News / Africa

Nigeria Ponders Amnesty for Boko Haram Militants

Suspected members of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram are detained by the military in Bukavu Barracks in Kano state, Nigeria, March 21, 2012. Suspected members of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram are detained by the military in Bukavu Barracks in Kano state, Nigeria, March 21, 2012.
x
Suspected members of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram are detained by the military in Bukavu Barracks in Kano state, Nigeria, March 21, 2012.
Suspected members of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram are detained by the military in Bukavu Barracks in Kano state, Nigeria, March 21, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Heather Murdock
— Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a committee to investigate the possibility of granting a general amnesty to militants from the group known as Boko Haram.  That news came after a meeting with leaders from the country's volatile northern states.

In recent weeks, religious, political and traditional leaders in northern Nigeria have been lining up in support of granting some kind of amnesty to Islamist sect Boko Haram.  The line is long, and it includes the leader of Nigeria's Islamic community, the Sultan of Sokoto.

Other leaders, including the general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, have railed against the idea, calling Boko Haram members “brutal killers” undeserving of amnesty.

On Tuesday, presidential adviser Doyin Okupe said the government’s current approach to combating the sect has been effective in Yobe and Borno, two of the worst-hit states, but the militants have moved on to Kano State.

“These violent attacks will be curtailed," he said. "It appears that the activities of the insurgents have been relatively put under check in Yobe and Borno states and what you’re observing presently is a regrouping in Kano.”

But now it appears the administration may have changed its mind, and has set up a committee to investigate the possibility of amnesty. In 2009, Nigeria quieted an insurgency in the south by offering militants job training and stipends in exchange for their weapons.

However, the southern militants had targeted big oil companies, not the local population, and officials had an idea of whom they were dealing with. In contrast, Boko Haram's leaders remain unknown, and President Jonathan has said he cannot grant amnesty to people who refuse to identify themselves. 

Boko Haram Facts

  • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
  • Began in 2002 as a non-violent Islamist splinter group
  • Launched uprising in 2009; leader was subsequently killed in police custody
  • Has killed hundreds in bombings and shootings since 2010
  • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
  • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law
  • Says it will kidnap women and children as part of its campaign
  • Has taken over parts of northeastern Nigeria
Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram-related violence has killed 3,000 people since 2009. That toll includes killings by security forces. 

The violence in the north continues, with a new twist added this year.  Sixteen foreigners have been kidnapped by Islamist militants, and five are believed dead. One person who said he was Boko Haram’s spokesperson flatly denied the group is involved in hostage-taking.   But in a YouTube video, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abduction of a French family still among the missing. 

In the chaos, many development companies have pulled out of northern Nigeria. University of Abuja political science lecturer Abubakar Kari says if the trend continues it could devastate the already impoverished region.

“They hire a number of indigenous people so if they stop work they will no longer have work. So it will compound the problem of unemployment. There will be hungry mouths to be fed. Many people will find it difficult to make ends meet,” said Kari.
 
More importantly, he said, northern Nigeria is badly in need of roads and other infrastructure to develop its economy.  Poverty, he said, sometimes drives young men to militancy, making the problem even worse.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid