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Past Comment
Setback for Boko Haram ceasefire agreement
Lawal Tsalha
February 12, 2013
Nine women taking part in a polio vaccine program and three North Korean doctors working in a Yobe state hospital have been killed in northeastern Nigera. Lawal Tsalha comments on the implications of these latest killings for the fragile ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram.

Confiscated ammunition after a military raid of a suspected Boko Haram hideout. REUTERS/Stringer

From all indications, the nascent ceasefire agreement signed by the Boko Haram Islamic set in north eastern Nigeria two weeks ago will suffer another set back following the killings of nine women last Friday, who were taking part in a polio vaccination exercise in Kano city, and three Korean medical doctors in the following morning who were living in Patiskum town of Yobe state in the north eastern Nigeria.

According to reliable sources, the incidence of the killing of the nine women in Kano by gunmen who were suspected to be members of Boko Haram sects occurred in a split succession, between 9am and 10am.

The first attack was in Tarauni area where 2 women were killed. Another seven female immunization staff members were shot down by attackers at Hotoro area in Nasarawa, a local government area of the state.

Meanwhile, the killing of three North Korean medical doctors happened in Patiskum town of Yobe state in northeastern Nigeria. The doctors were attached to the Patiskum General Hospital. It was reported by The Sun, a Nigeria based newspaper, that the gunmen entered the doctors' apartment and butchered them; one of them was beheaded.

According to hospital management, they were in the state to offer technical expertise on various fields of human development including medical, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Yobe State and the North Korean government.

It could be recalled that on January 29th of this year, the Boko Haram sect announced a ceasefire agreement under intense pressure by the northern Nigeria elders. The northern elders have been appealing to the Boko Haram sect for the passed two years to cease fire, not because of the lack luster attitude of the Nigerian Government, but because of the increasing casualties of innocent people being recorded on a daily basis. The Boko Haram sect members disclosed that they agreed to cease fire in order to give those in authority the chance to show to the world that they are indeed committed to the peaceful resolution.

The Boko Haram sect have been claiming responsibility for the persistent uprising that has resulted in the killing of many people including government officials and security agencies, as well as destruction of property worth billions of naira in the last three years.

The Boko Haram violence in the northern part of Nigeria had killed more than 3000 people, while many more have been left permanently incapacitated either due to the terror attacks, suicide bombing by the sect, or due to the torture and sometimes even gun shots by the members of the Joint Task Force (JTF).

According to the Boko Haram beliefs, politics in northern Nigeria has been seized by a group of corrupt, false Muslims. The sect wants to wage war against them, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria generally, to create a pure Islamic state ruled by sharia law.

The history of Boko Haram conflict could be traced back to July 2009 when some members of the sect were stopped by police in the city of Maiduguri, the Boko Haram base, as they were on the way to the cemetery to bury a fellow member. The officers, who were part of a special operation aimed at stamping out violence and rampant crime in northeastern Borno State, demanded that the young men comply with a law requiring motorcycle passengers to wear helmets. They refused and, in the confrontation that followed, several were shot and wounded by police.

The leader of the sect, Mohammad Yusuf, responded by unleashing an armed uprising, breaking into prison and attacking government buildings and police stations. Fighting quickly spread across five northern states and lasted several days.

The response from the federal government was severe. Federal soldiers were deployed to rein in the group, executing suspected militants in the streets. Yusuf was killed while in police custody. His body was discovered with handcuffs. It was reported that more than 1,000 people died in the fighting.

After a yearlong lull, the Boko Haram regrouped and some northern states witnessed a distinct resurgence of violent attacks, beginning in mid-2010. Militants bombed government offices and assassinated officers in the run-up to the April 2011 national elections. The sect members managed to detonate a bomb inside the heavily guarded national police headquarters, a suicide bomber believed to be a member of the sect plowed an explosives-laden car through two security barriers and into the lobby of the United Nations' offices in Abuja, killing nearly two dozen people and wounding another 80.

Similarly, with the recent killings of the nine women who were taking part in the polio vaccination drive in Kano city, and the assassination of three Korean medical doctors, people in Nigeria who initially saw the ceasefire agreement as a welcome development, have started to develop fear and doubt about the sustenance of the peace agreement.

Lawal Tsalha is a Nigerian journalist and media student at the United Nations mandated University of Peace.