CDD Celebrates AU Democracy Day With A Symposium On Rising Insecurity In North East Nigeria: Boko Haram, The Government And Peace Negotiation
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) held a one day symposium at Hotel De Bently Abuja, Nigeria to celebrate the African Union Democracy Day as part of the activity for the Ratification, Popularization and Implementation of the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good governance.
The meeting which was attended by members of the security sector, the diplomatic corp, civil society groups, media and government deliberated on the Rising Insecurity in North East Nigeria: Boko Haram, the Government and Peace Negotiation. In her welcome address, Idayat Hassan, Team Lead Democratic Governance, CDD noted the geographic dimension of insecurity in Nigeria and decried the deafening silence of state actors in the face of incessant killings in the north. She added that the essence of the meeting is to stir people to rise up to the challenge. In his remarks Mr Peter Ocheikwu of OSIWA said that the event was timely.
In his paper presentation titled; Boko Haram, the Government and Peace Negotiation, the guest speaker referred to the colossal loss of the most important resource - human life as the main issue. Professor Kantiok also emphasized the need to engage in negotiations with Boko Haram group drawing reference from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whom in the face of similar circumstances during the IRA conflict adopted a 'back door diplomacy' which led to reconciliation between the British and Irish, and most recently, United States back door deals with Taliban in Afghanistan. He also decried the lack of organizational structure of the group.
The presentation also examined the demands of the group which included; Islamizing Nigeria, fight against corruption and quest for justice and noted that while the former is practically impossible due to the population and multi ethnic nature of the country, the latter can however be partially realized or achieved if efforts are made to bridge the gaps between the haves and the have not. On legitimacy, he argued that the group by virtue of its existence is already legitimized and essence of negotiation is to save lives.
The panel of discussants chaired by Professor Okey Ibeanu and compromising of Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Dr Ukoha Ukiwe, Dr Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa, Profesor Sam Egwu and Christian Ichite deliberated on how best to negotiate with the group. Some of the challenges identified include;
1. The deep historical and sociological nature of the insurgency and religious conflict in the Sahel.
2. The imposition of brand name 'Boko Haram' against the groups' true ideology of 'people committed to upholding sunna,' and the deceit of western education.
3. Lack of political element and structure to table grievances for negotiation as most of its leaders have been killed and others incarcerated.
4. Lack of trust in government, religious and traditional leaders due to breach of agreement severally.
5. Ideological nature of its cause.
6. Arms Proliferation and IEDs.
7. Hard Stance engagement strategy adopted by the military personnel.
Based on general consensus on need to negotiate the group, the following resolutions were reached;
i. To adopt a two thronged approach that will both strive to combat corruption by providing basic infrastructures on the one hand and pursuing negotiation using prominent trusted members of the society as peace negotiators.
ii. Leveraging local institutions such as the traditional and religious leaders by adopting an African mediation process.
iii. Adopting short, medium and long term intervention approaches with a broad view of addressing poverty.
iv. Identifying and blocking the source of funding.
v. Identifying willing faction of the group open to negotiation with the government and opening discussion with high ranking members in incarceration.
The meeting concluded that now that the silence has been broken, the engagement should continue.