Schoolgirl Kidnapped by Boko Haram Gets a Hero’s Welcome in Nigeria

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Two years ago, Amina Ali Nkeki was one of the more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram from a boarding school in the rural Nigerian town of Chibok in April 2014. Now, as the first schoolgirl found alive since the night of the violent abduction, she’s being hailed as a "present to the nation," and will meet with president Muhammadu Buhari to celebrate her return and what many Nigerians, and families of the still-missing Chibok girls, see as renewed hope that the girls can finally be brought back.

Hunters apparently found Amina Wednesday holding her 4-month-old baby and wandering in the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, a region in northeastern Nigeria that’s been brutalized by Boko Haram. A man who was believed to be the girl’s husband and the father of the child was also with the girl. He was suspected of being a Boko Haram militant, but it’s now believed he was also seized by the extremists, and the two were married as prisoners.

Amina is the first of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped who’s been discovered. About 270 girls — who were all preparing for exams — were seized by the militants, but dozens escaped that same day. Those who fled in the first hours were the only girls who got away. Little success had been made to track down or rescue the rest of the captives in those two years. It was assumed the girls likely became sex slaves for Boko Haram soldiers, or were employed as suicide bombers for targeted attacks. This May, the militants did release a proof-of-life video apparently showing some of the Chibok girls.

Military officials claimed a bombing in the Sambisa Forsest — a Nigerian military offensive — had created enough chaos to give her a chance to escape, though they’ve bungled the search for the girls so many times official claims are met with skepticism. Nigerian military authorities did question Amina to gather some information. The man accompanying her, also interrogated by military authorities, is apparently still in custody.

This girl reunited with her mom after the rescue, and returned to Chibok, though she lives in a nearby town. Amina reportedly told her mother that six of her schoolmates had died, but the rest remained Boko Haram prisoners. Per the New York Times:

Holding her baby, Ms. Ali talked with residents for about a half-hour, telling them she had been held in a village in the Sambisa Forest along with about 60 other female captives. Some of them were her classmates from Chibok; others were from other communities.

Her uncle described Amina as "traumatized." She was extremely malnourished and likely the victim of sexual assault. Aid workers told the AP the girl was in "desperate need" of reproductive and psychological care. It doesn’t seem as if she will get much time to recover quietly; even before her visit with the Nigerian president this week, she’s now in the care of the governor of Borno State, being treated as a "VIP guest."