The Nigerian government has said it signed a cease-fire with Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgency, which is has fought in a six-year conflict that has killed thousands. The ceasefire is said to include a promise to release 219 kidnapped girls.
Boko Haram has not confirmed a ceasefire or promise to release the teenagers, and Nigeria has twice before announced ceasefires that did not hold, the Wall Street Journal reported.
According to Mike Omeri, a spokesman for the Nigerian government, the sect has promised to return all people kidnapped, including the girls abducted from a boarding school in April of this year. The kidnapped girls could be released as early as next week, USA Today reported.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Mike Omeri” author_title=”Nigerian government spokesman”]
They also assured us that the schoolgirls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well.
The announcement, while unconfirmed, comes during a bitter election campaign. President Goodluck Jonathan is preparing to declare a bid for a second term, while his rival, Muhammadu Buhari, announced a campaign to unseat Johnson. Since Johnson took office, the conflict with Boko Haram has left more than 14,000 dead in Nigeria. A large amount of Nigeria’s Borno State, which has a similar size and population of Ireland, is now abandoned or under control of the sect. Attempted negotiations in 2012 and 2013 failed.
The abduction of the 276 girls in Chibok drew international attention, including a social media campaign (#BringBackOurGirls) to push for their release. Following the kidnapping, several dozen of the girls managed to escape, although more than 200 are still held.
The Nigerian government has consented to some demands by the group, although no details have yet been provided. According to government spokesman Doyin Okupe, the government is “looking beyond the girls” and seeks to end the insurgency in Nigeria.
Boko Haram translates to “Western education is forbidden” or “a sin” in the Hausa language. The militant group seeks to impose Sharia law across Nigeria, which is the most populous country in Africa. Attacks have intensified in recent years, which is believed to be a show of defiance. The group has kidnapped women and children, bombed churches and schools, and assassinated politicians, CNN reported.