Last week, Nigerian forces began their largest offensive to date against terrorist insurgent group Boko Haram. The offensive was authorized by President Goodluck Johnathan following a Boko Haram attack that took place in the northeastern state of Borno, killing 185. As a result, a state of emergency has been declared within the country and Nigerian forces have been authorized to use whatever force is necessary to dispell Boko Haram militants from the states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe each located on Nigeria's northeastern border.
Nigerian forces have claimed that terrorist group Boko Haram is "in disarray" yet the recent offensive could prove to do more harm than good unless a peaceful outcome is achieved. The terror group Boko Haram has been seeking to establish an independent Islamic state in the north of the country, where the vast majority of the population is Muslim as opposed to the predominantly Christian south. While the moderate north tends to not support the terror group they have grown dissatisfied with the government in Abuja, waiting for the benefits of high oil sales to reach them. This grievance was addressed by Minister of Special Duties Alhaji Kabiru Turaki of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North when he stated , "One of the problems we have in the country, especially in the north, is the failure of the leadership to give priority to two very important sectors of agriculture and entrepreneurship. We have an army of unemployed and redundant youths and because of this therefore, they become easy tools in the hands of rabble rousers and unpatriotic elements."
Over the past year Boko Haram has grown in hostility and strength, killing nearly 1,000 people. Unfortunately Nigerian forces have responded in kind, showing little discrimination between civilian and insurgent, which has lead to a growing distaste among northerners towards the government. The human rights abuses committed by Nigerian forces during the recent offensive have been so bad that Secretary of State John Kerry has released a statement to the Nigerian government calling for such abuses to end.
What is peculiar about the recent strategy employed by President Johnathan is that he is fully aware that it will cause a drop in his popularity in the north. In fact previously this year President Johnathan sought to peacefully negotiate with the terrorist group by offering them amnesty, an offer that still currently stands. Instead of accepting the offer in the past Boko Haram responded by offering the government amnesty for its own actions. The recent actions of the military has caused nearly 2,000 people, both civilians and militants, to cross the porous borders into neighboring Cameroon and Niger. There has been growing concern that Boko Haram has been receiving aid from Al Qaeda affiliates in other countries. With the lawless Sahara lying north of Nigeria there is growing concern that Boko Haram militants could regroup and restrengthen waiting for an opportunity to regain the foothold that they enjoyed within Nigeria's north.
President Johnathan's Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North has recently stated that they are open to peaceful dialogue with Boko Haram militants in whatever country of their choosing. When asked to comment, Minister of Special Duties Alhaji Kabiru Turaki stated, "The declaration of state of emergency will not stop our work. We will continue to work towards opening channels of communication with Boko Haram sect. This is because despite the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, there are efforts being made at dialogue with the Talibans." One can only hope that peaceful dialogue can occur so as to ensure unity within the country and an end to the conflict that has erupted there.