The federal government has confirmed that it is in talks with the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, on a possible ceasefire, with the ultimate aim of securing a permanent cessation of hostilities.
The talks on a ceasefire was made known by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed in an email to Reuters on Sunday, outlining the background to the release of more than 104 schoolgirls returned last week by the group after their kidnapping on February 19 from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe.
The minister’s revelation on the ceasefire talks came on the heels of the open letter written by civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), to the president urging him to drop the proposed policy to grant amnesty to members of Boko Haram.
“Unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now,” said Mohammed. “We were able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted.”
Mohammed said the week-long ceasefire, starting on March 19, had been agreed to enable the group to drop off the girls.
This is the first time in years the government has said it is talking to Boko Haram about a ceasefire in an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged the North-east of Africa’s biggest economy.
Boko Haram aims to create an Islamic state. Its campaign has spread to neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger but the group has been severely weakened in recent years by regional military pressure and it has lost most of the territory it once held.