Far from certain, but Nigerian officials are suggesting ceasefire will enable release
Earlier this year “#BringBackOurGirls” rose, trended, then fizzled on Twitter; but recent negotiations between the Nigerian government and Islamist group Boko Haram might lead to the release of the 200 schoolgirl hostages whose plight inspired the hashtag.
Designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2013, Boko Haram began its mission of violence in 2009 with the goal of overthrowing the Nigerian government and creating an Islamic state. Now, after five years and thousands dead, a cease fire has reportedly been reached.
“A cease-fire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Jamatu Ahlis Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad,” Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh said yesterday in an e-mailed statement, referring to Boko Haram. “I have accordingly directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development.”
Boko Haram said “the schoolgirls and other people in their captivity are alive and well,” Nigerian government spokesman Mike Omeri said in a separate statement from Abuja, the capital.
Nigeria’s armed forces chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced the ceasefire on Friday. On Saturday, two senior government sources said it aims to secure the girls’ release as early as Monday or Tuesday, although they declined to give further details.
The U.S. has not yet been able to confirm that a cease fire has actually taken place, but a security source inside Nigeria has said that “[c]ommitment among parts of Boko Haram and the military does appear to be genuine. It is worth taking seriously.”
Nigerians, however, are skeptical that the announcement is just a political stunt by President Goodluck Jonathan to create a favorable optic ahead of the upcoming election.
“This is coming only a few days before the possibility of Jonathan announcing his candidature for elections,” [policy expert Clement] Nwankwo said by phone from Abuja. “So for me, it’s a question whether this is not propaganda of preparing to announce his candidature — an election gimmick.”
Dominic Simonis, analyst at the Bath, U.K.-based risk advisory company Maplecroft, said the announcement “should be treated with caution.”
“Despite gaining ground against the insurgency, the government may have been pressured into negotiations with Boko Haram amid growing public outrage ahead of all-important presidential elections in 2015,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Well, that sounds familiar.
We don’t have much information about what concessions will be made, except that Boko Haram won’t gain any official territory as a result of the negotiations. Twice before, the group has denied claims from the Nigerian government that a peace deal had been reached, which means that the Nigerian people have every right to be skeptical until the shooting stops and Boko Haram’s captives are at home where they belong.DONATE
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