82 of Nigeria’s Chibok schoolgirls are free thanks to a prisoner swap between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. The release is the biggest since the armed group swarmed a school in northern Nigeria in April 2014, kidnapping 276 girls.
But the ordeal is not over for the freed girls and their families, according to Peter Joseph, the uncle of one of the 21 schoolgirls released by Boko Haram in October 2016.
More than six months later, his niece, Sarah, is still in a government rehabilitation camp where the girls rarely see their families. “We were very happy to learn of the news that she was released,” he told The Stream. “But we are not very much impressed with the way the government is handling the whole rehabilitation process.”
Since her release, he’s only seen his niece once, when he traveled to Chibok last December. Even then, he says there were set time limits on visits, and many topics – like her experience as a prisoner – were off limits. He calls her often, but says she is only allowed to talk for two-three minutes before being cut off. He says his niece has told him that “only females can sneak in to see them sometimes but males are not allowed into the compound.”
“Nobody is allowed to see them,” he says. “So it’s like another imprisonment, but this one has to do with the government.”
Peter’s sister Elizabeth is still being held by Boko Haram.
The Stream also discussed the dangers of isolation; what rehabilitation means in this situation; and whether the ‘Chibok girls’ have become too famous to ever truly be free.