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Letters from Tokyo
Cameroon and Nigeria: French Hostages Released and Overture to Boko Haram
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria is trying to make overtures to the Islamist Boko Haram movement by providing breathing space for the government and this terrorist organization. At the same time, seven members of a French family which had been abducted by Islamists in Cameroon are now free. Information involving the reasons behind the release in Cameroon still remains patchy but it is believed that all family members are in good condition.

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, will greet the French family in the Cameroon and clearly this good news will be welcomed throughout this country. It was feared at one stage that developments in Mali may hinder their release but clearly this wasn’t the case. France entered Mali, alongside regional forces from various other nations, in order to stem the tide of al-Qaeda backed Islamist terrorist forces which threatened to destabilize the entire country.

France 24 states that “The Moulin-Fournier family was first abducted near Cameroon’s northern Waza National Park, which lies just a few kilometres from the Nigerian border, on February 19. The father, the local director of external affairs at the French gas company GDF, had been stationed in Cameroon’s capital of Yaoundé for two years. The family of seven includes four children between the ages of 5 and 12.”

It is widely believed that the French family was taken to Northern Nigeria after being abducted in the Cameroon. The Nigerian Boko Haram Islamist group released several videos of their captors whereby Boko Haram had threatened to kill them unless several conditions were met. Of course, certain dealings will have been done behind the scenes but for the French family this is by-the-by because the most important thing is that they are free.

The Cameroon government issued a statement about the release of the family of seven. According to the Secretary General of Cameroon, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, he stated that “They are all alive and well.” He provided further details by confirming that the hostages were in the hands of authorities in Cameroon. This information also indicates that the crisis in Mali is distant for Boko Haram despite raising concerns about the ongoing situation.

Boko Haram in Nigeria is known to have killed vast numbers of Christians and Muslims in this country based on their militant Islamist ideology. Attacks against Christian churches and Muslim mosques are not infrequent and the same applies to countless numbers of terrorist attacks. Of course, with issues like corruption, enormous economic disparity and other major issues – which apply to all Nigerians irrespective of faith or having no faith; then clearly you have fertile ground for any radical organization.

President Goodluck Jonathan is trying to break the cycle of violence by creating a committee which will look into the deeper issues behind Boko Haram. This applies also to a possible amnesty whereby the situation can be contained and issues addressed providing Boko Haram decides to go along with the recommendations. Currently, it is not fully known if Islamists are willing to meet the government head-on. Also, the situation is very difficult because traditional Muslim and Christian communities in the north of Nigeria must not become marginalized in order to appease Islamist thought patterns. Therefore, it is clear that the road will be long and difficult because Boko Haram supports many draconian ways of thinking. Despite this, something needs to be done to break the cycle of violence in order to restore greater security to areas hit by this terrorist movement.

The BBC reports that “Religious and political leaders in northern-eastern Nigeria, the epicentre of the insurgency, recently called for an amnesty.”

“The president responded at the beginning of April by asking a team of security advisers to look into the possibility of granting the militants a pardon.”

“That team reported to the National Security Council, the presidential statement said, leading to the establishment of the committee which will try to “constructively engage key members of Boko Haram and define a comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the country.”

The ending of the hostage crisis for the French family is very good news. It is also hoped that Boko Haram will meet the government of Nigeria at least part of the way in the early stages. Yet it must be stated that other Islamist terrorist groups may splinter from Boko Haram and like always more militant groups are also being felt in Nigeria and in other parts of West Africa. Clearly, the road will be long for Nigeria but with the insurgency threatening the way of life for Nigerians which are caught up in the crisis; then a political solution is the best option for all concerned. It remains to be seen how sincere Boko Haram will be and of course the government of Nigeria must look at the causes behind so much discontent. Also, the Nigerian government must focus on the role of outside forces which are spreading dangerous Islamist ideologies to this country. After all, Islamists and Gulf versions of Sharia Islamic law threatens traditional beliefs, Christians, Muslims and indigenous thought patterns related to cultural norms in Nigeria. For example, in Mali the first thing al-Qaeda and other Islamists did was to destroy indigenous black African Islam alongside demolishing many Sufi shrines. Therefore, the government of Nigeria needs to look at a whole array of issues in order to come up with a genuine solution to the crisis and this nation must wake-up to the many ratlines emanating in the Gulf region.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22190009

http://www.france24.com/en/20130419-cameroon-french-family-hostage-released

The above article is written by Omar Abdullah Ismail and Lee Jay Walker.
leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

The above story is from Modern Tokyo Times.
http://moderntokyotimes.com



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, he earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies at Nottingham Trent University. His website is at http://www.leejaywalker.wordpress.com

 

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