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The fate of millions of people in this war-ravaged corner of East Africa depends on an uncertain peace agreement signed this week. A former British government minister, just back from visiting refugee projects in the area, assesses the country’s prospects
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Concern that elements of the Nigerian army support Boko Haram terrorists have been voiced by Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja. He pointed to local newspaper reports in Nigeria that a dozen senior officers and several enlisted men have been court-martialled recently for supplying arms to Boko Haram.
“It is clear that there are Boko Haram sympathisers within the army,” Cardinal Onaiyekan told Fides News, “but it is difficult to quantify how many there are.” He expressed concern that “the problem of Boko Haram threatens to undermine the unity of the Nigerian armed forces, especially if one gets to the point of interpreting what is happening in northern Nigeria as a religious clash between Christians and Muslims.”
This is “a very dangerous vision, which could undermine the unity of the police and army” for “you have Christians and Muslims who have hitherto acted together, as soldiers of our armed forces”.
The Nigerian military has faced mounting criticism for failing to stop terrorist attacks in the northeast of Nigeria, meaning that a portion of the territory of Nigeria is beyond the control of the Government.
Despite a state of emergency in the region, residents say the army is largely inactive or even absent, allowing Boko Haram to continue killing. The army was accused last weekend of ignoring warnings as at least 200 civilians were slaughtered by Boko Haram in three villages in Borno state. People in Gwoza district had pleaded for the army to send soldiers to the area after hearing rumours that terrorists were planning an attack, but no military protection arrived. Another 20 women were kidnapped on 5 June close to where 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in April.