Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Congolese diamonds for Belgian Queen Paola – What’s really the fuss?

It isn’t quite clear what the seeming controversy is all about in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe over Queen Paola’s receipt of a gift of Congolese diamonds during a recently concluded visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Paola had accompanied her husband, King Albert II, to represent Belgium at the Kinshasa commemorative festivities to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s so-called restoration of independence. The DRC’s head of regime Joseph Kabila gave Paola the priceless diamond set of necklace, bracelet and earrings, an impressively rich package indeed which led La Dernière Heure, the influential Belgian daily newspaper, to note, most pointedly: “a gift of choice and certainly with a high price”.

Some commentators in Belgium, the Netherlands and France are apparently surprised, with a few even “shocked” to learn of the Belgian royal family’s “acceptance of such (sic) expensive presents” from a country a Reuters’s and Agence France-Presse’s dispatches on the gift describe, respectively, as “impoverished” and “one of the poorest in the world”.

Really!? It is inconceivable that either Paola or Albert would have thought or would think that the central African country they visited a month ago is anywhere “impoverished” nor is it “one of the poorest [countries] in the world”. The Democratic Republic of Congo is overwhelmingly richer than Belgium and no one is better placed than the Belgian royal family, itself, to confirm this fact of comparative international economics. The family cannot but be aware that King Leopold II, their 19th century “illustrious” ancestor (some would differ by using the adjective “notorious” or even “bloody” to describe Leopold instead) wrestled that Congo basin of central Africa from Africa for the Belgian royalty and state. This was after an indescribably brutal campaign on the African population by Leopold’s private army and forces of the Belgian state during which 10-15 million Africans were murdered. In effect, Leopold’s army ravaged the Congo in search of diamond, rubber, ivory and the like, accumulating gargantuan wealth for the king (by the time Leopold dies in 1909, he had reaped a personal fortune of US$1.1 billion dollars [in early 21st century adjusted value terms] from the Congo genocide, making him one of the richest monarchs of his age) and transforming the nascent Belgian state into a modern European state.

To his credit, Leopold II made no secrets at all of the instrumentalist impact that the riches of the Congo would have on his poor Belgium. He had insisted all along: “I d[idn’t] want to miss the chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake”.

This African cake remains as scrumptious as ever for Belgium! Thirty-one years after Leopold’s death, Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, forcing the then Belgian royal family and government to flee to London on exile. Thanks to the inexhaustible wealth of the Congo bakery, the entire financing of the Belgian war effort including the expenses of the exiled royals and government, which totalled the grand sum of £40 million, was paid off comfortably. Thus, Belgium neither borrowed any money to pay for the war nor was its gold reserves used.

The historic effort made 15 years later by the irrepressible Patrice Lumumba, the young Congolese postal clerk and itinerant salesperson, to recover this bakery of his people for his people was violently suppressed by Belgian special forces and some of their foreign allies operating in concert with those Congolese hostile to the restoration of African independence. Lumumba was murdered and a Joseph Mobutu (or Mobutu Sese Seko) was ultimately installed instead to oversee the preservation of the bakery to its agelong exclusivist access, but with some modification in response to the exigencies of the epoch: Belgian royalty and government, the emerging “francophonie” constellation of states under French hegemony, Mobutu and his African cohorts. Yet, the Congo, Africa and the rest of the world will never forget Lumumba’s moving speech, addressed to his people and the Belgians, after being sworn in as prime minister on that 30th day of June 1960, part of which reads as follows:
… We are proud of this struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being; for it was a noble and just struggle and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force…

The “magnificent African cake”, so graphically expressed by Leopold II (he should know!), is indeed the metaphor at the crux of the Congo story, the Sudan story, the Nigeria story, the Burundi story, the-rest-of-the-Africa story...

