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.
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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid