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Proof of Life for Some Chibok Girls; Ukraine Struggles to Move Forward; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 13, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hello, everyone. Tonight on the program, almost two years ago, 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by

Boko Haram. For many, no word of their fate, not until now.

We bring you a new video obtained exclusively by CNN, a proof of life for some of those missing girls.

Also ahead: the forgotten crisis of Eastern Ukraine, where a truce is failing and the prime minister has quit.


HOLMES: Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour tonight.

Proof of life: video obtained exclusively by CNN that shows at least some of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in Northern Nigeria exactly two

years ago were alive as recently as December.

Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped; except for a handful who have escaped, they are all still missing. That report in a moment and my interview with

a Nigerian senator, who says that video is credible.


HOLMES (voice-over): Now this comes as UNICEF says one in every five suicide bombers in Nigeria and Cameroon is now a child. And it's on the

rise as well; in 2014, there were only four cases of child suicide bombers. Last year, it was 44.


HOLMES: Those children, by definition, forced to carry out such atrocities. Now President Muhammadu Buhari has made military strides

against Boko Haram. He was confident enough in December, in fact, to say Boko Haram is no longer able to attack urban centers.


MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: They are no longer capable of doing that effectively. So I think that, technically, we have won the war.


HOLMES: CNN's Nima Elbagir, producer Stephanie Buhari and photojournalist Sebastian Oakes are in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, from where they filed

this exclusive report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lined up against a yellow wall, 15 girls. Only their faces showing. An off-camera voice asks each

girl, what's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Is that the name your parents recognize?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): "Where were you taken from?" the voice asks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Chibok School and the date, they say, is the 25th of December 2015. This video was obtained by CNN from a person close to the

negotiations to get these girls released.

For the parents, it's finally a glimmer of hope these girls are still alive.

Two years ago, we met Mary Ashia (ph), Atascata Ayuba (ph) and Yala Galang (ph) on our visit to Chibok after the abduction of their daughters and more

than 200 other girls. We ask them if they recognize any of the girls in the video.

They lean closer. Another girl is identified, Hawa (ph). One by one, they name all 15 girls.

But one mother, Yala (ph), realizes her daughter isn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The off-camera voice asking the questions is familiar to CNN as that of Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zinara (ph). A source

close to the negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government said the video was provided by the terror group as an asked-for show of

good faith.

Nigeria's information minister told CNN they have received the video but are still reviewing it.

LAI MOHAMMED, NIGERIAN INFORMATION MINISTER: If you study the video, you follow the questions that are asked in a rather very controlled

environment. (INAUDIBLE) a bit concerned, too, that, after two years in captivity, the girls in the video, who are under no stress whatsoever,

there has been little transformation to their physical appearance.

ELBAGIR: Is your government negotiating with Boko Haram for the release of these girls?

MOHAMMED: Well, there are ongoing talks.


MOHAMMED: We cannot ignore offers; we can't ignore leads. But of course, many of these investigations are, you know, are not be disclosed, you know,

openly, because it could also endanger, you know, the negotiations.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): We took the video to a classmate of the Chibok girls. She'd been at home with family the day the other girls were

kidnapped. For her safety, we're not showing her face and not using her name. She told us there's no doubt these are some of her kidnapped


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): These two were prefects. Watching the video, I'm reminded of how we used to play together, how we

used to do chores, do our homework.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): She says seeing her friends again will likely give her nightmares.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Sometimes still, if I hear news about them, I have bad dreams and I wake up crying.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The video ends with a girl addressing the camera with a message to the Nigerian government.

"We are all well," she says, pointedly, perhaps suggesting girls not seen in this video. She then delivers what sounds like a scripted plea, urging

the Nigerian government to fulfill unspecified promises.

For the mothers of these girls, rapidly becoming women far from home, the video is overwhelming. They say they just want someone to bring their

daughters home -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Nautili, Nigeria.


HOLMES: Powerful reporting there. Well, Shehu Sani is a senator from the north of Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based and he has been involved in

repeated efforts to negotiate with the extremist group. He joined me a short time ago from the capital, Abuja.


HOLMES: Senator Shehu Sani, thanks for being on the program. This proof of life video is clearly significant when it comes to negotiations to get

the girls back and in fact, suggests that negotiations are, indeed, ongoing.

