from captivity on May 7 after negotiations between the Nigerian government and the extremist group and a swap of 82 girls for five Boko Haram leaders. But iIt took two weeks to organize the reunion in the capital city Abuja – the government has been keeping the students for psychological assessment, military debriefing, medical check-ups and for remedial classes to catch up on three years of lost education.
Despite Boko Haram’s abusive record and history of human rights violations, Bulama Jona, father of one of the freed girls, told Ofeibea Quist-Arcton of National Public Radio that forgiveness is the best way for families to overcome their trauma. “Three years [in captivity] is not three days — how she thinks and how she talks is different,” he said.
“I thank Boko Haram for releasing our Chibok girl,” he continued. “We forgive them for what they have done to us. .. Now we are pleading with Boko Haram, let them release those people who are still with them.”
Most of the girls abducted from the boarding school in Chibok were Christians but were forcibly converted to Islam by their captors
With the appearance of young girls as suicide bombers, there are fears for the lives of Boko Haram’s many kidnapped children, totaling by some accounts in the thousands.
Meanwhile, a dispute has broken out between government officials over the girl students’ release with Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state calling it a diversionary tactic to turn attention away from the health status of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The 72 year old President returned to London on May 7, shortly after greeting the freed girls, for a second health check-up , delegating responsibility to the Vice President. An earlier check up, scheduled for 10 days, had stretched to two months.
Buhari’s aides have repeatedly played down the severity of his illness, even though he missed three consecutive cabinet meetings, Friday prayers and his grandson’s wedding.
Aides asserted that he was “hale and hearty” but the language since has changed.
Buhari himself admitted in early March that he had “never been so ill” and has had blood transfusions.