Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Vows to Defeat Boko Haram, Find Missing Schoolgirls 'Within The Next Month'

( [email protected] ) Mar 20, 2015 02:22 PM EDT
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has said the military hopes to recapture towns seized by Boko Haram within a month.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has remained the country's leader since 2010. Facebook/JonathanGoodluck

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan,who is seeking re-election next week, said in a recent interview that within the next month, all territory controlled by the extremist group Boko Haram will be reclaimed.

On Friday, Jonathan said the terrorist group, which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, is "getting weaker and weaker every day". He told the BBC: "I'm very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover old territories that hitherto have been in their hands."

However, he admitted that his military was slow to respond to Boko Haram's initial advance in the northeastern part of the country.

"We underestimated their external influence," Jonathan said. "Since after the civil war we've not fought any war, we don't manufacture weapons, so we had to look for help to re-equip our army and the air force."

Over the past month, the Nigerian military has reclaimed much of the land overtaken by the militants with the help of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Two out of three northeast states devastated by the militants - Yobe and Adamawa - have been declared as cleared, while the third, Borno, is expected to be liberated soon, the military said this week. A total of 36 localities have been recaptured, including the major towns of Bama and Dikwa. According to recent reports, only three towns remain under Boko Haram's control.

Since 2009, over 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes by the extremist group, and some 10,000 people were killed by Boko Haram in 2014, almost half of them Christians, according to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.  Because of the recent increase in extremist violence, Open Doors 2015 World Watch List ranked Nigeria within the top ten most dangerous countries for Christians.

The group is also responsible for the kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from Chibok last year. Although dozens escaped within the first few days, 219 remain missing.

"I believe we'll get them," Jonathan told the BBC, emphasizing that he believes the girls are still alive.

In the past, Jonathan has been heavily criticized for his reluctance to effectively pursue the terrorist group within its country, leading experts to believe his premature declaration of victory is simply a political strategy, as he is seeking re-election next week.

"The risk he runs, however, is that the insurgency is not really defeated, only disrupted temporarily and for political posturing," Mark Schroeder, vice-president for Africa analysis at the security risk consultants Stratford, told the AFP.

"It would be akin to the "mission accomplished" declaration by George W Bush in 2003, that was a premature symbol of victory in Iraq. Clearly, Iraq is still today struggling with an Islamist insurgency."