Boko Haram ‘can be trusted if govt gives in to its demands’
CAPE TOWN — The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has said that the recent release of 21 Chibok girls by the militant group Boko Haram was “a great achievement” for the Nigerian government.
In an interview with News24, senior researcher at ISS, Martin Ewi said the release of the girls would also bring hope to Nigerians.
“The recent release of the 21 Chibok girls has brought back hope to many Nigerians. It is of course a huge achievement for the Nigerian government under President [Muhammed] Buhari. However, it does not mean that there is nothing more to do as they are about 176 other girls that must still be freed,” said Ewi.
Boko Haram released the 21 girls on Thursday. The girls formed part of the 276 girls who were seized from their school in the northeast town of Chibok in 2014.
Scores of the girls managed to escape in the hours after the kidnapping, while others were rescued earlier this year.
The mass abduction drew global attention to the jihadist insurgency which has claimed at least 20 000 lives and forced at least 2.6 million more to flee their homes since 2009.
Ewi warned that the 21 girls’ freedom should, however, not be taken as a victory against the insurgent group that has caused devastation throughout the west African country since 2009.
He said the latest development should be taken as a sign that the group was serious about the ongoing negotiations that were facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government.
Ewi further said that Boko Haram had shown that it could be “trusted” if the Nigerian government could give in to its demands.
Earlier reports indicated that the girls were released as part of an exchange deal between the Nigerian authorities and the Boko Haram insurgent group.
However, the West African country’s Information minister Lai Mohammed refuted the claims, maintaining that the release followed intensive negotiations with Boko Haram leadership.
Meanwhile, Ewi warned that if the recent release of the girls were due to the reported release of four Boko Haram fighters, then “this could also be indirectly assisting the insurgent group”.
“We don’t know much on the condition of the girls’ release, but if the reports that the girls were released due to the Nigerian government releasing some Boko Haram fighters this could be very dangerous.
“The group had most of its bases destroyed, and some of its fighters arrested which had weakened it to some extent, thus releasing the arrested fighters would help advance the groups weakened position,” Ewi said.
Nigerian President Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has met with the 21 Chibok school girls released by Boko Haram on Thursday.
The meeting took place on Thursday evening at a medical facility operated by the west African country’s State Security Service,( SSS), in Abuja. This was shortly after the girls’ arrival in the Federal Capital Territory.
Most of the girls wept profusely as they met with Osinbajo.
The released girls were among the over 200 schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists from a Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State, on April 14, 2014.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s information minister maintained on Thursday that the release of the 21 girls was not a prisoner swap.
“Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides,” Lai Mohammed said in Abuja, denying claims from local sources that the girls were freed in exchange for Boko Haram proisoners.
“As soon as the necessary confidence was built on both sides, the parties agreed on the date and the location of the release of the 21 girls,” he said.
He said that the government would continue to pursue the release of the remaining girls, adding that those released would receive medical attention and care.
“We see this as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok girls in captivity. It is also a major step in confidence-building between us as government and the Boko Haram leadership on the issues of the Chibok girls,” said Mohammed. — AFP