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Boko Haram Tag Undermines Nigeria Peace Efforts, Say ‘Elders’

  • Peter Clottey

Suspected Boko Haram militants detained by military in Bukavu Barracks, Kano state, Nigeria, March 2012 file photo.

Suspected Boko Haram militants detained by military in Bukavu Barracks, Kano state, Nigeria, March 2012 file photo.

Nigeria’s Northern Elder’s Forum says the designation of Boko Haram as a terrorist organization undermines President Goodluck Jonathan’s efforts to resolve the country’s internal security crisis.

Ango Abdullahi, spokesman for the Elders’ forum says Mr. Jonathan has shown good intensions to resolve the security challenges the country faces peacefully. But, his efforts, Abdullahi says would be thwarted by the official designation of Boko Haram and its suspected splinter group Ansaru as outlawed terrorist organizations.

“The quality of advice that the president should be getting on some of the very sensitive issues of national security, peace and stability in the country, I don’t think the quality of advice lives up to the standards that it ought to be,” said Abdullahi.

But Jonathan’s advisers, Abdullahi said, will be to blame if the security crisis worsens.

Abdullahi’s comments came after the administration declared Boko Haram and its suspected splinter group, Ansaru, to be outlawed terrorist organizations. The terrorist designation allows the government to impose prison sentences of a minimum of 20 years on group members or supporters.

Abdullahi said issuing the terrorist designation indicates the government is no longer interested in negotiating with the militant group to end the violence in parts of the country.

“Once they declared a group as a terrorist organization, it then precludes the possibility of ever sitting with them in any discussions, let alone negotiations,” continued Abdullahi, “particularly if most of these people are in hiding, they don’t even want to be identified or recognized. It takes certain palliatives and persuasions, and so on, to eventually bring them out. But if you are introducing obstacles there is nothing to deal with.”

Jonathan recently established a Committee on Reconciliation and Dialogue to hold talks with the Islamic sect to end the violence often carried out by Boko Haram in parts of the country.

“So the next thing that we expect to hear from the president is that he has disbanded the Committee on Reconciliation and Dialogue. That should be the logical sequence of events,” said Abdullahi.

He says both the state of emergency declared in three northern states and the designation of Boko Haram as a terrorist organization will complicate attempts to finding solutions to the security crisis.

Boko Haram, based in Nigeria’s north, has been accused of carrying out violent attacks in an attempt to force the country to adopt strict Islamic law.

Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram-related violence has killed an estimated 3,000 people since 2009, a toll that includes killings by security forces.

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