A Breakthrough With Boko Haram? Not So Much.

A week ago, the Nigerian government claimed that a ceasefire deal with the radical Islamic militant group would lead to the return of over 200 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok in April, but the girls not been returned as promised, and 25 more girls have been kidnapped in an attack on a town in northeastern Nigeria:

John Kwaghe, who witnessed the attack and lost three daughters to the abductors, and Dorathy Tizhe, who lost two, said the kidnappers came late in the night, forcing all the women to go with them, then later releasing the older ones. The attack cast further doubt on government reports that it has secretly reached a temporary ceasefire with the rebels in order to secure the release of more than 200 schoolgirls they are holding hostage. “We are confused that hours after the so-called ceasefire agreement has been entered between the Federal Government and Boko Haram insurgents, our girls were abducted by the insurgents,” Kwaghe said. “We urge the government to please help rescue our daughters without further delay, as we are ready to die searching.”

Chad, which brokered the truce, claims that the deal is still on, although some factions of Boko Haram are not abiding by it, and that the Chibok girls are still expected to come home once the details of a prisoner exchange are finalized. The new abduction, however, has cast serious doubt on the agreement. “Sadly,” writes Andrew Noakes, “there is now strong reason to believe the deal could be fake”:

The mystery of Danladi Ahmadu, Boko Haram’s “representative” during the ceasefire talks, is also cause for concern. According to journalist Ahmad Salkida, who has a history of close contact with the group, Ahmadu is an imposter. Salkida, who knows most of Boko Haram’s leading figures by their first names, has said he’s never heard of Ahmadu. Other sources familiar with the group have also expressed doubts about his claim to be a leading figure. It seems he is either completely bogus, or representing a little-known faction in the insurgency – and Salkida has been quick to dismiss the latter option.

He’s not the only skeptic, either. Many believe last week’s announcement had more to do with politics than reality:

“I sense Nigeria rushed to announce the deal with electoral-political calculations in mind,” said Mark Schroeder, vice president of Africa Analysis at the Stratfor consultancy. “Getting a victory with the schoolgirls and a short-term truce with Boko Haram could be positive for President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign,” he said. The announcement of the truce came a day before a rally of the president’s supporters in Abuja, although he has yet to announce his candidacy. Some residents of Nigeria’s northeast, which has born the brunt of the insurgency, also saw political calculations behind the announcement and doubted the talks in N’Djamena would lead to a lasting peace.

Anne Look shines a light on Boko Haram’s many other captives, noting that the group “has taken hundreds of young men, women and children, using various forms of coercion or enticement, since the insurgency began in 2009”:

Activists working with men who have later escaped say the men report being given some training and say Christians are forced to convert. They say Boko Haram makes the new recruits charge out front in battle, a kind of human shield. Locals say Boko Haram has used other methods, too, to get men to join as they have gobbled up territory this year.

A resident of the Damboa district, Musa Ibrahim, says Boko Haram would try to entice the young men out in the villages, promising them money if they join, as much as $1,200 (200,000 naira). He says they would also come around to “tax” the communities – telling them contribute food or a certain number of able-bodied men or else. Boko Haram took over the district capital Damboa in July. They ravaged the town, which some say they accused of helping the military. It was similar to other raids across Borno state: burn the houses, loot, grab teenage girls, kill the men or conscript them.