north Africa

Nigerian armed forces have started armed sieges on hard core Islamist terrorist camps in the north of the country. 24 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northern states troops have moved in to neutralize terrorist threats residing in these areas.

Along with this a 6am to 6pm curfew is in force throughout these three areas while public services such as banks and government businesses have been shut down. This comes only days after all mobile and phone networks in these regions were also shut down in response to President Jonathan’s announcement.

One area in particular that Nigerian forces have laid heavy siege to is the forest regions surrounding Sambisa in Borno State. According to reports this area has been key to the Islamist Boko Haram uprising and has been used to train and recruit new soldiers for their causes.

The Boko Haram Islamist group have been responsible for a number of sporadic and brutal killings across areas of Nigeria in recent months. Only 48 hours after the state of emergency was declared suspected Boko Haram terrorists unleashed several bomb attacks in and around the town of Daura in Katsina State lasting almost 2 hours. Although the number of casualties is not fully known the scale of the resulting destruction saw many civilian occupants flee the town.

An anonymous Senior Officer leading the Nigerian Forces on the Siege in Sambisa said that the soldiers attacking the area were working alongside Nigerian Air Forces to “dislodge” sect members of the Boko Haram group and that the raid only had the potential to have a positive outcome in tracking down members of the Islamist group.

When questioned, the source said that Nigerian forces had: – “raided some terrorist camps in the Sambisa Game Reserve, and other camps of the sect in the affected states, which I believe will have a positive outcome”. While the source was willing to comment on the progress made in Borno state he refused to comment on the situations in the states of Yobe and Adamawa.

According to officials approximately 3,000 troops have been deployed in Borno whilst the numbers in Yobe and Adamawa are estimated at around 2,000 troops in each of the two. Further troops are reported to be deployed in the coming days to flank and corner Boko Haram members in the north of the country to stop their insurgents moving south in any great numbers.

Those civilians residing in the northern states currently under a state of emergency have welcomed the sieges from Nigerian forces feeling that they needed to challenge the intimidating and brutal nature of the Boko Haram. Accounts from some of those living in Yobe said that the insurgents had forced local officials from the area and even removed the Nigerian flags from each town they went through.

Some residents of the town of Yola in Borno state spoke to members of the press. One trader in Jimeta Market in the town said that: – “the state has been under the control of gunmen for so long, this state of emergency is long overdue”.

There are many interior officials in Nigeria that continue to debate whether declaring a state of emergency in the north of the country is the right course of action. Many of the leaders against the armed sieges are in strong favour of the potential amnesty programme that can be offered to the country. In the 2nd session of the 19th synod in Kaduna Archbishop Fearon said that opening up dialogue between the opposing forces was crucial and that this would be possible through amnesty.

Archbishop Fearon said that: – “Arms alone will not solve the problem and that is why I have always been in support of the proposed amnesty because with amnesty, there will be cessation and there will be an avenue for dialogue.”

He went on to say that the core problems between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram negotiations lie in a lack of trust in each other over reconciliation. He said that only structured dialogue between both parties could hold the key to making progress without the need for bloody conflict : – “The problem is that we don’t trust each other”.

The armed sieges and announcement of a state of emergency has been controversial so far to say the least. There are many innocent residents in the affected that believe the armed response to the threat in the north is what is needed to tackle the insurgents threatening their safety and welfare. However there are many on the diplomatic sides that believe such a response from Nigerian forces can only further enflame the situation. It seems as though the threat remains extremely real for those living in the states in an emergency situation particularly as conflict is likely to become more concentrated in those areas given the military tactics disclosed by the source in the armed forces the press spoke to. Further to that it is my belief that by concentrating conflict in the northern states armed violence will inevitably permeate throughout the rest of the country over the long-term. Whilst the short-term success of the armed movement seems apparent the long-term outcome of such decisions by the Nigerian military and officials is not so clear.


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