A Breakthrough With Boko Haram?

On Friday, news of a ceasefire between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram raised hopes that the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok might finally be released, but with the truce already in doubt, nobody is daring to celebrate too soon:

Two senior government sources said on Saturday that they hoped the release would be completed by Tuesday. On Friday, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced a deal with Boko Haram for a ceasefire that would enable the release of the girls, who have been held since April.

But within hours, Boko Haram had already broken the ceasefire, killing at least nine people in two attacks – one on the village of Abadam on Friday night, and another attack on the village of Dzur on Saturday morning. “I can confirm that FG (the federal government) is working hard to meet its own part of the agreement so that the release of the abductees can be effected either on Monday or latest Tuesday next week,” one source told Reuters by telephone.

Atta Barkindo questions whether the ceasefire is genuine:

The first inklings of this particular ceasefire agreement were heard on October 16 when Danladi Ahmadu, who claimed to be the “secretary-general” of Boko Haram, told the Voice of America (VOA) that an agreement had been reached between his group and the Nigerian government with the involvement of officials from Chad and Cameroon. …

But there are some credibility problems with this ceasefire agreement. First there is huge scepticism about the identity of Danladi Ahmadu. In his VOA interview, Ahmadu even referred to Boko Haram as Boko Haram and not its real name, Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad. Additionally, it is difficult to ascertain if Ahmadu is representing a particular faction of Boko Haram or the group’s mainstream leadership. Ahmad Salkida, a Nigerian journalist with proven records of contact with the leadership of Boko Haram, dented the credibility of the ceasefire and appeared to suggest that Nigeria may have been hoodwinked by the broker.

And even if the deal is for real, Simon Kolawole points out that some people won’t be very happy about it:

In some circles … a ceasefire represents the ultimate surrender of the Nigerian state to terrorism, a huge dent on national ego and a sign of how weak the Nigerian government has become. To the military hierarchy, this may be viewed as a humiliation, for how can we be discussing with terrorists who deserve nothing but death after all the horror they have inflicted on soldiers and civilians? I also heard several comments that President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to the peace deal because he is desperate to be returned to office next year. We all have our opinions, of course.

Jonathan’s re-election bid is just one part of the “multilayered drama” in which, to Richard Joseph’s eyes, the kidnapped girls are merely pawns:

For a start, it has been unclear how Boko Haram is financed — and how much assistance it might be receiving from disaffected members of the northern Nigerian elite, as well as those holding government positions at the federal and state levels. “Underground” campaigns involving the use of armed thugs have been a staple feature of Nigerian party politics for decades, and international human rights groups have noted a “dirty war” conducted by soldiers and government-financed militias. These abuses, combined with the dysfunction of the armed forces, complicate external assistance.

The problem for Nigeria is that although the jihadists will eventually almost certainly be crushed, as were the secessionists in Nigeria’s civil war, the clock is ticking on a greater threat to the Nigerian nation, namely popular protests in northern Nigeria following February’s presidential poll, which President Goodluck Jonathan is certain to contest.