Amid battles, Boko Haram offers dialogue with Nigerian president
A caller claiming to speak for the Islamist militant group Boko Haram called a local TV station on Sunday demanding 'one on one' dialogue with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
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The offer came via a phone call to a Nigerian television station, AIT, on Sunday. The caller claimed to be a spokesman for the group that calls itself Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad, better known by local Nigerians for their slogan "Boko Haram," which means "Western education is a sin."
“We want Dr. Jonathan one on one," the caller said on AIT television. "No police, no nothing. And if he doesn’t address us in the next 78 hours, we are going to strike, and this time around, we are coming to Abuja and Lagos. We are not hiding it; we are going to see to it.”
It was impossible to verify if the caller was in fact a member of Boko Haram, and indeed for which faction of Boko Haram the caller may belong to, following reported splits within the secretive organization. But while the president himself has remained silent about the offer of dialogue, members of his cabinet have suggested in the past few days that the Nigerian government would be open to the idea of talking.
Namadi Sambo, the Nigerian vice president, confirmed to reporters this weekend that dialogue remains the best option for solving the lingering crises in the country and appealed to all Nigerians to embrace peace.
"I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians, especially members of Boko Haram to embrace peace," Mr. Sambo told reporters while opening a new school in Kaduna State this weekend. "Let them come and sit down and dialogue with the Federal Government so that peace can reign in our country.”
Given the level of violence that has occurred thus far in this low-level insurgency, and how ambitious the goals of Boko Haram are – the militant group seeks to replace the secular constitution with Islamic sharia law across the Muslim-dominated north of the country – it is difficult to imagine what benefit might come from dialogue. But as death tolls continue to rise, including blasts at Christian churches, attacks on foreign aid missions, and counter-insurgency efforts that have killed hundreds of suspected Boko Haram members, the suggestion of dialogue may be a welcomed respite from the wave of killing that neither side can sustain.