What do you know of the state of the talks, reports of demands for money and so on?

SHEHU SANI, NIGERIAN SENATOR: Well, first of all, I will say that this video is credible. And it affirms the very fact that the girls are alive

and there is hope that they will get back home some day.

It also sends a clear message that those who were thinking -- and there was no abduction, that there was an actually abduction that happened two years


Negotiation at this stage has been frozen. The military complaint is emphasized by the government. And I believe that there is a need to

explore the options of negotiation to ensure that the girls are brought back home alive.

HOLMES: And, obviously, the girls are valuable to Boko Haram.

The question is going to be, what would the group want in return?

Would it be money?

Would it be the release of perhaps captured leaders?

And would the government be willing to pay the price?

SANI: Well, in the last three to four credible negotiations with the group, on the issue of the girls, they were emphasizing on the need to

release their members that have been in detention for years. And the issue of ransom came very late.

What is most important is to get these girls out. There are three ways to which we can get them out. One is to negotiate and, secondly, is to use

force. But the use of force comes with implications and the consequences.

And thirdly is to use force and continue to open the door of negotiation, which I believe the third option is what is very much needed. We need to

continue to use force, to show it clearly to the (INAUDIBLE) that they can win militarily and also to open a door for negotiation, which will make it

possible for these girls to be brought back home alive.

HOLMES: You are, yourself, a former negotiator.

I'm curious, when it comes to a group like Boko Haram, how do you know who you're negotiating with?

Whether it's a group or a leader who can actually deliver what they might be promising because, in some cases, it's been shown that negotiations are

with people who can't deliver.

SANI: Well, what has always been the problems in the last few months or years has been the very fact that the ask comes. Negotiators most times

come in and make claims and don't deliver. And I think this is what we should be very careful at this very time.


SANI: But the very fact that we can get such a credible video from some sources shows that those very sources, elements that need to be used, to be

utilized, to be able to achieve the goal of getting these girls out.

We should understand very clearly that negotiations have taken place in a number of countries. There were negotiations between the Israeli

government and Hamas, which elected the release of some Israeli soldiers, the same thing with the Taliban and Americans, broke up by Qatar.

And I believe that Nigeria should take this opportunity. The last government fell into the hands of many scammers but I believe that, with

such a credible video -- and there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel that these girls are alive -- and that very source that provided

this video shall be used to get these girls out.

HOLMES: When we last spoke to you, it was a year ago or so. You said that you hoped that Muhammadu Buhari's presidency coming after Goodluck

Jonathan, you hoped that his new presidency would usher in a fresh beginning in terms of trying to get the girls out.

They're not out.

So has the administration failed in some respect?

It says it has technically defeated Boko Haram. And yet, here we are, talking about hundreds of abducted girls.

SANI: When President Muhammadu Buhari took over -- and that is when we came to the office as parliamentarians -- a section of our country was

taken over by the insurgent group. They hoisted their flags and even unleashing their version of theocratic Islamic rule.

But now, with funding for the military -- and the morale is high and support by the government to the army -- they have been able to push them

back and most of the cities in the north is safe.

Buhari has not been able to achieve 100 percent success but he has made serious progress. But I believe that he can still achieve more, with the

very fact that now they know clearly they cannot win militarily and the only option is to look for other ways.

And there is no doubt, what I've done for them to agree to negotiate on the release of these girls.

HOLMES: You know, everybody's been focused on them. And that's a good thing, in a way, to have this whole issue at the forefront of people's


But they are just emblematic, aren't they?

There are hundreds and hundreds of others who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram. I think, in one incident last year, they abducted 400 people,

including 300 elementary school students. This was in a town in the northeast. So this is a massive problem.

It's not just about the Chibok girls, right?

SANI: Well, the complaint for the release of these Chibok girls is very much (INAUDIBLE). It keeps the issue on the spotlight and also keep people

in the position of power on their feet.

Without that very complaint, the issue of Chibok will easily have been (INAUDIBLE), so the agitation for the release of the girls comes to

symbolize the civil resistance against the insurgency.

