Boko Haram Leader Rejects Potential Amnesty DealApril 11, 2013 in Nigeria
Last week, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan tasked a high level team with looking into the possibility of granting a pardon to members of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, which literally translates to “Western education is forbidden”, is a militant Islamist movement which based in the northeast region of Nigeria. Members strongly oppose man-made laws and westernization, and hold a desire to establish their form of Sharia Law in the country, using violence and terrorist tactics to carry out their aims, resulting in the deaths of over 3,000 people since 2009. Analysts believe that growing ties to other Islamist groups in West Africa, such as AQIM, have further mobilized Nigerian militants more towards Western targets. In February, a French family of seven was kidnapped in northern Cameroon and is still being held by suspected Boko Haram militants. Boko Haram has recently been designated a global terrorist group by the United States.
On 6 April, militants suspected of belonging to Boko Haram shot or hacked eleven people to death in the northeast Nigerian village of Madube, including at a deputy governor’s home. Six more people were wounded in the attack. The deputy governor was not harmed.
President Jonathan asked for the panel to examine amnesty following intense pressure from politicians and Nigeria’s highest Muslim spiritual figure, the Sultan of Sokoto. They believe the army’s response to the insurgency is not bringing peace. In 2009, Nigeria offered an amnesty to militants in the southern part of the country, near the oil-producing Niger Delta. The amnesty was credited with greatly reducing unrest there.
The panel, comprised of national security officials, northern leaders and others, is scheduled to report later this month. However, an audio statement believed to be from the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau, claimed that his group “not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty”.
“Surprisingly,” he said, “the Nigerian government is talking about granting us amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you pardon.” The message continued with a list of what Shekau describes as the state’s atrocities against Muslims.
As if to emphasize their rejection of amnesty, Yobe State Police Commissioner confirmed that four officers were gunned down in the early hours of Thursday (11 April) in a firefight with Boko Haram. The militants intended to burn down the station, but were thwarted. Five gunmen were killed, but some rifles were lost to the attackers.