John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Boko Haram Offers Cease Fire Opportunity?

by John Campbell
November 2, 2012

A man walks past a burning car in Oshodi, Lagos south west Nigeria May 24, 2005. (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters)


A phone call to journalists on November 1st may have put a cease fire with Boko Haram on the table. Abu Muhammad Ibn Abdulazeez, who claims to be a spokesman for the group, and “amir” (lieutenant) to leader Abubakar Shekau, laid out conditions for a cease fire and named acceptable mediators. These included former presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari (Ret).  Talks with the government would take place in Saudi Arabia.

Ibn Abdulazeez’s credibility as a Boko Haram spokesman is not yet established. If he does speak for Shekau, his disavowal of certain recent terrorist attacks in Maiduguri might be a sign that Boko Haram is fragmenting, or merely reflect a highly decentralized structure. The three major Nigerian newspapers reporting the story are treating it with caution. So should we.

The preconditions are broadly familiar: the government should compensate Boko Haram and rebuild its mosques and other facilities destroyed during the 2009 uprising; release all Boko Haram members in detention; “rehabilitate” the families of Boko Haram members; and prosecute and punish former governor of Borno state Ali Sheriff, whom Boko Haram holds responsible for the 2009 massacre.

Acceptable mediators include: Gen. Buhari (probably the political figure with the greatest credibility in the North); Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (a former Yobe state governor); Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno (the first Nigerian petroleum minister); Ambassador Gaji Galtimari (chairman of the presidential committee on insecurity in the northeast), a husband and wife team of barristers, Aisha Alkali Wakil and her husband Alkali Wakil, and other prominent members of the Borno Emirate.

The delegation from Boko Haram would consist of: Abu Muhammad Ibn Abdulazeez, Abu Abbas, Sheikh Ibrahim Yusuf, Sheik San Kontogora, and Mamman Nur.

Ibn Abdulazeez disassociated Boko Haram from the recent attacks in Maiduguri. Claiming they were politically motivated by power seekers within the Borno emirate council and politicians denied government contacts.

Other aspects of Ibn Abdulazeez’s approach are different from previous alleged Boko Haram spokesmen.  He spoke entirely in English rather than Hausa, he did not call for the implementation of Sharia throughout Nigeria, and he is quoted by Leadership newspaper as saying, “we are not actually challenging the state, as people are saying, but the security forces who are killing our members, children and wives.”

Should Ibn Abdulazeez’s credibility as a Boko Haram spokesman be established, he must represent its most moderate tendency.  These “preconditions,” could certainly be the basis for negotiations.  The next few days may bring clarity on whether this opportunity is sincere. If not, it will flounder in the quagmire of mistrust and suspicion, as have previous initiatives.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Chike Chukudebelu

    What good could possibly come out of this?

    If Boko Haram really insists that (a) Buhari should be part of the negotiating team and that (b) negotiations should take place in Saudi Arabia, then it reinforces the suspicion among the Christian /non-Northern population that “Buhari is silently in support of Boko Haram”.

    (These allegations cannot be supported with facts, but facts mean nothing in an environment of mutual suspicion).

    Predictably, Buhari and his party, the CPC have publicly stated that they will have nothing to do with these “negotiations”.

    Western analysts really need to look beyond the headlines and understand the internal dynamics of Nigerian politics. They need to understand how ethnic rivalries, mutual suspicion and tribalism undermine the Nigerian state.

    A nation is not only a geographical concept but an idea. I am very concerned about the future of this nation and whether my generation can sustain the idea of Nigeria.

    Take a trip to Kaduna or Jos and see segregation along religious and ethnic lines. Christian kids barely interact with Muslim kids and vice versa – how is the next generation going to learn tolerance?

    The bigger issue is that Nigeria lacks direction. We are now paying the full price of 52 years of corruption, mediocrity and a failure to sustain national institutions. It is a mess. Suspicion is on the rise and Nigerians are manufacturing new reasons to hate other Nigerians.

  • Posted by John Ojeah

    You left out one important condition: that the negotiation should take place in SAUDI ARABIA.

  • Posted by Jerrie Mc' Guire

    The report is just like every other reports I’ve read. But the question is about Abu Muhammad Ibn Abdulazeez who claims to be the spokesman. He is obviously different from the other spokesmen that we’ve heard from. And again, how come Abubakar Shekau, who is beleived to be the most visible leader of Boko Haram [according to the U.S], is not on the delegation list? There’s something wierd here I guess…

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