By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
ABUJA, Sept 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Listening to her young daughter read aloud from a bright yellow diary in their home in Nigeria, Rebecca Samuel struggled to hold back tears. But these were tears of joy, rather than sorrow.
For the first time since 2014 when her firstborn, Sarah, was abducted from Chibok with about 220 other girls - the biggest publicity coup of Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency - Samuel has hope that her daughter is still alive.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation exclusively obtained the diaries last month. Written in captivity by Sarah, now 20, and her Chibok classmate, Naomi Adamu, they document their kidnapping and hardship of life under Boko Haram.
“Before, I had faith in God that she was still alive,” said Samuel - who cannot read or write - as she listened to her 12-year-old daughter, Felicia, narrate the diaries to her family.
“But there is a difference between having faith and seeing things with your two eyes,” said Samuel, sitting in her home in Abuja where they have lived since 2014 when Boko Haram attacks forced them to flee Banki in northeast Nigeria.
The diaries revealed that the kidnapping of the Chibok girls - which sparked an international outcry and a viral campaign on social media with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls - was not planned, but the accidental outcome of a botched robbery.
Naomi was freed in May, in the second of two mass releases of more than 100 girls. But Sarah, who is married to a militant, is thought to be among about 113 girls still held by the group.
According to Naomi, about two years into captivity, food was running out and Sarah succumbed to pressure to marry one of the militants in hope of a better life.
The authenticity of the diaries cannot be verified, nor their intended role as the government negotiates with Boko Haram for more releases.
Sitting with her husband, tears streamed down Samuel’s face as her daughter read aloud from the diaries, one of which had the names of Sarah’s siblings scribbled on the last page.
“She doesn’t know that I have had another baby since she was kidnapped,” said Samuel, clutching photos of her eldest child.
"As I am reading, I feel as if I am together with her," said sister Felicia, as she flicked through the Cinderella-themed notebook, searching for sections in her sister's handwriting. (Reporting By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Editing by Kieran Guilbert, Katy Migiro and Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)