News / Africa

Nigeria Urges Islamic Leaders to Negotiate With Boko Haram

While the committee calls for peace talks, Nigerian security forces say they will destroy any area they believe to be a Boko Haram camp. (Heather Murdock/VOA).
While the committee calls for peace talks, Nigerian security forces say they will destroy any area they believe to be a Boko Haram camp. (Heather Murdock/VOA).
Heather Murdock
— A Nigerian committee set up to negotiate with insurgent group Boko Haram is calling for Islamic leaders to help bridge the gap between the government and militants.  But Islamic leaders say Boko Haram violence is unfairly associated with the Muslim religion. 

On April 24, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan formally set his “Amnesty Committee” to work.  Their job was to find a way to negotiate with Boko Haram, a militant group that has killed thousands since it began violent operations in 2009.

Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
x
Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Less than three weeks later, the president said Boko Haram had captured territory and declared emergency rule in three northeastern states, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, and sent thousands of troops to fight the group.

At a conference in the northern city of Kaduna on Sunday, Amnesty Committee Chair Kabiru Tanimu Turaki said since then, committee members have met with local governments and traditional leaders.  They have also tried to encourage Boko Haram members to come forward by releasing women and children in jail for Boko Haram-related crimes.

Boko Haram, he said, has not been all that receptive.

"We are coming from the background where initially they said they do not want amnesty," he said. "They should be the ones to give amnesty.  Again their chairman said they are not willing to enter into dialogue with any other person.  We have to find a way of talking to them.  We have to find a way of engaging them.”

The way to engage Boko Haram, he said, could be through the clergy. 

He called Boko Haram ideology, which includes a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, “misguided,” but nevertheless related to Islam.  Speaking to hundreds of Islamic leaders at the conference, he asked them to convince Boko Haram leaders that negotiations are necessary and in accordance with Islam.

“We are pleading with you in the interest of peace to call on these people.  Let them give peace a chance.  Let them allow for dialogue,” he said.

Financial compensation

Turaki also responded to calls for financial compensation for Boko Haram victims, saying it is not going to happen.

“The government will not have capacity to be able to give compensation to all those who have been affected," he said. "If you consider in places like Borno, in places like Yobe, virtually everybody, virtually every family are victims.  So how do you compensate them?”

Islamic leaders did not respond publicly to the committee’s request for help, and they asked reporters to leave while they discussed it.

But in a speech earlier Sunday, Nigeria’s leading Muslim cleric, Sultan of Sokoto Muhammed Sa'adu Abubakar, stressed criminal acts are not religious acts, just because criminals claim them to be so.

“Whenever any violence takes place anywhere in the world, if it is committed by a Muslim, you hear ‘Islamic terrorist’ or ‘Muslim terrorists’ or ‘Islamic fundamentalists," he said.

Crimes committed in the names of other religions, he added, are not nearly as often used to stigmatize the religion itself.

Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
x
Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
“But when worse violence was affected by somebody who is not a Muslim, we do not hear the same coinage or the same personalization of that criminal activity, linking it to that particular religion,” Abubakar said.

Critics say the concept of granting amnesty and financial support to militants is an unsustainable solution because it is essentially paying criminals not to commit crimes.  Supporters of negotiations say there is a tentative peace in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta solely because the government offered amnesty and small salaries to tens of thousands of militants in 2009.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission released a report warning that a “foreseeable humanitarian crisis” could threaten recent security gains, and saying both Boko Haram and security forces may be responsible for the violence.  The commission says a farming season has been lost, thousands of people have been displaced and prices are skyrocketing.

But with the emergency zones almost entirely cut off from communications, the commission says it is hard for anybody to gauge exactly what is going on. 

Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid