from Africa in Transition

Nigeria: Boko Haram Negotiations Break Down

March 23, 2012

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Sub-Saharan Africa


Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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.