How would forgiving terrorism compromise our nation? How would the United States react if President Obama, at some point today or tomorrow, considered granting amnesty to the perpetrator(s) of the Boston Marathon bombings? How would the country have reacted if President Bush had decided to pardon the 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who subjugated our country's security 12 years ago?
Nigeria's predominant Islamist group, Boko Haram, is currently being considered for such amnesty within the Nigerian government, and president Goodluck Jonathan is now backing its bid for consideration.
Boko Haram is a jihadist Islamic sect concerned with instituting sharia law throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with primary intentions on purifying the "corrupt" Muslim rule in the northern half of the country. Its insurgency sprouted in 2009, and has since murdered close to an estimated 2,000 people in an effort to spread its message throughout the country. Since August 2011 alone, Boko Haram has planted bombs almost weekly in public areas throughout Nigeria's northeast and has recently begun setting fires to schools. In March 2012, over 12 public schools in Maiduguri were burned down during the night — and over 10,000 students were forced out of education.
Starting today, over the next 60 days, a presidential committee comprised of military figures, academics, and politicians, will come together to "constructively engage key members of Boko Haram and define a comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the country," BBC Africa reports.
To some this may come as a surprise and even a disappointment that a government would concede to terrorist destruction without any justified retaliation. But the situation in Nigeria is a little messier than the surface story may suggest.
In its campaign to hunt down and eliminate the Boko Haram insurgency, the government-based Nigerian security forces have faced increased criticism for their widespread abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture, which, in turn, have only fueled further violence. Salil Shetty, secretary general of the human rights group Amnesty International, described Nigerian people as "living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them."
Additionally, the Islamist Boko Haram group has reportedly rejected the proposed Nigerian amnesty, proposing that the group has done no wrong and therefore is not warranted for such an applied amnesty. Instead, the group's spokesman, Abubakar Shekau, insists that the government should be the targeted organization for its atrocities against Muslims.
The suggestion of amnesty for the sins committed by the notorious terrorist group has met mixed reactions from the Nigerian and international public. While some religious and political leaders in northeastern Nigeria, the epicenter of the insurgency, have relished in the prospect of peace that the amnesty offers, other Nigerians consider it too early for complete amnesty. Some even consider advocates of such amnesty as enemies of the country.
It will be an undeniably tricky set of conversations over the next two months, but with peace and political stability as the goals, hopefully the Nigerian government leaders can come to a clear and comprehensive decision: absolve the terrorists of their sins and move forward with diplomacy or find a way to end the jihadist insurgency once and for all.
What do you think is the proper response from the Nigerian government? Amnesty or attack?