In June 2009, the Nigerian government offered an amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta. The program’s merits and results remain a subject of debate today. Now the amnesty debate will include another Nigerian conflict zone: the Northeast, where attacks by the Islamist rebel group Boko Haram have claimed the lives of politicians, Muslim leaders, and security forces.
The governor-elect of Borno State, Boko Haram’s headquarters, is willing to offer the Islamists amnesty:
They have taken up arms against the state and they are blamed for a series of killings which are treasonable offences,” Kashim Shettima, elected governor of Borno state last month and due to take office May 29, told AFP.
“But my government will offer them amnesty as long as they lay down their arms and embrace peace.”
A man claiming to be a sect spokesman has however ruled out an amnesty deal.
That Shettima is talking about an amnesty indicates that he believes force alone cannot crush Boko Haram. Shettima is also likely concerned that his own life is at risk; in January, Boko Haram assassinated the gubernatorial candidate of his party. A cease-fire could allow for time and space to address the group’s grievances, and could prevent some violence. Yet if Boko Haram is not willing to accept the offer, where will that leave Shettima? And where does the federal government stand on the deal?