And I believe what is very much need is for the campaign to continue. The government has been pressurized to continue to maintain an action because

they know very well that there is a group outside that is consistently and continuously sensitizing and mobilizing the people to keep watch and keep

government on its toes.

HOLMES: Senator Shehu Sani, vice chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I want to thank you so much for joining us on the program.

SANI: You're welcome, Mr. Holmes.


HOLMES: In Abuja, they're remembering this dark anniversary with vibrant color, tying up red ribbons in locations across the Nigerian capital,

paving the way for a walkathon dedicated to the 219 girls still missing.

Coming up here on the program, Ukraine struggles to move forward. And as political divisions become a chasm, we shine the spotlight back on the

country that is fighting for its very survival. That's coming up next.





HOLMES: And welcome back to the program.

Political disarray continues in Ukraine, as the main parties try to form a new government following the prime minister's resignation on Sunday,

destabilizing an already unstable economy and also exacerbating a two-year war without end in the country's east.

The cease-fire signed last year has dramatically reduced the violence but it hasn't stopped it; far from it. On the humanitarian front, Ukraine, the

only country in Europe that requires food assistance from the United Nations, who say 300,000 people are in desperate need.

Joining me now to talk more about all of this is a man who knows the country better than many, as former spokesman for the OSC, Michael

Bociurkiw spent a lot of time in Ukraine, monitoring the ongoing truce. He joins me now live from Washington.

And good to see you, Michael. In many ways, the forgotten war as we said and we will get to the battlefield in a moment but this political battle

underway and the risk of what would be a dangerous vacuum at a very delicate time following the resignation of the prime minister.

How do you see the state of the political landscape and what's at risk?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, FORMER SPOKESMAN, OSC: Michael, the last thing Ukraine needs right now is this political vacuum. There should have been a new

prime minister in place a couple of days ago.

As I understand it, as we speak, actually, there is still horse trading going on behind the scenes. But the latest reports are that the new

cabinet will be, number one, completely a Poroshenko slate.

And don't forget, it's meant to be a coalition government.

And then also, secondly -- this is quite shocking, actually -- is that probably none of the foreign technocrats who are brought in, including the

very highly regarded U.S. foreign finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, they will not be part of this cabinet.

And there was a good reason why they were brought in and that is to provide, you know, foreign expertise to a government that desperately

needed it.

So hopefully, having said that, hopefully the new cabinet will be in place by tomorrow because, if not, there are also threats circulating that snap

elections may be demanded by coalition partners.

HOLMES: Yes. I was going to ask you about that, snap elections, if they were called for, how might they play into the dynamic?

Those who were in the Maidan two years ago, those who helped bring down the government, protested and shed their blood, what do they want?

BOCIURKIW: Well, this is it, Michael. When you walk the streets of Central Kiev, you still see bullet holes in the lampposts and the

buildings. This signifies people who died.

And for what?

So it's very, very important that this government get back on track, you know, promise the reforms that were made by Poroshenko himself.

If there were an election, of course, it's very costly, number one. And number two, it's very disruptive, especially, you know, for a country that

is at war.

But having said that, at the end of the day, of course, it's better to have one's discontent voiced at the ballot box rather than by bullets.

The reason I say that, Michael, in the many trips we've taken throughout Ukraine over the past two years, many people have said, if we have to

gather at Maidan again, it will be a violent Maidan. So of course everyone hopes for a smoother transition.

HOLMES: And nobody wants that again.

You mentioned President Petro Poroshenko, he's facing his own issues, one of his companies surfacing in the so-called Panama Papers.

What scrutiny is he under as creditors and, as you pointed out, Western politicians apply more pressure for real reform?

BOCIURKIW: Yes, President Poroshenko did appear in the Panama Papers. I'm sure it was very unwelcome and very uncomfortable for him; however it did

play out and it continues to play out in the --


BOCIURKIW: -- Ukrainian media. What he did, forming an offshore trust for his chocolate company, by the way, one of the biggest in Europe, probably

nothing illegal there.

But it was the terrible calculation involved here, the symbolism that, you know, I'm perhaps now -- he's perhaps now seen as part of the Davos elite,

who, you know, stores money away rather than someone who stood on that stage in Maidan and promised people that I'm going to do away with tax

cheating. I'm going to do away with oligarchs who rob the national treasury of revenue.

