Boko Haram still active in northern Nigeria | Africa | DW | 20.06.2013
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Boko Haram still active in northern Nigeria

Despite the state of emergency, north-eastern Nigeria is still embattled. Gunmen have attacked two schools and killed several students in recent days. The gunmen are believed to be Boko Haram members.

The Nigerian government's intervention has suffered a setback in recent days. Shortly after the government had made its first, positive, assessment of the state of emergency imposed in mid-May in Borno, Yobe and Zamfara states, two schools in north-eastern Nigeria came under attack and several students were shot dead.

Representatives of Nigerian civil society say military intervention is not sufficient to curb terror in the north. Man Paddy Kemdi Njoku is the chairman of the Nigerian National Examinations Council (NECO).

"Issues that gave rise to the emergency of organizations like Boko Haram have to be looked at and that is what we are doing at non governmental level," Njoku told DW.

Njoku underlines the importance of teaching people to be responsible citizens. He says the government has to learn that it should provide jobs, and parents should set a good example for their children.

A security man walks pass the charred remains of buses (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer )

Nigerian civil society groups believe military intervention is not the only way to stop terror

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria's capital, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, says it is also important to analyze exactly who is behind Boko Haram, and why the group has become more radical over the years. One of the main points that the government has failed to address is how to deal with Islamic communities, says the cardinal who has been campaigning for an interfaith dialogue.

"These boys already have their own ideas of how the government should be. That's why they insist that they should have an Islamic state" Onaiyekan told DW. He says the idea has "gone around the circle of Muslim fanatics that the world is full of corruption and wars and this is because the world has refused to accept Islam which is the religion of peace. [They believe] there will be no peace in the world until we all become Muslims."

These are radical words in the ears of many Nigerian Christians, who make up about half of the more than 160 million-strong population.

A huge contradiction

Apart from military intervention, it seems the government is also trying to find a political solution. An amnesty committee has been set up with the aim of bringing the terrorists to the negotiating table and persuading them to hand over their weapons. In return they will go free.

Representatives of the Nigerian amnesty committee

The amnesty committee has been the target of considerable criticism

However, this strategy has been criticized by many Nigerians. Emmanuel Nnadozie Onwubiko is the chairman of an organization of Nigerian writers concerned about human rights (the Human Rights Writers Organization of Nigeria, HURIWA).

"This is a huge contradiction. Because you cannot on one hand declare an all-out war against armed terrorists and on the other hand, you adopt a carrot and stick approach. This is a very unintelligent approach to fighting terrorism," Onwubiko said.

Notwithstanding such criticism, the government is sticking to to its dual strategy. After a month-long public debate, the amnesty committee now meets regularly. But Boko Haram has publicly rejected any talks with the government.

According to Onwubiko, "This shows that the government is not properly advised. It also shows that people who make up the foreign ministry and ministry of justice are not competent." If they were competent, he continues, "they would know we have a constitution, a written law that says anyone who kills through extra-legal means, is supposed to be prosecuted for murder."

Cardinal John Onaiyekan advocates a peace and reconciliation body made up of government and civil society participants.

"We hope we will be able to face the issues and really discuss them frankly and arrive at some kind of agreeable solutions which will include also compromises. I don't see that happening yet. What I see happening right now is simply efforts to put out the fire."

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