It has been three years since the abduction of the more than 200 students from their secondary school in Chibok in 2014 by the dreaded Boko Haram sect and while 21 of them have been returned, the whereabouts of 100 still remain unknown.
While the Chibok girls epitomise the Boko Haram crises, many more girls have suffered similar and perhaps more damaging fate in the hands of terrorists. The sad story of young Yagana is one of them as reported by UNICEF.
Yagana lived in Cameroon with her father where she was attending school like every other normal girl of her age. One day, she decided to go with her father to the border town of Banki to see her mother. The visit would change her life and destroy her childhood forever.
Two days into her visit, Yagana’s mother went to the market where she sold leaving her daughter with her neighbours children. That day, Boko Haram terrorists attacked taking the frightened children away.
They were all rounded up and taken to the forest and for Yagana who had lived in Cameroon; she didn’t know where they were being taken.
She said: “Boko Haram came, following us house to house- they said the army has come and they are burning the town so we must follow them. We could only see their eyes- their faces were covered … I come from Cameroon so I did not know where they took us.”
All the girls were all taken into a house where from there they began Koranic lessons. For Yagana, this was the beginning of more things to come as a few weeks later; she was informed she would be married.
“When they attacked us with violence we rejected it. We made an attempt to run away but they caught us with guns so we stayed with them. Later they convinced us to marry them.”
Then the violence started. Yagana was repeatedly beaten and sexually abused by her ‘husband’. She was forced to care and cook for her captor although she didn’t give up trying to escape captivity. Each time she tried, she was apprehended and returned to her captor.
Her story changed one day when military planes suddenly surprised the group and they were forced to flee. Yagana refused to follow her captors and was abandoned in the forest. She was tired, sick and hungry but clung to the faint hope of reuniting with her parents.
When the soldiers finally found her, she could not move and had to be carried to a village where other rescued girls were also kept. After some time, they were taken to a camp where Yagana finally got medical treatment.
Life is now relatively safer for Yagana in the camp but the Boko Haram attack in her mother’s village and the subsequent experience has left an indelible mark in her heart. She says she yearns to return to Cameroon and be reunited with her father.
“I always think about my parents but all I have had done to me I consider an act of God. I have forgiven the men who hurt me.”
The Boko Haram insurgency has displaced thousands of families with many living in IDP camps while the army tries to put a lasting solution to the problem. While relative success has been achieved in displacing the terrorists from their stronghold in Sambisa forest, pockets of violence are still being recorded.
Members of the BringBackOurGirls group has been at the forefront of pressuring the government to continue working towards the release of the rest of the abducted Chibok girls. While President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his promise to see to the release of the rest of the girls, for some, hope is fast fading away but the BBOG group remains resolute.