UN decries killings in Nigeria, sends envoy

2010-03-19
THE GUARDIAN Newspaper

AMIDST recurring incidents of senseless killings in Nigeria, which the United Nations has already described as "a massacre," the world body's Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has now dispatched a special envoy to the country to gather information on potential causes of genocide and help identify how the international community can prevent such a scourge in Nigeria.

The development comes as the country recalled its ambassador in Libya over comments by the country's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, that Nigeria be split into two.

The UN Secretary-General said the mandate given to the UN envoy is "to collect information on serious violations of human rights that could lead to genocide and to bring potential genocidal situations to the attention of the Security Council."

If the envoy determines that there is troubling information on the Jos crisis that may lead to genocide, the UN Security Council will then formally take up the Jos crisis as one of its concerns around the world, with possible severe international actions, including sanctions or the imposition of a UN force on the area.

On Wednesday, the world was shocked for the third time this year, by another round of killings in two Jos villages. The UN and the United States have spoken out against this, calling on the Federal Government to enforce the law and prevent further violence.

The sending of a special envoy by the UN to Nigeria is said to be part of the determination of the United Nations to begin to gather information in order to activate the UN General Assembly resolution on the UN's "Responsibility to Protect" mandate.

A UN statement earlier in the week said its envoy, who is the Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide, Mr. Francis Deng, is already in the West African region having arrived on Wednesday, March 17 and will from there be visiting Nigeria on how "to identify how national and sub-regional bodies can help prevent the scourge."

Apart from Nigeria, the envoy will also visit Guinea and Ghana, "where he will discuss his mandate with government officials, UN officials on the ground and representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)."

Deng, a Sudanese scholar and advocate, was named to the post by Ban in 2007 "to collect information on serious violations of human rights that could lead to genocide and to bring potential genocidal situations to the attention of the Security Council."

World leaders started considering this UN mandate in 2005. Nigeria's President then, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, played an active role in the negotiations to mobilise support for such mandate so that the international community will not just sit by and see the abuse and violation of people's fundamental human rights by their governments.

Some opposing leaders from developing countries had expressed fear that the mandate would give developed countries a right to militarily invade developing nations under the guise of the UN's "responsibility to protect."

Up till the 2009 General Assembly summit of world leaders, the issue of the UN's Responsibility to Protect was still being debated as the Assembly adopted by consensus its first resolution on protection, agreeing to hold further discussions on the international understanding to intervene to stop atrocities in sovereign nations.

Ban had called on the UN General Assembly "to turn the promise of the responsibility to protect into practice."

The Responsibility to Protect principle was agreed to at a summit of world leaders in 2005. Also known as R2P', it holds states responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity and requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.

After the adoption of the principle by consensus last year, Ban asked his Special Adviser, Edward Luck and Deng, to continue their wide-ranging consultations with member states, relevant departments and agencies, regional and sub-regional organisations, and civil society on the many implementation questions still outstanding.

"In all our efforts, we should be guided and united by the ultimate purpose of the responsibility to protect: to save lives by preventing the most egregious mass violations of human rights," Ban added.

However, in a related development, the Federal Government has recalled its Ambassador to Libya, Alhaji Isa Aliyu Mohammed, over comments made by that country's leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi that the country be split.

In what suggests a diplomatic row, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the envoy is being recalled for consultations. But Nigeria yesterday formally conveyed its "strong reservations and disappointment" on the recommendation by Gaddafi that Nigeria be divided into two.

Gaddafi had suggested on Tuesday that Nigeria be split into two for lasting peace and development to reign.

A Tuesday afternoon British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) bulletin quoted the Libyan Leader as saying in the country's state-owned news agency, Jana, that Nigeria should be divided into two nations to avoid further bloodshed between Moslems and Christians!

His speech, according to the BBC, was made to students. The former AU chairman extolled the example of India and Pakistan, where he said partition saved many lives.

"Splitting Nigeria would stop the bloodshed and burning of places of worship," state news agency Jana quoted him as saying. But already, the BBC has quoted a senior Nigerian diplomat as saying that he was not taking the suggestion seriously.

Meanwhile, a statement yesterday by the Secretary, Widows and Economic Empowerment Foundation, Ngufan Uku, said the ease with which the latest attacks took place, even with military and security personnel in strategic positions leaves Nigerians wondering if they were not officially sponsored.

"We need to be proved wrong with the apprehension and prosecution of the actors. Furthermore, we will not be tired of asking the questions:


How serious is the military Task Force established under the command of the GOC to ensure that peace returns to the state? Has the military been infiltrated and subsequently compromised? If it is, how do you sort out the enemy?

Who are we to trust of the same people we see in the uniform around us? That is, how real are the security agents around us? and

Under what auspices are the Fulani herdsmen operating?"
The statement called on all well-meaning Nigerians to demand an explanation from the Chief of Defence Staff why insecurity and banditry is growing by the day in Jos; "suspects are arrested and instead of prosecuting them as deterrent to any person contemplating on embarking on similar senseless mission, they are released and celebrated. Is the Chief of Defence incapacitated? If the state cannot protect lives and property, is it not a message to citizens to help themselves?"

According to the statement, since the military security task force can no longer be trusted, "should the military go and the people left to fend for themselves? The ugly truth is that the people can no longer rely on the government for basic amenities, good governance, true leadership, honesty and security any more. We have gone past the point of forming communities, bringing up theories while singing word of peace on the Plateau."

Also speaking yesterday, the Muslim Community in Jos has called on government and the security agencies to move further and protect all Moslems residing and carrying out legitimate businesses in the state.

A statement by the community's Head, Information and Media Committee, Muhammad Sani Mudi, said that the community is particularly interested in the safety of Moslem journalists from harassment and intimidation.

The statement added that Moslems now live in fear in their homes, on the streets and in their places of businesses. The statement described those arrested last Saturday as "innocent."

"We are equally appealing to the authorities to guarantee safety of travellers on the highways and protect them from wanton attacks. Similarly, those arrested, like the 42 innocent persons arrested last Saturday should be subjected to fair investigations, the outcome of which should be made public to remove any suspicion.

"While appealing for calm from all those who may have been affected, we urge that efforts should be intensified by the authorities to locate missing persons and identify the flash-points, provide adequate security and bring all those arrested in connection with these crimes to justice", the statement added.







 

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