Girls rescue talks stuck as govt, elders disagree

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jun 16th, 2014
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Negotiators not at ease with unconditional release demand

The  Federal Government’s back-door talks to rescue the 217 abducted Chibok girls still in Boko Haram’s custody, may have suffered a setback.

The government is demanding an unconditional release of the girls, promising to fulfill the demands of Boko Haram leaders after.

But the facilitators of the talks are seeking a truce which will result in the simultaneous swapping of the girls with some insurgents in detention.

The facilitators/mediators, some of whom are clerics and Northern leaders, are afraid of the consequences of the government reneging on any “deal”.

They think that they may be exposed to danger.

Also yesterday, it was gathered that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo is yet to get a Presidential go-ahead for talks with Boko Haram contacts.

President Goodluck Jonathan only gave a verbal approval to him.

Obasanjo wanted a situation where he would sit down with the President and get a firm commitment on offers from the government to the insurgents.

The ex-President may, however, wait for a while because the government was uncomfortable with his comments that the President did not believe the girls were abducted in the first place.

The rescue bid for the girls has been slowed down by some unresolved issues.

It was gathered that there was a major challenge on: •agreeing on terms for the release of the girls; and •establishing trust that each party will keep to the bargain.

To sources, who spoke in confidence on the negotiation, the resolution of the two issues is crucial to freedom for the girls.

One of the sources said: “We seem to have a little setback. I think the fear of people who are negotiating is whether the government will honour its own part of the talks.

“The government is demanding unconditional release of the girls whereas the negotiators are seeking simultaneous swapping of some insurgents with the girls.

“The government is saying the insurgents should release the girls and it will unfold its package. There is also a suspicion in government that the insurgents may not live up to their pledge.

“Some of these clerics and Northern leaders are scared that they might be endangered if the government does not make concrete offers to the insurgents.

“The facilitators want to collect the girls and hand over the insurgents at the same time.”

Asked of the attitude of the insurgents, the source, who is believed to be respected by Boko Haram leadership, said: “They have been listening to some of their contacts out of sheer mutual respect but if the government does not act, they do not mind keeping the girls for five years.

“They are prepared to keep the girls. If there are terms acceptable to both parties and firm commitment, anybody can secure the release of the girls.”

Another source said the Federal Government does not have much confidence in Obasanjo’s initiative.

The source said the government would prefer a collective intervention by past Heads of State, as floated last Thursday by President Goodluck Jonathan, than Obasanjo’s singular plan.

It was gathered that Obasanjo’s comments, which alleged that the President did not believe that the girls were abducted made the Presidency to be “cautious” on his initiative.

The source added: “I think there is a problem between Obasanjo and the President. When the two leaders met at the burial of ex-Governor Michael Otedola, Obasanjo told Jonathan what he intended doing and the President said it was a good idea.

“They both agreed to discuss the details later, if Obasanjo is really going into it. The President gave some security insights into the abduction, including the alleged involvement of some people opposed to his administration and some foreign elements.

“But it was shocking to the government when Obasanjo came out and said Jonathan doubted the abduction of the girls. The comments angered the President and some forces in government.

“This is why the President and Obasanjo have not sat down to discuss the modalities of the latter’s initiative. Sensing this, Obasanjo was also absent at last Thursday’s parley on the Chibok girls with past leaders.

“By declaring that not all the girls can return home safely, Obasanjo is not only divulging security matter, he is also doubting his own mission. Do you expect the government to have faith in his initiative?”

It was gathered that Obasanjo refused to resume talks with Boko Haram contacts because he was yet to secure a firm commitment from the President that whatever terms agreed upon would be accepted by the Federal Government.

A third source added: “Obasanjo said he won’t move an inch forward on the talks with Boko Haram again until he gets the consent and commitment on whatever is arrived at from the Federal Government.

“Baba said he cannot act on newspapers reports on the government’s commitment. He does not want to discuss with the insurgents and fail to meet their terms.”

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