A reputed ceasefire and agreement to return scores of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria merit skepticism given Boko Haram’s violent ideology and the previous failures of the Nigerian government, one observer says. “We have heard that these girls have been rescued by the military - twice in the last six months. We have also heard of ceasefires twice in as many years. As with all information coming out of government circles, the rule of thumb is to wait till we hear the terrorists’ side of the story,” Emmanuel Ogebe, managing partner of the U.S.-Nigeria Law Group, told CNA Oct. 17. The militant Islamic group has been leading an uprising since 2009. “Boko Haram has repudiated or denounced ceasefires within days so I am not holding my breath on this,” said Ogebe, a human rights lawyer who lobbied the U.S. government to recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist group. “Frankly it is difficult to imagine that overnight these die-hard Islamist terrorists suddenly had a rethink about violent jihad against all infidels." “They have clearly shown their disinterest in money, reason or civilization. It is hard to conceive that they simply changed their minds on their evil theology especially when they hold 26 towns captive at the moment.” Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur said the government had responded to Boko Haram’s Oct. 16 announcement of a unilateral ceasefire, following a month of negotiations mediated by the Chad government. “They've assured us they have the girls and they will release them,” he told the BBC, adding that arrangements for their release would be finalized next week. However, Boko Haram has not made a public statement on the claimed ceasefire. The government has not revealed what concessions it has made, although a Nigerian government spokesman said the group would not be given territory. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” began using military force in 2009 to impose sharia law on Nigeria. It has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominately Muslim north. The group is responsible for thousands of deaths, including at least 2,000 this year alone. The UN estimates that Boko Haram's attacks have led do more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, and some 57,000 refugees. Boko Haram gained international attention in April when it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of nearly 300 teenaged school girls, the majority of whom are still missing. Ogebe noted the importance of the girls’ return. “We need closure on clearly one of the most traumatic stories of the year,” he said. “Seldom has a terrorist looked the world in the eye and defiantly declared ‘I took your girls and will sell them as slaves’.” Ogebe blamed Boko Haram’s “virulent ideology” as an obstacle to peace. “When people have that mindset, it is tough to de-radicalize them. Even if there is an end to the insurgency and anti-Christian genocide, sadly persecution of Christians in Nigeria will still continue on a ‘normal’ scale for Boko Haram,” he said. “Given the wanton destruction they unleashed--a reported 185 churches attacked in the last two months and over 3,000 people slaughtered--this is a tough price to pay to appease killers. This insurgency has impacted future generations already.” Ogebe added that the return of the abducted girls is very important for Nigerian politics. “It is almost a survival imperative for the government of Nigeria, which has been thrust into the global spotlight for inefficacy and insensitivity in its handling of the world's most notorious current mass abduction,” he said. “In the current election season, it is difficult for them to focus on campaigning without safe recovery of the girls.”
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