Tuesday, October 28, 2014 1:17 pm
Zannah Mustapha is a Maiduguri-based lawyer who stood for Boko Haram members arrested during the 2009 insurgency and proprietor of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School which caters for orphans and vulnerable children in the city. In this interview, he gives his opinion on the ongoing peace talks between government and Boko Haram insurgents as well as how lasting peace can be achieved in the North-East
Q: What do you think of the ongoing negotiation between the government and the Boko Haram insurgents group?
The issue of negotiation is one which ordinarily everybody in Borno State is yearning for. There have been reports of several negotiations and ceasefire agreements reported in the media in the past, but the people involved have not been sincere. They are not addressing the issues. These problems have been there for about six years now and there is no respite and generally if you look at it, God created everything in pairs, he created peace, he created violence. If God had not created Satan for instance, we would not have had those who would be preaching peace, we will not have the police or the banks. These are evils that human beings have to tackle. Government has the ability to look for a viable way to intervene to end the insurgency and this should not be on the basis of who is involved or who is in government. Nobody has ever sat to say what brought about the insurgency in the North-East. The government has not deployed enough of its knowledge or intelligence in that area. Government first said they (Boko Haram) are faceless, they are fluid, that it cannot negotiate with terrorists; you have already created a divide that you cannot meet them. But it is for the government to create an enabling environment for the peace process to take place instead of taking what the Western nations are saying. United States of America will for instance say this is a terror organisation, but at the same time, they will go through the backdoor to negotiate with them. Where are the Tamil Tigers now? They are no longer active. So, ordinarily, government should have found avenue to engage the insurgents much earlier than now.
But government has initiated that process now…
Now, the insurgents have grown, they have some local governments under their control. Like one-third of Borno is in their hands; nobody goes out to Gamboru Ngala and other towns in that area because the insurgents are in control. But when they started, they were just in one enclave and it was at that time that government should have found ways talking to them. But government was busy saying we have captured the leadership of Boko Haram and this and that instead of looking for experts who could talk to these people. All the government was saying was, let’s kill them. But arms have never solved any insurgency. It is through dialogue that peace can be achieved. We must also have somebody at the centre talking, but we have a situation in which one minister will say we will engage the terrorists, another will say No, we will not talk to them. And that is not good because it shows that the centre is not strong as it used to be. But if you look at the part of the insurgents, they have firm leadership and that leader has been the one talking. But instead of government engaging him or engaging those ones they’ve captured, they are killing them, leading to accusations of extra-judicial killings and so on. But government can engage them while the military continuea to do what it is doing, though I know there is no way the issue of justice will not come up later.