Sunday, 24 October 2010

Nigeria does not deserve UN Security Council permanent seat

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

(French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a permanent African membership of the United Nations Security Council. Addressing a summit of  “francophonie” leaders in Montreux, Switzerland, yesterday [Saturday 23 October 2010], Sarkozy said that it is a “scandal” that Africa, a continent of 1 billion people, is not “represented” on this crucial UN body. The following essay, first published in [12 May 2005], is reissued here as a contribution to the debate on a seat on the SC by an African country.)

It now appears very likely that Nigeria will, after all, hand over Liberian fugitive leader Charles Taylor (currently on exile in Nigeria) to the Freetown-based UN court investigating war crimes in conflicts in and around Sierra Leone. Thanks to the insistence of the US government, the Obasanjo regime is about to send Taylor to the Freetown court despite its long-held position to the contrary. The regime has until recently argued that it was against its “national honour” (whatever that means) to respond positively to the court’s request to extradite Taylor to face trial for overseeing the slaughter of 1.3 million Africans in the west central states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and (southern) Guinea whilst he was head of regime of Liberia.

Devil itself!

The irony is of course not lost on any keen observer of this development. Whatever may be the US’s strategic interests on this subject (possible Taylor links with al-Qaeda, possible Taylor involvement in millions of dollars’ worth of money laundering, possible Taylor complicity in the January 2005 attempted coup in Conakry to remove the pro-American Guinean head of regime), it has taken the intervention of a non-African power to force a disreputable African regime to hand over the head of a fellow murderous African regime to face trial for the murder of 1.3 million Africans – not 1.3 million non-Africans. African democrats are surely unencumbered by this irony. Africa’s regimes have murdered 15 million Africans across the continent in the past 40 years in appalling spates of genocide and other murders. Even if the devil itself were to lecture African regimes to stop murdering their peoples and, in the process, help prevent just one more African been annihilated by their depraved overlords, that would be readily welcomed. African populations are under siege by brutal regimes replete across Africa. The peoples require unremitting support for the right to safeguard their lives and progress from wherever in the world. Not less.

If indeed the US administration has threatened to block Nigeria’s current so-called bid for a permanent seat on a possibly enlarged UN Security Council if it continues to keep Taylor away from facing justice, as some press reports indicate, Washington has done very well. But the Americans shouldn’t lift their threat yet, even if Nigeria dispatches Taylor to Freetown. It is breathtakingly obscene for Nigeria to wish to be considered for a permanent seat at the Security Council given the ghastly human rights records of successive Nigerian regimes in the past 40 years including the current one where statecraft, at best, is run as some medieval baronial fiefdom. The US and the rest of the world should reject this “bid” out of hand. Not to do that would be to send the wrong signal to Africa – by rewarding a band of genocidist operatives who have the blood of Africans on their hands and who have in tandem pillaged an economy whose resources alone could easily have transformed all of Africa.

Age of pestilence

It mustn’t be forgotten that Nigeria inaugurated Africa’s current age of Pestilence in May 1966 when it embarked on the premeditated massacres of its Igbo population during a stretch of five months. 100,000 Igbo were murdered during what emerged as the first phase of the genocide. The following year, the regime, headed by Yakubu Gowon and genocidist “theorist”-deputy Obafemi Awolowo, expanded the territorial reach of this campaign into Igboland itself, Biafra, for the second phase. 3 million Igbo, or one-quarter of the nation’s population then, were annihilated within 30 months. Most of Africa stood by and watched, hardly critical or condemnatory of this wanton destruction of human lives, raping, sacking and plundering of towns, villages, community after community...

As the perpetrators appeared to have got off free from any forms of sanctions from Africa (and the rest of the world) for what were clearly crimes against humanity, several regimes elsewhere in Africa (alas!, including the one that would be headed 20 years later in Liberia by one Charles Taylor who was then a nondescript high school student) were “convinced” of the lessons that they had drawn from the escapades of their Nigerian counterpart: “We can murder our peoples at will. There will be no sanctions from abroad”. As a result, the killing fields of the age stretched inexorably beyond the Nigerian frontiers: Liberia, Sierra Leone, southern Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan.

In the past 40 years, Nigeria has been run by a succession of genocidist generals and other operatives (military and civilian alike) who planned, executed and sustained the Igbo genocide. The current head of regime, Olusegun Obasanjo, commanded a notorious division in south Igboland which committed indescribable atrocities as it overran cities, towns and villages. Obasanjo also ordered his airforce to destroy a clearly marked International Committee of the Red Cross DC-7 aircraft flying in urgently needed relief aid to Biafra in June 1969. Indeed, Obasanjo records this crime in his memoirs most unabashedly (see Olusegun Obasanjo, My Command [Ibadan and London: Heinemann, 1980], p. 79.). Neither Obasanjo (who has been head of regime for a total of nine years during the period) nor any of his colleagues (most of whom are still alive) has apologised or shown remorse or, most importantly, been indicted for their crimes against humanity. On the contrary. In fact Gowon, the grand overseer of the genocide, only recently told the press in Enuugwu (political and cultural capital of Igboland) that he had “nothing to apologise” to the Igbo. Before he shot himself in a Berlin bunker in 1945, few would have expected Adolf Hitler to apologise or show remorse for his organised genocide of 6 million Jews across Europe during the Second World War. Hardly anyone, though, would wish to contemplate a Hitler travelling to Jerusalem, today, to address a press conference in which he would insist categorically:  “I have nothing to apologise for the 6 million Jews my forces annihilated between 1939-1945. What I did was right”. That would be unimaginable monstrosity. But this was precisely what Gowon did at Enuugwu a fortnight ago.

Nigeria’s “bid” to join the Security Council could not have provided the world with a better opportunity to deal with the crux of contemporary Africa’s malaise: the non-accountability of Africa’s regimes which employ genocide and pillage of the economy as twin-track instrument of power. No country in Africa is more appropriate for the world to enforce this accountability than where the disease emerged in the first place on the continent – Nigeria, the quintessentially failed and genocide-state.

Now is the time for the US and the world to insist that each and every member of Nigeria’s “leaderships” who participated in the murder of 3.1 million Africans 40 years ago, and who in effect triggered the chain of mass killings of 12 million others elsewhere in the continent must be made to account for their crimes. Besides, if Nigeria is ultimately forced to hand over Taylor to face trial for the murder of 1.3 million Africans in the 1980s/1990s, then his current hosts (Obasanjo, Enaharo, Rotimi, Adekunle, Akinrinade, Abubakar, Babangida, Buhari, Gowon, Danjuma and many many others) must also be apprehended for the murder of 3.1 million Africans in the 1960s/1970s.

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