Nigerian panel talks with Boko Haram leaders

The committee member said the elder statesmen who had facilitated the meeting were non-politician academics, retired military officials, community leaders, journalists and other professionals...

Nigerian panel talks with Boko Haram leaders

The Committee on Peace and Resolution of Conflict in the Northeast, formed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency in the north of the country, has met with top leaders of the group.

"It is true that we have been able to establish contacts with some of the sect's members through some elder statesmen in the northeast," a member of the 26-man committee told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

"We travelled down to the northeast many times, and some of them also came to Abuja at some points," he added.

The committee member said the elder statesmen who had facilitated the meeting were non-politician academics, retired military officials, community leaders, journalists and other professionals, for whom some sect leaders are said to have tremendous respect.

"In the beginning, the Boko Haram fellows were reluctant to meet us because of past experiences," he said.

"We also admitted to them that certain mistakes were made in the past, such as the arrest in Kaduna of some of its operatives nominated to meet with government representatives," the committee member added.

"But later, through these well-meaning elders, they started coming forward," he noted.

He went on to assert that the leaders did not include the group's top leader, known as Shekau.

"The truth of the matter is that most of those we met are well-educated and intellectually sound fellows," the committee member said.

The meeting confirms that Boko Haram is not faceless, as was believed earlier.

Nigerian Special Duties Minister Kabiru Tanimu, who serves as committee chairman, said yesterday that the panel would submit its report within the next week.

Two-faced group

The source confirmed that some of the atrocities blamed on Boko Haram were "mere franchise killings" by others.

"But inasmuch as there is indeed a group of people called Boko Haram, there is also the truth that there have been franchise killings in the name of Boko Haram as we were able to gather," he told AA. "There is the political Boko Haram."

The source revealed that Boko Haram was driven more by calls for social and economic justice than by religious motives.

"Their demands center around socio-economic justice. That is at the roots of it all," he said.

The member of the presidential committee said the group had been infiltrated by international jihadi movements, which, he claimed, had latched onto the murder of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf to woo the group.

He recalled several incidents in which some group members could not recite verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, when confronted by scholar-members of the presidential committee, including Sheikh Ahmad Lemu, who is revered across Nigeria as a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence.

Boko Haram, hitherto a peaceful though theologically strange Islamic sect campaigning against bad governance and corruption, has since the 2009 killing of its leader Yusuf metamorphosed into a full-blown terrorist organization.

It has killed thousands of innocent civilians and security agents deployed to curb its terrorist campaigns in the country's north.

The member of the presidential committee said the sect's members had claimed that they had nothing against the nation's Christians – one of their major targets.

"They said their activities centered on condemning corruption and calling on politicians to rule as God wishes," he said. "They said Christians misconstrue this message to mean they were calling for Sharia and annihilation of the Christians."

According to the source, Boko Haram has accused some Christians of waging a smear campaign against the group, culminating in a security crackdown on it and leading to the death of its leader Yusuf.

"They accuse the Christians in Borno of inciting hatred towards their groups," he said.

The source said the committee's recommendations centered around winning hearts and committing state resources to securing the future of young people who currently feel hopeless, rather than concentrating on military tactics.

"There is also the internationalization of the entire saga, particularly after the murder of their leader, and we notice that there are now different schools of thought even among the genuine ones," he added.

"One revelation is very instructive: that many of the foot soldiers for Boko Haram are frustrated young men who felt that having lost the better part of their lives to illiteracy and the total absence of opportunities, there is nothing more for them to lose," he said.

He added: "Their actions are driven more by frustration than by any spiritual motivation."

AA

Last Mod: 10 Ekim 2013, 10:13
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