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    Posted May 28, 2014 by

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    FORMER Nigerian president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has initiated talks with Boko Haram in an attempt to secure the release of the 234 pupils kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School Chibok and end the sect's reign of terror.   Over the last five years, Boko Haram has intensified its terrorist campaign in Nigeria, setting off bombs at will, killing thousands in the process. Its reign of terror took a particularly ugly turn on April 14 when it abducted the schoolgirls from their boarding school in the middle of the night and whisked them off into captivity.   Since the abduction, there has been an international outcry with pressure mounted on the Nigerian government to secure their release. Among the strategies the government has adopted has been to open communication channels with the terrorist group and as part of this process, former Chief Obasanjo met with several people close to Boko Haram in the hope of securing a deal.   Over the weekend Chief Obasanjo met with  relatives of some senior Boko Haram fighters as well as intermediaries at his farm in Otta in Ogun State in a bid to resolve the crisis. One source at the meeting said: “The meeting was focused on how to free the girls through negotiation.”   Chief Obasanjo, who left office in 2007, has previously sought to negotiate with the Boko Haram after they bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in September 2011. At the time, he flew to the Islamists’ base in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, to meet relatives of former Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009.   However, the 2011 talks did not help stem the violence and some at the time doubted if Chief Obasanjo was dealing with people who were legitimately capable of negotiating a ceasefire. It is believed that Chief Obasanjo has privately voiced concern about Nigeria’s acceptance of foreign military personnel to help rescue the girls and prefers the option of dialogue.   Sources close to the talks said Chief Obasanjo is worried that Nigeria’s prestige in Africa as a major continental power had been diminished by President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to bring in Western military help, including from the US. Already, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has mocked Nigeria's acceptance of foreign help, saying he would rather commit suicide that go down that route.   It was not clear if Chief Obasanjo’s weekend meeting had been sanctioned by the government, especially as he and President Jonathan have fallen out lately. Chief Obasanjo, who backed President Jonathan’s 2011 presidential campaign, fiercely criticised him and his record in a letter released to the public last December.   According to the source, Chief Obasanjo supported a prisoner-for-hostage swap that would see some of the girls released in exchange for a group of Boko Haram fighters held in Nigerian custody. However, there are fears that as a private citizen whose ties to the presidency have been damaged, Chief Obasanjo does not have the authority to negotiate any deal on the government’s behalf.   Earlier the month, the government sent interme

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