Nigeria’s government has announced plans to negotiate with Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group which has been causing havoc in northern Nigeria ever since the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. By SIMON ALLISON.
Bombs and shootings have characterised daily life in Maiduguri, the group’s stronghold, with scores of deaths reported. Boko Haram is protesting against a government perceived to favour Nigeria’s Christian south; they want Islamic Sharia law be imposed across Nigeria. And their power grows by the day. Earlier this month, they demanded unreserved apologies from a state governor and two former governors, and got them. “I wish to publically tender my apology to [Boko Haram] and any other group I might have offended in the course of discharging my duties as the executive governor of Borno State,” grovelled former Borno State governor Ali Bodu Sherrif, whose brother and cousin were both assassinated by the group last year.
The decision to open negotiations is a sign of just how scared the Nigerian government is. Countries don’t usually negotiate with terrorists. The US, for example, has always refused to talk to the Taliban, while Israel refuses dialogue with Hamas. Not that this no-dialogue policy has helped. Negotiations, in good faith, might be the only way out of the impasse between Boko Haram and the government. It’s certainly a better tactic than house-to-house searches, brutalisation, unlawful arrests, killings and disappearances which has been the strategy pursued up to now by Nigeria’s security forces in Maiduguri, according to a report by Amnesty International. DM
- Nigeria to open peace talks with Islamic Terror Group on Africa Report;
- Nigerian ex-governor apologies to Islamists over abuse on AFP.
Photo: Members of an local Islamic group lie on the ground at a police station after their arrest in the northeastern city of Bauchi, July 25, 2009. Gun battles raged for days last week as the security forces fought to put down uprising by members of Boko Haram, a militant sect which wants sharia (Islamic law) imposed more widely in Nigeria. Picture taken July 25, 2009. REUTERS/Ardo Hazzad.