Yesterday, May 18, 2016, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) and several House lawmakers hosted a press conference in response to the breaking news that one of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls had been rescued more than two years after they were abducted from their dormitory rooms by the world’s deadliest terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Amina Ali Nkeki. 19, was discovered by members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, a vigilante group created to help fight Boko Haram. She was spotted while gathering firewood and was carrying a baby reported to be just a few months old. After a short reunion with family members, who confirmed her identity, Amina is now being debriefed by Nigerian government officials.
“This is an extremely critical development and the best possible confirmation of why it has been so important for us to fight for the safe return of these girls week after week while much of the world wondered why bother and had given up hope,” said Rep. Wilson, who noted that this extraordinary turn of events had taken place on Wear Something Red Wednesday, the day on which lawmakers commemorate the missing girls each week that Congress is in session.
The Florida lawmaker called for swift action by the United States and other members of the international community that have pledged support to help Nigeria rescue the girls and defeat Boko Haram.
“Time is of the essence,” Rep. Wilson warned. “We must assume that with the rescue of this one girl, Boko Haram will very likely try to move the girls even deeper into the forest. They may also try to separate them into groups, which will make it more challenging to find them. It is critically vital that we zero in on their location as quickly as humanly possible.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, commended Rep. Wilson’s dogged determination to keep lawmakers engaged in this issue. Without that level of support, she said, it might be easy to dismiss Boko Haram as just one of many terrorist groups doing harm.
“This is a day of mixed emotions. It’s a day to celebrate because of the return of one of the girls and the possibility of getting information and how the girls are being treated. Will this bring us closer to finding them?” said Rep. Bass. “But it’s also a day for us to remember that it was one girl that returned, and there are still over 200 girls being held captive. I want to make sure we continue this campaign until every single is girl is returned.”
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, noted the difference in how the world has responded to the abduction of the Chibok girls and the havoc that Boko Haram has wreaked in Nigeria and border nations compared to its response to terrorist acts in Paris and other parts of the world.
“The United States must keep demanding answers and continue the fight to rescue the girls and defeat Boko Haram,” said Rep. Payne.
“It has been two years, and we must continue to fight for the return of the girls just as strongly as we started. We must continue to fight for the freedoms of the least among us, whether those for whom we fight are out of sight, such as the kidnapped teenage girls from the Chibok boarding school or educated medical doctors fleeing violent extremism in Syria,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). “The bottom line is our obligations in the human family must revolve around and be grounded in our conviction and commitment to the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and the freedom from fear or terrorism, among others.”
Today [Rep. Wilson’s] relentless advocacy has borne fruit and one little lost lamb has found her way back home. I thought that it was very poignant that she said to her mother, ‘I thought I’d never see you again. Wipe your tears. God has made it possible for us to see each other again,’” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). “It unfortunately deepens the poignancy of the lost six that help will never be able to come in time for. I hope this will give some leverage and insight on how to find the others. In some ways that’s one of the greatest celebrations we have today. Perhaps this will reignite a commitment on all our parts to find the rest of the girls.”
“Today, the news of first missing Chibok girl found after more than two years gives us hope for finding every single girl who remains missing. As a father, I cannot imagine the grief that their parents have to endure. We must not give up on bringing back our girls,” said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). “I am proud to have joined the efforts championed by Congresswoman Wilson, who has been working tirelessly to ensure the girls are not forgotten. She has proven the power of many, through simple acts of wearing red on Wednesdays and using hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. We must not stop until they all return home safely.”
“The girls disappeared from their school, but not from our hearts. They are all our daughters,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.).
“It’s been two years since Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 Chibok girls. I stand in solidarity with Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and all her work in bringing back our girls,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio). “This is a movement.”