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Boko Haram: A puzzled nation watches and waits

ICC Note:

A ceasefire was declared and on Monday, Boko Haram was going to return the over 200 girls, a majority of whom were Christians, they had kidnapped in April. The world has been demanding their return in what has been known as the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. However, Monday has come and gone and the world looks to Nigeria and sees no evidence of kidnapped Christian girls returned to their parents. This article gives a bit of insight as to why.

10/22/2014 Nigeria (The Sun)-Many people would have looked up to Monday this week, as a momentous day that peace returned to some northern parts of the country that have been in the eye of Boko Haram’s violence for more than three years. Another reason many people looked up to Monday was the news that Boko Haram had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Federal Government that would have resulted in the release of the more than 230 female students abducted from their school premises in the town of Chibok, in Borno State, since mid-April 2014. Whether that pledge to release the Chibok girls was fulfilled two days ago remains to be seen.

The news of the ceasefire agreement was broken by no less a personality than the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh. He told the nation last week that: “A ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government and the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal Jihad (Boko Haram).”

I see no reason anyone would be optimistic that the Chibok girls would be freed by their abductors on Monday or that Boko Haram would sign a ceasefire agreement with no fuss and no questions asked. Terrorists don’t behave that way. No terrorist organisation, such as Boko Haram, that believes it is winning an ideological war would suddenly enter into a ceasefire agreement and expect nothing in return.

It will be extremely difficult to believe this news for a number of reasons. No one knows the terms of the agreement or the conditions under which the deal was reached. Ever since the news emerged, there has been silence on the part of Boko Haram. This will give the hardline leadership of the violent organisation the space to deny, weeks later, that it ever entered into any agreement with the government.

People should not delude themselves that the Chibok girls would regain freedom this week and that Boko Haram had looked after the girls very well since they were taken against their will in April. The first question to consider is: How did Boko Haram look after the girls? How were the girls fed and clothed for more than 100 days since they were kidnapped? How is their health? Where did Boko Haram house the girls for the period they were held captive? Perhaps, they were kept in the same Sambisa Forest that Boko Haram members and leaders turned into a place of abode? Were the girls abused and molested in any way imaginable? Looking after such a large number of girls would have posed logistical problems for Boko Haram leadership. A terrorist organisation consistently on the move makes it hard to believe that the girls were safe and unharmed, as someone who claimed to be close to Boko Haram suggested last week.

Let’s get this point clear: The government did not enter into a peace deal with Boko Haram. It’s only a ceasefire that will most likely be broken by intransigent Boko Haram leaders and members. Once the ceasefire agreement is broken, it will open the door for both sides to resume hostilities. A ceasefire simply suggests that Boko Haram has not denounced violence. They have not expressed willingness to hand in their weapons.

This is not the first time that Boko Haram will make a fool of government officials. In November 2012, someone who claimed to be a spokesperson for Boko Haram, told the nation that the organisation had made an offer for dialogue with the Federal Government. Days later, the much publicised offer of dialogue turned out to be a con, as the head of Boko Haram vigorously denied making any offer for dialogue.

Looking back in history, the fake proposal for dialogue made in November 2012 was not the first time that Boko Haram had raised the hopes of peace lovers and dashed public expectations with equal force. In early August of the same year, Boko Haram announced it would be willing to enter into dialogue with the government but almost immediately it announced two major pre-conditions it said must be met before it could enter into a dialogue with the government. The first condition was that President Goodluck Jonathan must resign. The second condition was that Jonathan must denounce his religion and convert to Islam. Both conditions were not only provocative and insulting, they were also clearly designed to ensure that any proposed dialogue would be stillborn.

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