Friday, 29 August 2014

How We Secured Release Of 60 Chibok Schoolgirls Negotiator 

A Perth-based international adviser, Dr. Stephen Davis, who for four months was involved in negotiations on behalf of the federal government with commanders of Boko Haram for the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the sect last April, has revealed some details about the process of securing the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.

Davis, who spoke yesterday in two separate interviews to Arise Television, a THISDAY sister company, revealed how he handled negotiations with Boko Haram to secure the release of the Chibok girls, Davis explained: There had been kidnapping going on since last year. Apart from the 220 Chibok girls, there are over 300 other children that had been kidnapped from villages and towns.
The problem we found in getting the girls was that they had other Boko Haram cells outside the ones we were dealing with, so that became a problem.
President Jonathan had made huge progress with peace discussions over the last two years but as it was leading up to the elections, the sponsors of Boko Haram, the politicians really picked up the tempo and all the discussions sitting down with leaders of Boko Haram for peace was sabotaged.
While I was there in the last four months, President Jonathan gave me full logistical support whenever I required it, whenever I requested for it to continue this work.
We were able to get four of the Chibok girls out but what we found was that if we were also able to get 20 or 30 of the girls, the guys will go and kidnap another 50 to replace them. So we came to the conclusion that freeing Chibok girls was putting them in more callous situation costing the lives of many other people.
So what we have been doing since then is keeping an eye on the girls who were able to escape, picking them up and bringing them to safe havens.
Davis further revealed that the effort to get out 60 girls was botched when another group kidnapped them.
The president gave me a military jet and a military convoy and ambulance from the local hospital. We were waiting for Boko Haram to bring them from the border with Cameroun.
We had a call the previous morning that there were some girls, about 60 of them, so we set out with a number of ambulances and we travelled for four-and-a-half hours to reach them However, the police had offered a very large reward for the girls 24 hours before then.
So someone connected with the kidnapping of Chibok girls, who had good information about them decided to grab the girls so that they will have the reward.
The Boko Haram commander who was keeping an eyes on the whole situation told me the details the next day of all that had occurred, he said.
Davis warned against the use of force to rescue the girls, stating: Doing a raid on the villages where the girls are will waste their lives. Getting sponsors out of action will certainly lead Boko Haram adrift for a while.
But they will regroup because ISIS, Al Qaeda will move in because that will give them the leadership they need. But in that period of time, thy will be adrift and there are commanders in Boko Haram who are willing to hand over the girls and will love a peace deal. They would want to demobilise.
Now, those guys, they have told me clearly that they will not attempt to hand over the girls or hold discussions for peace because the sponsors will get the other guys to kill those who are getting into the peace deal. So without the sponsors, we cant start a peace deal.
He said another challenge with dealing with the insurgency stemmed from the fact that Boko Haram camps are on the border, so they slip back and forth between two countries.
They go in convoy to attack a town, they stay for an hour or an hour-and-a-half and get out. That is enough time to hit them. However, on their way from town, they may have 40 or 50 girls on board with them and this is not the time to hit them, he added.
He also questioned the manner of assistance offered by the US, UK and France which had not yielded results.
According to him, France, UK and the US all agreed in Paris to assist Nigeria, Cameroun and Niger to work on this matter. The US, for example, said they would assist with intelligence.
Yet, when Boko Haram members leave their camps they travel without interference to a town, they destroy six villages on their way to a particular town, and no one touches them.
So one wonders if the UK and US are really serious about the matter, and why there has been no collaboration to intercept Boko Haram when they are on their way to these towns.
For goodness sake, it is arid area, you can see a convey six miles away and these guys travel with 20, 40 or 60 vehicles with armed personnel. There is something going on very wrong in the collaboration that was preached.
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