Boko Haram may release the more than 200 captured girls, who were taken in April of this year, as the government and the militant group came to an agreement for a cease-fire. Nigeria’s chief of defense, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, announced the cease-fire earlier today. Badeh ordered all military officers to abide by the terms of the truce.
According to Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur, Boko Haram declared a unilateral cease-fire, and agreed in principle to release the captured girls, although specifics still needed to be ironed out. Tukur said that the group claims that the girls are in decent condition. He also believes that a deal to bring the girls back is possible. Tukur admitted that past negotiations had failed to yield any solid results, but he said that he was cautiously optimistic about it this time around. The government will continue to monitor to see that the cease-fire stands.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002, and their name literally translated from Hausa means “Western education is forbidden.” Indeed, their original focus was an opposition to Western-style education, although it has since expanded. Since 2009, they have stepped up their military attacks in an attempt to create an Islamic state. In the process, thousands have been killed, while an estimated three million people, mostly in northeastern Nigeria, have been affected. They have attacked police, as well as the headquarters of the United Nations in Abuja, the nation’s capital. The United States declared it a terrorist group last year. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have conflicting estimates of the numbers of casualties caused by the group, although estimates by both agencies number in the thousands. Several nations, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger banded their forces together to create a force of almost 3,000 to fight Boko Haram earlier this year.
The girls were taken by Boko Haram from their hometown of Chibok on April 14, sparking outrage around the world. The group released a video of the girls in May, and threatened to place them on the market if their demands were not met. Boko Haram had wanted to have some of their rebel leaders released in order to agree to let the girls go. However, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has made it clear that those are unacceptable conditions that he is not willing to consider.
It is possible that Boko Haram may release the captured girls now, however. The two sides finally reached an agreement after holding talks in Saudi Arabia. President Idriss Deby of Chad was present, as were some high-ranking officials from Cameroon.
The newly announced ceasefire agreement raises hopes that Boko Haram may indeed release the captured girls. Major General Chris Olukolade stated that negotiations for their release are still ongoing, although the ceasefire would begin immediately. Boko Haram has confirmed that they still have the girls,
Boko Haram may then release the captured girls, if the government manages to successfully negotiate their release. Nigerian government officials feel that they have scored a success with the ceasefire. They now hope to build on that success, and will now work towards an agreement that they hope can be made to secure the release of the 219 school girls.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Ruus Allison Loar – Flickr