Members of the family held hostage for two months by a Nigerian Islamist group spoke about their ordeal on French national television over the weekend. They said the four children helped them get through the tough times.
Albane Moulin-Fournier said during the prime-time interview on France 2 Saturday night that there had been some “very hard moments, physically,” during their captivity.
Albane was held in a different location than her husband, Tanguy, who said they were put in extreme heat with little access to water.
Tanguy’s brother Cyril said a routine of daily activities for the children helped the family keep their sanity.
“There were activities. We folded up the sheets in the morning. We went to prepare breakfast,” said Cyril. “It was important to keep up a daily routine.”
Albane said her four children, aged 5 to 12 years old, tolerated the situation very well, given the circumstances. “[The children] did not cry, did not have nightmares,” she said. “They played with whatever they could find, bits of wood, empty sardine tins.”
Things started to look hopeful for the family’s release, said Albane, when their captors began feeding them fruit and eggs, perhaps to help them put on the weight they had lost during captivity.
Tanguy and Cyril appeared clean-shaven during the interview, after arriving in Paris with bushy beards following their release. All three ex-hostages were thinner than before their kidnapping, but healthy.
The family was turned over to Cameroonian authorities on Thursday, and arrived back in Paris on Saturday morning. They were greeted at the airport by France’s President François Hollande, who declared, “Today, life has won.”
They were kidnapped in Cameroon on 19 February during a visit to a national park in the north, before being taken to Nigeria and held by the Islamist group Boko Haram.
The family had been living in Cameroon since 2011, where Tanguy was posted with GDF Suez. His brother Cyril had come to Cameroon on vacation, to visit the family.
Despite their kidnapping, Tanguy said he would still happily return to Cameroon.
“It’s a superb country,” said Tanguy. “We were there for two years. We have friends there and Cameroonian brothers.”
Read more: RFI