Boko Haram would interpret any offer of negotiations as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve from the Nigerian government, and they would see an incentive to keep up the fight.
The group demands the imposition of Sharia law, which is the aim of jihad in all its forms. That would be the central matter for negotiation despite whatever else the government might offer with respect to economic conditions and employment, as the inclusion of the labor minister in discussions may suggest.
Perhaps some in the government recognize the danger of being put in a position to negotiate piecemeal concessions on Sharia with a group that won’t lay down its arms entirely until it has all the Sharia it wants, and only Sharia. An update on this story. “Nigeria backs off on plan for talks with Islamists,” from Agence France-Presse, August 2 (thanks to all who sent this in):
A Nigerian government panel will not negotiate with an Islamist sect blamed for scores of attacks as previously stated and will instead recommend whether talks should be opened, an official said Tuesday.
The secretary to the federal government, Anyim Pius Anyim, made the comments at the swearing in of the seven-member panel, but did not provide details on the change in the approach to the sect known as Boko Haram.
His office issued a statement at the weekend saying the panel’s duties would include acting “as a liaison between the federal government … and Boko Haram and to initiate negotiations with the sect.”
“This is not a negotiation team,” he said. “It’s a fact-finding team. It’s a forum to identify a solution.”
However, the panel appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan could recommend at the completion of its work to open negotiations with the sect, he said. It is required to submit its report to the government on or before August 16.
The panel includes the ministers of labour, defence and the Federal Capital Territory, which encompasses Abuja.
The suggestion that the government should negotiate with the sect has long been controversial and officials have been careful in their approach to the question.
Many have argued against such a move, objecting in particular to any suggestion the Islamists be given an amnesty similar to that provided to militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
Nigeria’s northeast, particularly the city of Maiduguri, has seen almost daily bomb blasts and shootings in recent weeks blamed on the sect.
The sect has claimed to be fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 150 million people split roughly in half between Christians and Muslims.