Al Jazeera Blogs


Africa

Nigeria's state of emergency

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed in northern Nigeria, but many question whether peace will return to the region.
Last modified: 20 May 2013 23:44

It is nearly a week since thousands of Nigerian soldiers poured into three states in northern Nigeria, to fight Boko Haram after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the region.

And I am back in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, the birthplace of the armed group Boko Haram and the epicentre of the violence blamed on the group.

Boko Haram has been behind many killings and bombings across northern Nigeria since 2009, when its leader, Mohammed Yusuf was killed.

I was here in the city that day and remember the carnage left by the violence that took place. That was the day Boko Haram exploded onto the scene.

Since then I have returned to Maiduguri countless times to cover every twist and turn of the Boko Haram story: from the various attempts to stop the group and interviewing Yusuf's wife and other family members to talking to captured Boko Haram fighters.

I am wondering now whether the massive military offensive in the region means that the end of my reporting on Boko Haram from Nigeria is close.

In the many places I have visited across the city since arriving at the weekend, the situation is calm and peaceful.

'Home of peace'

A little bit like what I remember when I first visited the city in early 2009. I was stunned this weekend to see semi-heavy vehicle and human traffic on the streets, old women selling fruit and vegetables on the side of the road, and hundreds of children lining the streets marching to school in spotless uniforms. Might this place be normal again soon, I wonder.

But away from this, there has been a 24-hour curfew in 11 neighborhoods. People have not been able to leave their homes for nearly three days. The curfew has just been relaxed, but I do wonder what might have gone on.

We could not get into to see for ourselves. I just hope that as the military goes after Boko Haram fighters, no civilians or innocent people are caught in the cross fire.

It has happened before, and has been one of the ugly truths of trying to fight the group. Over the years many people have spoken to have blamed the military for inflaming the Boko Haram insurgency by heavy handedness in pursuit of the group.

Many have lost innocent loved ones. Women have shed tears, crying, begging, pleading with me to tell their stories on Al Jazeera.

Will the military soon declare victory in the battle against Boko Haram. Will peace return to Borno, which is known as the 'Home of Peace' in Nigeria, again?

I wonder if the 'madness' will stop after the latest offensive and whether President Jonathan made the right move to declare a state of emergency as a way of ending this conflict.

Many Nigerians believe he did. Others pray he did.