It should now be clear that there is no such thing as “poor Africa”. The latter is an inexcusable obfuscation of language – and reality. Besides, it is an unpardonable slur on the humanity of African bakers who year in, year out, bake the cake that they are shut out from eating. Just as the Congo, Africans have been shut into anti-African caricatures of the state where they live, principally, to create incredible levels of wealth – not for themselves and their children and grandchildren and theirs, but for the continuing expropriation by extracontinental interests and their local African allies.

There is no future of African progress in the existing “Berlin states” of Africa. The inexorable logic of these states’ existence is to alienate Africans from their being and wealth. Africans have no other choice but break out of these states and create new states of organic sensibility where they are certain to not only bake their own nation’s cake but participate fully in the meal as well.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Yet, another breaking news from The Hague!

When a person desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize [their] dream.
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (London: Thorsons, 1995)

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has declared, in a landmark ruling, that Kosovo’s February 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law. On the contrary, ICJ President Hisashi Owada notes, in his address on the majority verdict (10 jurists to 4), that international law contained “no applicable prohibition” of Kosovo's declaration of independence. The ICJ therefore rejected Serbia’s claims, which it had earlier brought to the court for consideration, that its “territorial integrity was violated” by the Kosova independence proclamation.

These are extraordinary times indeed… It mustn’t be forgotten that it has been under the seemingly protective umbrella of this “[state’s] territorial integrity was violated”-dubious legal mantra that many a regime across the world, particularly in Africa, have since the 1960s waged genocidal and other military campaigns against constituent nations and peoples within the population who seek their own independence and state. The most notorious of this occurrence is of course the 1966-1970 Igbo genocide. 3.1 million Igbo people were murdered during the timeframe of 42 months. For the Harold Wilson British government, which was centrally involved in the planning and the execution of the genocide and which often prided itself at the time as a more credible spokesperson of the campaign than envoys of the genocidist junta in Lagos, this mantra was the linchpin of its publicity and lobbying efforts across varying sociopolitical forums and circles during those 42 catastrophic months to “rationalise” its sordid role.

Forty years on, both the ICJ and the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, have made it impossible for anyone, anywhere, to invoke some statute of international law as a “rationalisation” to embark on the murder of any people or peoples within its frontiers on the bogus basis of operating for or on behalf of this existing state’s territorial status. No heads of regime or indeed any other regime operatives enjoy immunity, as a result of their office, for murdering people or peoples in their population and there is no statute of limitations for the crime of genocide or/and war crimes. Forty four years after the beginning of the Igbo genocide, today’s ICJ ruling is a giant step forward in bringing the goals of the restoration of the sovereignty of Biafra very much closer. As the saying goes, the ball is now clearly in the Igbo court.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Nigeria perpetuates violence and insecurity in Igboland

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

In these very turbulent times, the recent high profile summit of leading Igbo human rights scholars (including respected literary critic Ben Obumselu) and activists (including influential lawyer Olisa Agbakoba) at the Ofuobi African Centre, Enuugwu, may well be the turning point on the ground in Igboland to decisively chart the final phase of the course to the restoration of Igbo sovereignty.

Away from the usual heart-rending equivocations and staggering untruths that emanate from occupation-appointed officials and acolytes and by uncritical commentators (some of who are, amazingly, Igbo!) on the source of the current violence and insecurity in Igboland, the summit’s communiqué lays the case squarely on the Nigeria state – its “siege and occupation” of Igboland, as the text appositely states. It elaborates, most profoundly:
[Igboland] has become militarized with a vast deployment of expeditionary and predatory police and army personnel who are from outside the region. For instance, there are 61 Police check-points between Abakal[e]k[e] … to Nsukka … (a distance of about 130km). In [contrast] between Obolo-Afo [Igboland] and Lokoja [Nigeria] (a distance of nearly 400 km) no checkpoints exist. This state of siege is exemplified by the current [situation] of … [Igbo] cities [including] Aba, [Enuugwu, Abakaleke, Onicha, Owere] and Nnewi – hitherto the fastest growing and thriving industrial cum commercial cities in the African continent now being turned into refuse dumps and ghettos. Businesses that would have provided jobs to engage our youths have been strangulated by incompetent and criminal leadership.

The summiteers conclude with a 10-point resolution and demand made on the occupation state, two of which are particularly pertinent:
1. Immediate demilitarisation of Igboland by dismantling all checkpoints and security barricades that it has set up across the country

2. Immediate rescinding of the deployment of Nigeria military forces to Igboland on the spurious mission of fighting kidnapping, instead reorienting policing from expeditionary operations to intelligence-based operations in cooperation with communities
What is clearly evident is that the accent, presently, on Nigeria’s unrelenting genocide on the Igbo, since the 1966-1970 foundational stretch when it murdered 3.1 million of the people, focuses on demolishing the crucial socioeconomic architecture of their collective being. Pointedly, this preoccupation constitutes one of the five acts of genocide explicitly defined in article 2 of the December 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life designed to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (the Sudan’s head of regime Omar al-Bashir’s recent indictment for genocide, by the International Criminal Court, was effected partly because of his regime’s perpetration of this particular act of genocide in Darfur – see previous blog posting).

If one refers, for example, to the innumerable public statements on the Igbo genocide made over the years by Olusegun Obasanjo, a fiendish operative of this heinous crime and ex-head of regime in Nigeria, Nigeria has since been deeply troubled by its failure to accomplish its dreadful objective of annihilating the Igbo population 44 years ago. It therefore considers its current project of destroying the socioeconomic heritage and viability of the Igbo nation a sufficiently lethal tactical plank to accomplish its much vaunted, gruesome mission. Since 1970, the primary ambition of a typical Nigerian police officer graduating from police colleges in Nigeria is to be deployed to Igboland; he/she readily bribes their commandants to receive the coveted Igboland posting where they make an incredible fortune in just a few years of their placements at the myriad checkpoints, detaining/kidnapping/extorting money or a range of choice consumer products from road users. Even Igbo school children going to and from school, are not exempt from this officially-sponsored, openly-organised brigandage. Igbo homes and businesses (particularly shops and markets), as can be expected, are also regular targets of this institutionalised thieving spree. We mustn’t forget that, just over seven years to the day (10 July 2003), it was a Raphael Ige, a Nigerian assistant inspector general of police, who spectacularly carried out the kidnapping of then governor Chris Ngige of the Anambra region, northwest Igboland. Ige was a key executioner in the Ngige abduction plot, which was planned and authorised by the Obasanjo regime to divert Anambra public funds to Obasanjo-recruited hirelings opposed to the ongoing reconstruction of Igboland.

Abduction, detention and extortion constitute the 3-headed monster that the Nigerian occupation employs to savage the Igbo economy – most ruthlessly and most remorselessly. In essence, and perhaps most perversely cast, the Igbo nation subsidises its very own occupation – an indirect taxation thereof, amounting to millions and millions of US dollars of savings annually for the near-bankrupt Nigeria treasury. Given the paltry state of its finances, Nigeria cannot afford its continuing occupation of Igboland without its simultaneous ravaging of the legendary wealth of Igboland. The Igbo therefore carry the burden of this occupation with all its tragic ramifications. There are no comparable occupations elsewhere in the contemporary world with the same viciousness and severity.

What happens next in Igboland? When will the Nigeria military and police forces depart – as duly demanded by the Igbo human rights practitioners? How do the Igbo shut down this occupation? The Igbo demands are for immediate implementation. Nigeria must comply with these demands. The Igbo should now ensure that Nigeria evacuates its occupying military and police forces from their country forthwith. The Igbo are not Nigerian. The Igbo are from Biafra. The Igbo are Biafran. Whilst the Igbo worked extraordinarily hard by playing the vanguard role in the liberation of Nigeria from the British conquest (beginning from the 1930s), the Igbo ceased to be Nigerian on 29 May 1966. This was the day Nigeria launched the Igbo genocide. The Igbo renouncement of their Nigerian citizenship is the irrevocable Igbo indictment on a state that embarked on the destruction of 3.1 million Igbo people, one-quarter of the nation’s population at the time. The only future a genocide-state has is its dismantling – nothing else.

