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Spitting in the face of peace: Boko Haram’s continued aims

April 18, 2013   ·   0 Comments

Weapons seized from Boko Haram members

Nigeria’s government, with the direction of Goodluck Jonathan, extended amnesty to the Islamic militant group Boko Haram only to find themselves catching insulting rhetoric. 

Boko Haram, or translated “Western education is forbidden.”

For over a decade Nigeria has been battling with the Northern based militant group known as Boko Haram. The group has been placed on the US list for terrorist organizations and ultimately one can imagine the complexity of addressing the issue, with a group that welcomes no compromise nor has compatibility for that matter. Currently with an estimated population of over 170 million, Nigeria finds itself home to over 250 ethnic and tribal groups, and nearly a fifty-fifty split between Christians and Muslims geographically and ideologically.

As Christianity is very much associated with the Western World and Nigeria still maintains close ties to its previous colonizers (United Kingdom) and other Western nations, it is evident that there are certainly some incorrigible goals and compromises, without threatening the overall unity and security of the Nigerian State.

As the group fights for a separate Muslim state, based on the Northern provinces of Nigeria, which are predominantly muslim. Current data from the Global Terrorism Database shows that between 2009-2011 alone Boko Haram inflicted roughly over 686 casualties. Other sources show the groups campaign of violence, which have killed over 2,000 people in recent years.

Last week at the request of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, a team of political advisors looked into potentially pardoning the militant group. Eventually they came to an agreement to extend amnesty to the group, pardoning them for their crimes against the civilian population at large and the state. The extension of this pardoning would come as a surprise for many because it can be considered a rather unusual strategy, regardless if it is an attempt to bring peace to the long running campaign of violence that has been plaguing the country and its people.

Additionally, the long running military campaign in the Northern regions of the country has clearly not brought peace, and a more soft-line policy might be needed to mitigate terrorism. Contrary to popular beliefs and opinions, hardline military action can actually prove more detrimental in counter-terrorism efforts than the more tactful approach of negotiations and criminal justice system.

Both methods (military and criminal justice) have their benefits. Ultimately a carefully balanced strategy is the best choice and it seems as if the Nigerian government has attempted to make a step in this direction away from its primarily military (war modeled) campaign.

The groups leader, Abubakar Shekau, however issued this response to the peace offerings:

“Surprisingly, the Nigerian government is talking about granting us amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you [a] pardon,” (this quote was translated from the Hausa recording by the AFP).

The blatant rejection of President Jonathan’s effort, shows Boko Haram to be sticking to guns, and this stern response illustrates how the group is even more unwilling to make compromises.

After a suspected splintering of the terrorist group in late 2012 – early 2013, perhaps Boko Haram is attempting to show itself as still strong, and a formidable political actor. Another possiblility is that the group recognizes the governments lack of will to continue the fight and this potential scent of blood has only emboldened Boko Haram, while the government is now facing the re-emerging threat of MEND after the trial and imprisonment of Henry Okah.

This could potentially spread Nigeria’s counter-terrorism resources too thin, rendering them incapable of tackling two fronts. Only time will show how the the situation will play out, but for now it does not appear that Boko Haram is going anywhere.

Photo Credit: Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri

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Massimo Pernice

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