News from Nigeria, which the BBC indicates should be received with caution.
Nigeria’s military says it has agreed a ceasefire with Islamist militants Boko Haram – and that the schoolgirls the group has abducted will be released.
Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.
A cease-fire? It’s hard to see how Nigeria can agree such a thing without simply letting Boko Haram go ahead and kill hundreds of people whenever the mood takes it.
But if the schoolgirls are released, that would be a very good thing.
The group has been fighting an insurgency since 2009, with some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year.
Oh shut up, BBC – that’s not an insurgency, it’s repeated massacres of civilians who have nothing to do with the government. You don’t “fight an insurgency” by murdering hundreds of random people every weekend.
Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur told BBC Focus on Africa that the agreement was sealed after a month of negotiations, mediated by Chad.
As part of the talks, a government delegation twice met representatives of the Islamist group.
Mr Tukur said Boko Haram had announced a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday and the government had responded.
“They’ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic.”
He said arrangements for their release would be finalised at another meeting next week in Chad’s capital, Ndjamena.
The negotiations are said to have the blessing of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, reports the BBC’s Chris Ewokor in Abuja.
Well good: Boko Haram says it will stop shooting, and it will release the schoolgirls. No complaints there.
Will Ross, the BBC’s reporter in Lagos, explains why the news should be treated with caution.
If this turns out to be true it will be some of the best news Nigerians have heard for decades.
Many Nigerians are extremely sceptical about the announcement, especially as there has been no definitive word from the jihadists.
Some question whether the announcement was in any way timed to coincide with the imminent announcement that President Goodluck Jonathan is going to run for re-election.
The military has in the past released statements about the conflict in north-east Nigeria that have turned out to be completely at odds with the situation on the ground.
So many here will only celebrate when the violence stops and the hostages are free.
So, we shall see.
“Many Nigerians are extremely sceptical about the announcement,”
Probably because it’s difficult to distinguish the military from Boko Haram, either that, or the Nigerian army is monumentally incompetent, or perhaps both conditions prevail.
The Times also reported that a few of the kidnapped girls had (I’m not sure exactly when) managed to escape. They were described as ‘traumatised, pregnant and starving’.
I hope efforts will be made to ensure that they and any girls who are released by their kidnappers are properly treated by their families and not as though they had anything to be ashamed of.
Even if true, I’m not sure it’s good news. Negotiating with terrorists just legitimizes them.