It's very, very bad timing, poor political judgment all the way.

HOLMES: Let's move on to the battlefield now, the cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk in, what, more than a year ago now, reducing the violence

but far from ending it.

How much of an uptick has there been of late?

And how serious?

BOCIURKIW: Well, Michael, since the beginning of April, it's gotten to very, very critical stages. There's been a big escalation going on.

Earlier in the month, there was one week where the OSC recorded the most number of explosions in one week ever. And that included a 30-minute

period, where there were about 10 explosions per minute. That's a lot.

On top of that, Michael, heavy weaponry has returned. And we're talking also about multiple rocket launch systems, which are very, very damaging.

And also, I know we've talked in the past about Grad missiles, basically, stupid weaponry which are not guided but typically land in residential

neighborhoods and cause a lot of damage.

Also, over the past few days, very worrisome, the OSC's special monitoring mission to Ukraine has been targeted by live fire. No one really knows the

end game right now of the rebel side. But the fact that more heavier weaponry is put back into place and being used is very worrisome.

HOLMES: Indeed, it is. And, Michael, all of this points to a failure of diplomacy, surely, especially when such violations bring pretty much no

repercussions for the violator.

BOCIURKIW: You know, Michael, the thing that one sees right now is the rebel side being able to resupply itself without interruption. Clearly,

you know, this heavy weaponry is not coming from the local hardware store. It's coming from somewhere.

And on top of that, Michael, what we're seeing also is new faces in the rebel side. And also, there's no way that internally they could have done

things like introduce new curriculum, the Russian ruble, imported Russian goods.

So there is a massive coordination of what's happening in rebel-held territories going on. But very worrisome, what we're seeing, on a number

of fronts.

HOLMES: And you, being diplomatic, the Ukrainians would say, it's coming from Russia, of course, and have said as much as well.

Because of all this fighting, the humanitarian situation worsens. We said at the beginning the World Food Programme estimating the conflict has left

1.5 million people hungry, 300,000 in need of immediate help. And it is always the people caught in the middle who are forgotten when it comes to

conflicts like this.

How bad is it?

BOCIURKIW: It's very bad and it continues to get worse. You know, by now, Michael, a lot of the internally displaced people in Ukraine from Donetsk

and Lugansk -- we're talking about 2 million -- would have expected to go back. There was a very nice lull over the holidays but that has now


Michael, two years ago, there was no World Food Programme in Ukraine, as you pointed out. And two years ago, Ukraine had no displaced population.

Now it's on the list of top 10 countries in the world with the largest displaced population.

So it's a very big drag on the government resources and on people's lives and especially, especially children, who have lost their parents, who have

psychosocial trauma, who don't have essential drugs, food and water. It's a very horrible situation and very, very bad if the international community

averted its gaze from this situation.

HOLMES: And, indeed, Ukraine, we should point out now, one of the poorest countries in the world by GDP, per capita, which seems extraordinary in the

middle of Europe.

Former OSC spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, always a pleasure. Good to see you, Michael, thank you.

BOCIURKIW: Thank you, thank you.

HOLMES: A political storm brewing in Ukraine.

Well, when we come back, imagining a man-made monsoon taking over Thailand and leaving the country parched at the same time. That's when we come






HOLMES: And finally tonight, imagine a world of water, water everywhere. And though there's not a drop to drink, there seems to be plenty to spray,

soak and throw around.

In Thailand, the worst drought in decades has not stopped local revelers alongside hundreds of thousands of tourists from engaging in the world's

biggest water fight.

The Songkran festival celebrates the new year with water, symbolically cleansing people of their sin and misfortune, drenching Thailand and other

Southeast Asian countries celebrating water festivals.

But, cold water being poured over the Thai festival by the nation's drought. This year, it will last three days instead of the traditional

four. And in a bid to save 5 billion liters of water, participants being urged to cleanse conservatively.

So though hoses may be out of the picture, we doubt it will put too much of a damper on things.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to the podcast. You can go online at and follow me on Twitter

@HolmesCNN. Thanks for watching. Goodbye for now from the CNN Center.