Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Deal to free kidnap girls possible - analysts

13 May 2014, 06:47

Lagos - Conditions set out by Boko Haram's leader for the release of the schoolgirls held hostage by the militants may lead to a deal that sees the girls freed, analysts said on Monday.

In a new video obtained by AFP, the group's leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls may be released once Nigeria frees all the Boko Haram prisoners it has in custody.

The government rejected that proposal and said it was not interested in any conditions dictated by the extremists who have killed thousands in a five-year uprising and claimed the shocking 14 April mass abduction in the northeastern town of Chibok, Borno state.

On the subject of talking to Boko Haram, Nigeria has sent contradictory messages in the past.

Months after claiming that dialogue with the militants was impossible, President Goodluck Jonathan last year tasked a high-level panel with negotiating a ceasefire, an offer ultimately rejected by Shekau.

Shehu Sani, an expert on Boko Haram and religious violence in northern Nigeria, wrote last week that the militants were likely to demand a prisoner release in exchange for teenage girls seized from their school in Chibok.

"A deal can be reached with the insurgents on this issue," Sani told AFP.

The military has been accused of rounding up thousands of Boko Haram suspects, including women and children, and holding them in atrocious conditions that have been criticised by rights groups.

Shekau has also made prisoner exchange demands before. An early example came in 2011, when Boko Haram wrote an open letter to the governor of northern Kano state, demanding the release of detainees.

Sani said Boko Haram detainees can be divided into three categories: senior insurgent commanders, foot soldiers and families members of Boko Haram leaders.

The government should release members of this third group "as a gesture", provided it was tied to the release of some of the Chibok hostages, Sani said.

Worth exploring

Elizabeth Donnelly, of the Africa Programme at the London-based think-tank Chatham House, agreed that a prisoner-for-hostage swap was "worth exploring".

"They need to take any opportunity they may have because this is about the lives of more than 200 children," she said.

Donnelly noted an important shift between Shekau's first video on the hostages, released on 5 May, where he boasted about the abduction, threatened to sell the girls as "slaves" and made no mention of their possible release.

While the threat to sell the girls was repeated on Monday, Shekau in the latest video also said that Boko Haram "will never release them [the girls] until after you release our brethren".

The floating of this condition may be a sign that Boko Haram was "reconsidering its position", Donnelly said. "There does seem to be a reappraisal."

Boko Haram's insurgency, which has so often targeted defenceless civilians, often appears totally "indiscriminate" but "there is an element of this group which is well-organised and thinks strategically", she added.

Outrage over the mass abductions has spread across the globe, with prominent personalities ranging from US First Lady Michelle Obama to Pope Francis calling for the girls immediate release.

Britain, China, France, the United States and Israel have all offered various levels of military and security cooperation to secure the girls' release.

Boko Haram's position may have been influenced by the offers of support from world powers, which is unprecedented in the five-year conflict.

Next step

The logistical complications of trying to hide 223 teenage hostages amid a ramped-up search operation may have also forced the militants to look for a negotiated deal.

"It is possible that they realised they hadn't really thought through their strategy," said Donnelly.Sani called on Nigeria to quickly form a panel that includes senior Muslim clerics from the north, working with Boko Haram detainees to forge a formal offer.

When pursuing ceasefire talks last year, Nigeria first reached out to detainees to discuss how a truce should be structured.

Donnelly said the government should work with northern civil society actors who in the past were used as intermediaries with Boko Haram.

She recalled the 2013 kidnapping of seven members of a French family, including four children, from northern Cameroon, which was claimed by Boko Haram.

While various governments ruled out making a deal with Boko Haram, "there were negotiations and a payment was made" that led to the family's release, said Donnelly.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...