Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the Boko Haram militant Islamist group must state its grievances before his administration can start talks to end its violent campaign in Africa’s top oil producer.
“Boko Haram has no face and government will not have dialogue with faceless people,” Jonathan said in an interview late yesterday on state-owned NTA television. “They must come out and tell us why they are doing what they are doing.”
Jonathan spoke two days after he fired his defense and security ministers and said his government needed to change tactics in the fight against Boko Haram. He announced the measures after Boko Haram attacks in the northern city of Kaduna and Damaturu and clashes between Muslims and Christians this month killed as many as 180 people.
Andrew Azazi was replaced as national security adviser by Sambo Dasuki, a retired U.S.-trained colonel who is a cousin of Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the current Sultan of Sokoto and nominal head of Nigeria’s Muslim community. Defense Minister Haliru Mohammed Bello was also fired, Jonathan said. No replacement has been named.
“It is not as if the old hands are not good, but you also have to change your tactics,” Jonathan said. “We will continue to adjust our security architecture and where there is need to change personnel to work into our program, we will surely do it.”
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,”says it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.
A Muslim cleric, Shekh Dahiru Usman, said on June 6 that he was mediating between the government and the militants. A day later, Abul Qaqa, a Boko Haram spokesman, said the group hadn’t been approached about starting a dialogue. Boko Haram’s stance hasn’t changed, he said, since it ruled out negotiations in March after details of preliminary talks were leaked to the Nigerian media.
Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous country with more than 160 million people, is split between the largely Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
Boko Haram poses a more serious threat to the country than the 1967-1970 Biafra civil war, Jonathan said on Jan. 8.