• Those who were forcefully recruited to join the outlawed Boko Haram should be given amnesty, a group of northern women in Nigeria have requested.

    The Coalition for Women Advancement in Africa (COWAA) asked the government to pardon all those who were recruited against their will.

    According to the group whose members are predominantly northern, they are confident that the acts of exoneration will help in depopulating the terrorist group that has left thousands dead, others nursing injuries and property destroyed. They also see this as a means to restore peace in the northern parts of Nigeria.

    While this could be a relief for many conscripts, a stern warning against those who defy their membership of the notorious terror group has been issued. The groups hold that those who renounce their membership should be treated as criminals that deserved no mercy.

    The announcement by COWAA comes a few days after the Boko Haram leader, Ibrahim Shekau, released a video which has been taken as a declaration of defeat by the terror group. The women group, according to an article, carried out forensic analyses on the video and could, without a doubt say that Shekau was admitting defeat.

    Boko Haram has been abducting people and converting them to Islam to propagate their ideologies which include advocating a strict form of Sharia law, opposing the westernization of Nigeria society and de-concentration of wealth among members of a small political elite.

    In April 2015, the group kidnapped 276 girls from a school in northern Nigeria town of Chibok- a mostly Christian village. Although some schoolgirls managed to escape, 219 more are yet to be traced.

    The recent case where a young girl, estimated to be 15 surrendered to Cameroonian authorities has spurred thoughts that the 219 girls could be traced through her. The girl whose name cannot be released since she is a minor, claims to be from Chibok.

    Idrissou Yacoubou, leader of a self-defense group in Limani, Cameroon said: “the girl looked tired, malnourished and psychologically tortured and could not give us more details about her stay in the forest and how her other mates were treated.”

    Since the Chibok kidnapping, the group carried out another mass kidnapping taking with them some 300 students aged 7 to 17 and 100 women from a school in northeastern Damasak town a year ago. Little has been done to trace this group which was “the largest documented school abduction," according to Human Rights Watch.

    Even as Boko Haram continues to abduct and terrorize people, the Nigeria’s military and forces from neighboring countries have reported freeing at least 3,000 captives from several insurgent camps in the region. Last week, Nigeria’s army announced it rescued more than 800 hostages from camps in Nigeria’s Borno state.

    If this continues, the terror group, which pledges allegiance to Islamic State could soon run short of recruits and captives.

    Has amnesty worked before?

    After the Garissa University attack that claimed 148 lives, mostly students in April 2015, the Kenyan Government announced an amnesty and reintegration policy for young people who renounced Al-Shabaab.

    Up to 85 youths surrendered and the Interior Spokesperson Mwenda Njoka said that they “were undergoing rehabilitation and counseling”.

    In 2009, militants in the Nigeria's southern Delta upset at the exploitation of the region by oil companies, laid down arms in return for a greater share of the wealth being extracted from the oilfields.

    The ultimate solution

    According to an article by New African, the best way to handle Boko Haram is to “leave Nigeria alone to deal with Boko Haram in the open, while neighboring countries provide quiet support and intelligence-sharing.”

    This they say has worked in other countries including Britain when it was dealing with Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorism, and Germany with the Red Brigade or Baader-Meinhof Gang. They argue Nigeria and Africa can borrow a leaf from these instances.

    Lt-Col Aminu Mohammed Umar in his paper, ‘Nigeria and the Boko Haram sect: Adopting a better strategy for resolving the crisis,’ presented in 2013 suggests the following as solutions:

    • Capture and neutralization of Boko Haram’s core leaders: This will not only prevent the group from organizing, recruiting and launching attacks but will also disorganize its support base.
    • Improve ideological operations: To counter the ideologies propagated by the terror group, the government must come up with counter-ideological committees that can detect the vulnerability of interpretations of Boko Haram beliefs so as to demonize them in advance.
    • Addressing legitimate grievances: To cut the code, the government need to address some of the legitimate grievances of the group. It should also compensate those who have been caught up in the middle of crackdowns of the sect. This, Umar argues will put an end sympathies offered to Boko Haram. He also advocates for the prosecution of members who have violated human rights of individuals.
    • Create greater employment opportunities: The northeast region where Boko Haram remain active is considered the worst hit by unemployment. By availing jobs to the youth, it will render the group’s recruitment base fruitless.
    • Political reforms: According to Umar the political landscape in Nigeria creates disenchantment for the majority of the people. This, in turn, creates a smaller growing army of militias that have been tools for politicians. The government should be on the look-out of such groupings and curtail their efforts before it is too late.
    • Dialogue and national reconciliation: Over the years, instability has deepened the existing religious and ethnic fault-lines in Nigeria, Umar says. The emergence of Boko Haram has worsened the situation. Leaders should cease from religious patronage which further impedes reconciliation efforts. National dialogue and reconciliation can help resolve the matter. 

    Image credit: Reuters