Boko Haram ‘can be trusted if govt gives in to its de­mands’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

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

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