Nigeria’s President Jonathan tells Boko Haram Islamists to come out and talk
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan challenged the violent Islamist Boko Haram sect on Thursday to identify themselves and state clearly their demands as a basis for talks, while acknowledging that military confrontation alone will not end their insurgency.
In an interview with Reuters at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja, Jonathan said there was no doubt that Boko Haram had links with other jihadist groups outside Nigeria.
The sect killed more than 500 people last year and more than 250 in the first weeks of 2012 in gun and bomb attacks in Africa’s top oil producer, Human Rights Watch said this week.
Coordinated attacks in the northern city of Kano killed 186 people on Friday in its most deadly strike to date, prompting the president to visit surviving victims.
“If they clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why we are resisting, this is the reason why we are confronting government or this is the reason why we destroy some innocent people and their properties … then there will be a basis for dialogue,” said Jonathan.
“We will dialogue, let us know your problems and we will solve your problem but if they don’t identify themselves, who will you dialogue with?”
Jonathan, who won an election last year that observers said was Nigeria’s cleanest since the end of military rule in 1999, has been criticized for dealing with the insurgency in the north using purely military means.
But in this interview he pledged to bring development to remote, semi-arid corners of the country where high youth unemployment has provided easy recruits for extremists.
“Military confrontation alone will not eliminate terror attacks,” he said, adding that an “enabling environment for young people to find jobs” was also needed.