Nigeria#039;s Buhari #039;Prepared to Negotiate#039; with Boko Haram for Kidnapped Girls

lt;pgt;Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday that he is quot;prepared to negotiatequot; with the radical Islamist terror group Boko Haram in order to secure the release of the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped last;/pgt; lt;pgt;The group#039;s militants kidnapped the schoolgirls from a boarding school in the northeastern village of Chibok in April last year in a move that sparked worldwide condemnation of the group#039;s brutality and the international quot;Bring Back Our Girlsquot;;/pgt; lt;pgt;Before and after his election in March, Buhari has ruled out negotiating with the group, which has led a six-year insurgency against the Nigerian government in the country#039;s restive north, saying in February that Boko Haram is quot;not interested in peace.quot; But earlier this week he seemed to;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;If we are convinced that the [Boko Haram] leadership that presented itself can deliver these girls safe and sound, we#039;ll be prepared to negotiate what they want,quot; he told CNN in an interview on;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;We have to be very careful about the credibility... [of those] claiming that they can deliver... we are taking our time because we want to bring them safe back to their parents,quot; he;/pgt; lt;pgt;A radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, has continued to conduct suicide bombings and deadly raids against Nigerian civilians in the country#039;s north despite the Nigerian military#039;s all-out offensive to oust the group from territory it had captured. However, Boko Haram#039;s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau, who had been the face of the group in its basic propaganda videos, has been absent in their releases for several months, sparking speculation about his;/pgt; lt;pgt;The Council on Foreign Relations#039; lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;Nigeria Security Trackerlt;/agt; estimates that Boko Haram has killed as many as 10,404 people since January 2014 and has already killed over 2,000 people this year following a massacre in the northeastern town of;/pgt; lt;pgt;In Tuesday#039;s interview, Buhari, the Nigerian leader, said that quot;nothing will workquot; until the country is quot;securequot; from terrorism, calling for his policies to be judged over his next three years in power and not the last three;/pgt; lt;pgt;Yet the prospect of negotiating with a deadly group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) earlier this year and does not have a political agenda raises serious questions about Buhari#039;s credibility on security issues, says Manji Cheto, vice-president at political risk consultancy Teneo;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;It absolutely sends the wrong signal to potential fringe groups in Nigeria,quot; she says. quot;I think that he is opening a can of worms unfortunately.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;I think that it also raises questions over his decision-making because this is effectively someone who has flip-flopped between positions three times in less than a year on the same issue,quot; she;/pgt; lt;pgt;Others believe that Buhari#039;s openness to negotiating with Boko Haram is an attempt to boost his popularity among the Nigerian;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;Of course he would like to be the leader who bought the girls back, anyone would want that,quot; says Tolu Ogunlesi, Lagos-based West Africa editor of news magazine The Africa Report. quot;It would be a big boost to his popularity, like Barack Obama killing Osama bin Laden. But it also seems like a part of him is resigned to the possibility the girls may never be found.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;In Nigeria#039;s presidential election earlier this year, Buhari lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;defeated former President Goodluck Jonathanlt;/agt; in what was the country#039;s first ever democratic change of power and a historic moment in the African nation#039;s;/pgt; lt;pgt;Buhari#039;s spokesman Garba Shehu was not immediately available for;/pgt;