Months of negotiations involving participants across two continents has resulted in a deal in which 82 Chibok schoolgirls – who were seized from their dormitories in April 2014 and held captive for more than three years by the Islamist group Boko Haram – have been released in exchange for five militant leaders.
But joy at their freedom was quickly followed by concern for their privacy and fears that the thousands of other less high-profile prisoners still held captive by the extremists would be forgotten.
The deal was negotiated by Mustapha Zanna, a barrister who is currently the proprietor of an orphanage in Maiduguri, but who was once the lawyer of the late founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. It also involved the Swiss government and the Red Cross.
Picked up in Red Cross vehicles and given the agency’s branded T-shirts to wear, the young women boarded military helicopters and were flown to the capital, Abuja, to meet the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, as anxious families awaited an official list of the names of those released. Information was given out gradually: by mid-afternoon, only 20 names had been published.
Buhari, who has not been seen in public for several weeks because of illness, later flew to London for medical checkups. His departure had been delayed so he could meet the Chibok women, according to his office.
It is unclear what will happen to the 82 young women. 21 others who were released after previous negotiations last year are being kept in Abuja, ostensibly for counselling and have not been allowed to go back and live with their families, who live 500 miles away in Chibok.
This article continues at [UK Guardian] 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed in exchange for five Boko Haram leaders