ABUJA, Nigeria’s government is in talks with militant group Boko Haram about a possible ceasefire and the talks have gone on for some time, the information minister said.
“Unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now,” said Lai Mohammed in a statement about the background to the release on Wednesday of more than 100 schoolgirls that the group abducted last month.
For more than a year, Nigerian envoys have met with representatives of Daesh West Africa Province, he said on Sunday.
ISWAP, as the Daesh chapter here is called, was once part of Boko Haram, the insurgency whose decade-long war with Nigeria’s secular state has left more than 30,000 people dead. Both groups remain active, launching near daily attacks on civilians.
Last week, the discussion yielded a breakthrough: ISWAP released nearly all of the 110 girls, some as young as 10, that it had abducted in February from a boarding school in the frontier town of Dapchi. It was a goodwill gesture by a camp of militants interested in laying down arms, sources close to that agreement said.
Boko Haram isn’t in the peace talks, two people close to the discussions said.
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has recently signaled his willingness to engage with the local fighters loyal to Daesh, aided by a Swiss government branch devoted to helping organize conflict talks. On Friday, Buhari told reporters he was prepared to offer amnesty to surrendering fighters.
We are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society, he said. This country has suffered enough.
As part of its preliminary terms of the talks, ISWAP has asked Nigeria’s military to dial down airstrikes on the group. The government in turn has asked ISWAP to cease attacks on civilians and end the use of children as suicide bombers�a common tactic across the northeast.
Boko Haram, led by the Abubakr Shekau, is committed to a more violent strategy: strapping preteen girls with suicide bombs, shooting up mosques, churches, markets, and schools, while retaining more than 10,000 kidnapped boys as soldiers in his army.
Boko Haram launched its uprising against Nigeria’s government in 2009, furious over the police execution of its spiritual leader.
Between October 2016 and May 2017, Nigeria’s state, with help from the Swiss government, brought home 103 of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from the school of Chibok in 2014. The deal involved a multimillion-dollar ransom paid to the Boko Haram faction that held them, the group led by Shekau.
A driving force behind these talks has been one of the world’s quiet global peace brokers, Switzerland’s Human Security Division, a branch of its foreign ministry that organizes talks and hostage releases in some of the world’s thorniest conflicts.
Since then, it has brokered the release of oil workers, university lecturers, and police women kidnapped by Nigerian militants. There is no public record of the terms of those deals.
Last month, ISWAP kidnapped 110 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi, a kidnapping that recalled the Chibok abduction. Within a month, Nigeria’s government�in talks once again organized by the Swiss government�worked out a hostage release agreement with ISWAP, which returned the girls to their hometown last week.
There was no ransom involved in that deal, say people familiar with its terms, who describe it as a confidence-building step by the two sides.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK