The Red Cross has explained its role in the Boko Haram release of 21 of the over 200 Chibok school girls abducted by the terror group in 2014.
The Red Cross and the Swiss Government mediated in the release of the girls, the Nigerian government said on Thursday.
“The role we played was neutral intermediary. We were not involved in the negotiation,” Elodie Schindler, the spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Africa, told PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday, in an exclusive interview.
“What we usually do is when two parties are negotiating, we don’t get involved. But when they have struck a deal, they can then call us in to mediate.”
Ms. Schindler said when the Nigerian government and Boko Haram reached a deal, they contacted the Red Cross to come in, inspect, and receive the girls.
She said her organisation played no other role beyond that.
The Swiss Embassy is yet to speak on its role in the release of the girls.
The Nigerian government is known to have made fruitless attempts in the past to have Boko Haram release the girls.
The Red Cross was also involved in a 2014 negotiation between the Nigerian government, under President Goodluck Jonathan, and the terror group. A former information minister and Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark, led the government team to the negotiation said to have been bungled at the last hour by the government‘s exuberant display of enthusiasm and excessive show of force.
On Thursday, the federal government said the release of the 21 girls did not involve any swap.
“Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides,” the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told journalists in Abuja, Thursday.
Just two months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed his administration’s willingness to swap detained Boko Haram fighters with the abducted Chibok girls.
Thursday’s release elicited reactions worldwide with observers urging the Buhari administration to seize the momentum and negotiate the release of the remaining girls.
“This wonderful development confirms what we have always known about the capacity of our government to rescue our #ChibokGirls. We further urge the international community to continue to support our government’s effort to rescue all other abducted Nigerians, so that parents, the Chibok community, the nation, and the world can finally put an end to this nightmare once and for all,” the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign said in its reaction to the release.