Global Insider: Any Boko Haram Deal Must Address Nigeria’s Structural Instability

Global Insider: Any Boko Haram Deal Must Address Nigeria’s Structural Instability

On April 24, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a committee charged with opening negotiations with militant group Boko Haram and preparing for a possible amnesty deal. In an email interview, Jennifer Giroux, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich who specializes in conflict in energy-producing and transit regions, explained what the process might entail as well as the obstacles it faces.

WPR: What would the amnesty proposal currently under consideration for Boko Haram involve?

Jennifer Giroux: At the moment there is not an amnesty deal but rather the organization of resources to develop an amnesty framework. The government recently created two committees -- one to examine the proliferation of small arms and the other to engage key leaders of Boko Haram and identify the key elements of a possible amnesty agreement. Obviously disarmament will be part of any amnesty discussion; however, Boko Haram has more concrete demands, such as the release of incarcerated members. What the amnesty should involve, however, is another question. The north, where Boko Haram is active, is the poorest region in the country and is awash with youth who are flocking to urban centers where they are jobless and not engaged. There are certain demographic and political components of this crisis that cannot be ignored. Any amnesty proposal should have short- and long-term objectives that on the one hand seek to put an end to the political violence -- not just that perpetrated by the Islamist insurgency but also by military forces in the region -- and on the other hand develop and implement solutions to address the structural preconditions fueling instability. In this respect the amnesty can be viewed as opening a door to address the region’s underlying issues.

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