John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Boko Haram Negotiations Break Down

by John Campbell
March 23, 2012

Guns and a police helmet are displayed at a barrack after a shootout between suspected members of Islamic sect Boko Haram and the military in Nigeria's northern city of Kano March 20, 2012. (Bala Adamu/Courtesy Reuters)


Initially facilitated by a journalist, talks between the Supreme Council for Sharia, on behalf of the Abuja government, and Boko Haram, the radical Islamic movement held responsible for a campaign of terror in northern Nigeria, have broken down. A Boko Haram spokesman attributed the breakdown to “insincerity” on the part of the government, while one for the Sharia Council complained about leaks.

It was never clear which part of Boko Haram was willing to talk. However, it was likely the followers and disciples of the murdered Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf, rather than the other strains of the Islamic anti-government movement in the North. Yusuf’s immediate followers have articulated demands that should be negotiable, such as punishment of the killers of Mohammed Yusuf, restoration of seized Boko Haram property, and release of Boko Haram adherents in jail. However, earlier efforts at talks have also broken down, and Boko Haram demands for a more rigorous form of Islamic law in at least some parts of Nigeria would be difficult.

Meanwhile violence attributed to Boko Haram continues. The government has made arrests, but they don’t appear to have had much impact on Boko Haram operations. For now, Mohammed Yusuf’s followers are unlikely to resume talks with government proxies. It remains unknown whether other strains of Boko Haram – likely more radical than Yusuf’s followers – were ever willing to talk.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Maduka

    Boko Haram will eventually have to go back to the negotiating table.

    Firstly, there will immense pressure from the Nigerian security services and their international partners. Every new Boko Haram attack makes it more, not less likely that Western powers like the US will be roped in.

    Secondly, the economy of Northern Nigeria is in free fall. Unlike the Niger Delta, Northern Nigeria is of neglible economic importance. The very significant business community in Kano will find a way to either bribe or contain Boko Haram, at least in Kano. I also expect to see increased pressure from the Northern elders “to put their house in order”. Jonathan was instrumental to bringing peace to the Niger Delta and if the Northern elite cannot do the same to Northern Nigeria before 2015, they stand the risk of either being labelled as complicit or incompetent – an extremely serious risk in Nigeria’s ethnically and religious divided political space.

    There are certainly some elements in the Northern elite who feel they can “use” Boko Haram to further their political objectives. There is a worrying correlation between increased Boko Haram attacks and the clamour for more revenue from the center. That proposition is extremely risky, like riding a tiger.

    Sadly, Northern Nigeria may have settled in for “a new violent normal”. There is immense pressure to fix the Boko Haram mess or lose at least a decade relative to the rest of the country. This will weaken the North further and create even more antagonism and suspicion among other regions in Nigeria.

  • Posted by oladeji Olalekan

    I keep wondering what this criminal group is upto.After Nigeria has wailed and wept over irrecoverable losses of lives and property,yet demanding punishment of those that killed their leader,the author of restiveness,violence,evils etc both of innocent Nigerians and foreigners.They destroyed property and keep promising more.They are demanding for release of criminal under-dogs who are ready tools in the hands of heartless leaders with feeble political ambition.For Nigeria ti become Banna Republic is no where to begin but consenting to demands of these satanic hoodlums.May I never know and serve ‘god’ who mercilessly seek blood of his claimed creatures through agents who falsify names for the purpose covering knowing or ignorant of lies as against their own god.May I never serve such a god!Let Nigeria negotiate wisely not like liliputian sovereign.Light is coming on Nigeria whether darkness and his agents like it not.

  • Posted by ransom

    Type your comment in here…i urge the fed govt to make concrete negotiation with them in other to save innocent lives.

  • Posted by Nasiru Mohd

    Mohd yusuf shouldnt hv been killed, since he is a leader of a group instituted by former govn. Govt wat ar waiting for to arrest shettima?

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