Boko Haram's 'golden girls': ISS blasts Buhari govt over Chibok girls exchange

2017-05-22 15:41
 (File : AFP)

(File : AFP)

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Cape Town – The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has criticised Nigeria’s "sudden policy change", after it agreed to release some Boko Haram fighters in exchange for 82 Chibok girls earlier this month.

ISS Regional Co-ordinator for Southern Africa and expert on Boko Haram, Martin Ewi, told News24 that the Nigerian government had given the Islamic extremist group legitimacy and leverage when it agreed to the exchange.

He said that the nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the terror group over three years ago were now the "golden girls", as Boko Haram had managed to hold Nigerian authorities at ransom over their release.

Ewi said that it was going to be difficult for Nigerian authorities to refuse the groups demands going forward, as it now viewed itself as equal partners when the government agreed to negotiate with it.

"When a country negotiates with terror groups there are implications. Firstly, negotiations are held by equal partners, therefore negotiating with Boko Haram gives it some form of legitimacy and equality at the negotiation table.

"This also gives the group leverage against the government; thus, going forward it would be very difficult for the government to backtrack on agreements," said Ewi.

Moral Dilemma 

He also stated that this was a moral dilemma that would continue to haunt President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, as it was caught between "a rock and a hard place" on its stance against the extremist organisation.

Reports said that 82 Chibok schoolgirls, seized three years ago by Boko Haram, had been freed in exchange for detained suspected members of the extremist group.

Soon after, some of the Chibok girls were released and Buhari’s government confirmed that an exchange deal had been made for the girls.

After an initial release of 21 Chibok girls in October, the government denied making an exchange or paying a ransom.

The April 2014 abduction by Boko Haram brought the extremist group's rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and, for families of the schoolgirls, began years of heartbreak.

"This is a moral dilemma for President Buhari's government, because any families would want to see their loved one returned by any means necessary. So at what cost does one then agree to an extremist groups demands?

"Therefore, as much as we all would love to see the girls being released, giving in to an extremists groups demands only strengthen its resolve and makes the government's effort to fight it much more difficult," said Ewi. 

Diverting Public Attention

Ewi has also questioned the government's motives in agreeing to the extremist group's demands, saying that it was also possible that the government had agreed to the deal in order to "save President Buhari's questionable capacity to lead after a lengthy illness".

Buhari returned to work in March after nearly two months of medical leave in Britain.

During his absence, his office had repeatedly denied claims that the leader was ill, and insisted he was "hale and hearty".

But when he returned home, a gaunt looking Buhari said he "couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man" and described receiving "blood transfusions".

The state of his health was not revealed.

"President Buhari came to office through a campaign that promised to crush Boko Haram and bring back the missing girls, therefore, the political weight that the girls liberation (had) was just too much to miss. And it is also possible that the government was using the Chibok girls release to divert attention from the public scrutiny on the president's capability to finish off his term due to his illness," added Ewi. 

Read more on:    boko haram  |  muhammadu buhari  |  nigeria  |  nigeria abductions  |  abduction  |  west africa

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