Boko Haram: Mediated negotiations breaks down

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LAST week, there were leaks in the media, that indirect negotiations had commenced between the Federal Government and the Islamist organisation, Boko Haram. The outline issues being discussed by the two sides, included a three-month ceasefire, during which there would be no attack by Boko Haram, while there would also be no ‘harassement’ by government security forces.

The group also wanted its members released as a condition for a cease-fire. The reported talks with Boko Haram were expected to have been confidential, and in reporting the talks, Daily Trust of Friday, March 16, 2012, quoted an anonymous source, as saying the leakage in the media threatened the delicate process of talks.

By the beginning of this week, the man reportedly mediating the talks, Dr. Ibrahim Dattti Ahmed, expressed his disgust at the leakage of the talks in the press. Datti Ahmed, who is President of the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria, said the leakage had created “strong doubts on the sincerity of the Federal Government” in the minds of all that want to intervene.

He revealed that there was an agreement that the discussions should be very confidential in order to be able to achieve success. “The development has embarrassed us very much…In view of this unfortunate and unhelpful development, we have no option but to withdraw from these early discussions. We sincerely regret that an opportunity to negotiate and terminate this cycle of violence is being missed”.

In truth, there is a constituency that is opposed to a negotiated end of the Boko Haram crisis. This reporter has consistently argued that in the long run, there would be no “winning” the war against the Boko Haram insurgency. The Borno Elders have been consistent in asking for peaceful dialogue with the group; a position shared by the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima. However, there is a gung-ho party of war, especially in the Southern media.

Near sacred justification

This party is incensed that parallels have been drawn with the Niger Delta insurgency that has a near ‘sacred’ justification amongst elite groups in the South. They justify the Niger Delta insurgency as against state injustice; they, however, cannot accept there were justifications for the emergence of Boko Haram. This ties closely with the security bureaucracy of the Jonathan administration which seems to have a position that is opposed to President Jonathan’s stated desire for a negotiated end to the insurgency. Security is very expensive as well as lucrative.

Nigeria has budgeted about N1 trillion for security in 2012. Those who will benefit from spending such a huge sum of money cannot be happy that a negotiated outcome might be opening up. They might have been responsible for leakages now threatening the carefully laid up process of negotiations.

The government must assert its preference for a negotiated solution. It will defy security hawks, but would be working in the long term interest of the country. It annoys sections of the elite, especially in the South, but in the long run, Nigeria will have to negotiate an end to the Boko Haram insurgency. The state will not shoot its way to “victory”!


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