The Igbo should now stop paying the millions and millions of US dollars worth of expropriation tax that sustains the occupation and their subjugation. One must never, ever, be a participant in their incarceration, their deindividuation. A general, indefinite strike across the Igbo country should be called forthwith, demanding the unconditional dismantling of Nigeria’s barriers of extortion and expropriation, and the evacuation of its military/police bases from their land. An extensive and continuing-evolving organisation is required as this march of freedom develops. All strata of the 50 million Igbo population, at home and abroad, must be mobilised – particularly women organisations, farmers, youth/students’ bodies, the redoubtable umuada and umunna circuits, market/allied trade guilds, custodians and overseers of Igbo traditional religious places of worship, the clergy and the rest of the intellectuals. The Igbo clergy, for instance, has its work cut out. The role of the church in national freedom movements has been invaluable as the world has seen in places like Poland, the United States (the African American church, for example), several countries in Latin America and, of course, back home in Biafra as occurred 44 years ago – surely in the next sermon in the churches and cathedrals of the land, the congregation will be interested to learn of the legacies of the venerables Akanu Ibiam, Godfery Okoye, Benjamin Nwankiti… The Igbo expect their intellectuals, many of who are part of the world’s best and brightest, to play a critical role in responding to this existential threat to their nation. Already, there exists a rich legacy of the outstandingly selfless role played by Igbo intellectuals to Igboland at the onset of the genocide to build upon.

Finally, the rest of the world must know of the historic Enuugwu human rights community declaration and the measures being taken by the Igbo to free their homeland. The text of the communiqué should be distributed worldwide, particularly to institutions and agencies working on genocide, human rights, peace and freedom. The use of all the creative avenues of new technology is paramount. Igbo website networks will indeed be very busy in the coming days and weeks. The millions of Igbo émigrés, especially those in Europe and North America, should begin, right away, to lobby their elected representatives(members of parliament/deputies/congresspeople/senators) on these breathtaking developments and also seek support and solidarity from civil and human rights bodies in their community, region or country of domicile.

Students should take up this campaign in their unions, clubs and societies on resumption after the summer vacation. The office of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, should be contacted at once with the astonishingly vast documentation that the current and previous phases of the Igbo genocide attest to. Last year’s British Broadcasting Corporation’s investigation of the Nigeria police murdering-escapades in Enuugwu as well as that of Amnesty International’s wider canvass of investigation on the same police barbarities in other parts of occupied Igboland and Nigeria (see links below) are indispensible additions to the existing dossier on the genocide:

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Update on the al-Bashir indictment!

Appropriately, the The Hague-based International Criminal Court has issued a second arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the head of the Sudanese regime, charging him of committing genocide in Darfur (west of the country). His regime has, in total, murdered 300,000 Darfuri since 2003 and forced 2.5 million survivors into refugee camps in neighbouring Chad. The text of the current indictment is succinct and unambiguous: al-Bashir is accused of “genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction”. Earlier on, in March 2009, the ICC had issued its first arrest warrant for al-Bashir to stand trial for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Darfur, making him the first head of state in office to be so indicted.

For 44 years, since Nigeria inaugurated the genocide-state in Africa, murdering 3.1 million Igbo people, Africans have eagerly looked forward to these laudable developments from The Hague: the issuance of arrest warrants, by the ICC, to apprehend the head of an African regime to stand trial for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Surely, the time for reckoning has drawn much closer, than ever before, for the principal, foundational architects of this continental age of slaughter who are still alive and who are responsible for the murder of 3.1 million during 1966-1970.