“I was elated to learn this evening that dozens of Chibok girls have been released three years and three weeks after being abducted by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. My joy is bittersweet, however, because once the names of those freed have been announced, many families will experience a crushing disappointment that will be compounded by the uncertainty of whether their girls are even still alive.
“Since this nightmare began on April 14, 2014, 57 of the 276 girls that Boko Haram kidnapped escaped that night. In May 2016, another was found wandering in a forest in May 2016, and last October, 21 Chibok schoolgirls were released as a result of negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, with the aid of the government of Switzerland.
“As the details of this most recent release continue to unfold, we must remain diligent in the fight for the release of the young women still being held by Boko Haram. It is important that Nigerian government officials know that the world is both watching and waiting for their return and I am confident that such pressure helps keep them vigilant.
“On December 14, 2016, legislation that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and I sponsored to combat Boko Haram and address the impact of its insurgency became Public Law 114-266. It directs the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense to jointly develop a five-year strategy to aid the Nigerian government, members of the Multinational Joint Task Force created to combat Boko Haram, and international partners who’ve offered their support to counter the regional threat posed by Boko Haram. The strategy also must address the severe famine, humanitarian and education crises created by Boko Haram.
“The five-year strategy is due on June 12, 2017. It also is the deadline for the director of National Intelligence to assess the willingness and capability of Nigeria and its regional partners to implement the strategies outlined. It is critical that they don’t miss this urgent deadline.
“Today’s news once again underscores why we have to keep pushing and pressing and doing everything we can to ensure that the Chibok schoolgirls are not forgotten—and why we must never stop believing that we will bring back our girls.”