Oct. 20 (GIN) –With frustration boiling over at government foot-dragging over the fate of 219 girls, kidnapped from a government secondary school in Chibok last April, the Nigerian government took the audacious step this week of announcing a truce with the alleged kidnappers and a possible date for their return.
The surprise announcement claimed that since a meeting between high level officials and the “secretary general” of the rebel group Boko Haram took place, a truce was in the works and the missing girls would be home soon.
Celebrations were subdued since the same government of Pres. Goodluck Jonathan had said, shortly after the kidnapping, that the “Chibok” girls had come back – which turned out to be false. Then the government said that they knew where the girls were hidden but in the interest of the girls’ safety would not make any risky moves for their rescue.
Now the latest story from the Goodluck Jonathan administration appears to be questionable at best.
The first piece of the hastily-crafted story to fall was the claim that Chadian President Idriss Deby had overseen the talks. A spokesman for President Deby declined to confirm the report. Similarly, a spokesman for the president of Niger, also said to be part of the negotiations, told the press that he was not aware of any such dialogue.
Ahmad Salkida, a former journalist with access to some top Boko Haram leaders, had serious doubts about the reported deal. “It appears that govt is more interested in shadows and bubbles, than in substance and clear headed engagement,” he wrote on Twitter. A U.S. State Dept. official said no American officials were aware of a cease-fire.
Boko Haram has not commented on the alleged truce and this week launched new raids, killing people in three villages and reportedly abducting 40 women. Speaking to the press, Nigerian military officers on the frontline claimed they were yet to receive an operational order to cease hostilities.
“Honestly, we are yet to receive any operational order on the ceasefire. As such, we are battle-ready and would confront the terrorists if we see them,” a senior military officer told the news agency AFP.
A false alarm could further damage re-election chances for Pres. Jonathan. The nation is set to vote in mid-2015.