Nigeria: Mothers weep in agony for lost daughters

2014-06-06 08:44
Mothers of some of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from their school in Chibok in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state. (AFP)

Mothers of some of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from their school in Chibok in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state. (AFP)

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Lagos - Ruth Bitrus wailed uncontrollably and fell to the floor as she recounted the pain of separation from her two daughters, kidnapped nearly two months ago by Boko Haram militants.

"I fasted for 15 days, living only on water," she said, sobbing profusely before rolling on the ground until she was helped up to her seat by a sympathiser.

Bitrus and 20 other women had travelled nine hours on the insurgent-infested roads of north-eastern Borno to the state capital, Maiduguri.

They then caught a plane to Nigeria's financial capital, Lagos, to tell the world of their heart-wrenching stories of loss.

The surroundings could not be more different from their home in the harsh, semi-desert scrubland surrounding Chibok, where electricity is frequently cut, internet is unheard of and locals live in constant fear of militant attacks.

In a plush, carpeted conference room of a luxury hotel, Bitrus recalled how she and her husband had to flee their remote home town in the wake of the mass kidnapping on 14 April, which has grabbed worldwide attention.

Pain and trauma

"Initially, my husband was consoling me when I was crying. But he too started crying when he could no longer bear the pain and trauma. We had to leave Chibok for our village because we could not stand it," she told reporters.

"I have had all sorts of strange ailments since the incident. All we want now is for government and everyone to assist us to find our daughters," she said.

As Bitrus spoke, other mothers looked on while three of the 57 girls who escaped the clutches of the ruthless kidnappers sat under white tablecloths, their faces and bodies covered to protect their identities.

The girls were prevented from speaking to reporters but are understood to have fled their captors from the Sambisa Forest of north-eastern Borno state, which has been the focus of the Nigerian military search for their classmates.

"I was told they have packed [kidnapped] our girls away," added Esther Yakubu, whose 16-year-old daughter, Dorcas, is also among those being held.

"I said it is not true because I believed they would not do anything to girls. But when I got to the school, I saw it burnt down. The hostel, the administrative block, everywhere. There was no sight of our daughters."

International assistance

Yakubu said she had been "in agony and in great pain since April 14" when her daughter was taken away but was at a loss to explain the reason for the abduction.

"I said, 'Lord why?' This school is our hope. This is the only thing we benefit from government. We are begging them to bring back our daughters," she added.

Monica Stover said she ran into the bush after discovering the charred remains of the school and that her daughter was missing.

She welcomed the international assistance from surveillance and intelligence specialists from the United States, Britain, France and Israel to try to find the girls.

"We thank the white men that are assisting us to find the girls," she said, calling the youngsters their "hope and future".

Darkest period in Nigeria

The women and the three girls were brought to Lagos by a group of Nigerian non-governmental organisations and a US-based charity, Unlikely Heroes, which tackles human trafficking.

Ladi Thompson, a spokesperson for the Omoluabi Network, one of the organisers of the event, said the hostage crisis was "a darkest period in Nigeria" and urged concerted efforts to free the girls.

US Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who attended the event, added: "We are asking peace-loving Muslims to speak up against this evil.

"It is a great shame to our Muslim friends who do not believe in this kind of abuse. This evil cannot overwhelm the love these mothers have for their daughters."

Read more on:    boko haram  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  nigeria kidnappings  |  abductions
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