Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ozoemena, Never again

Denial is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide …try to cover up the evidence … They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims…” – Gregory Stanton, president, Genocide Watch; professor in genocide studies and prevention, George Mason University, Virginia, US
Today, Sunday 27 January 2013, is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is dedicated by the United Nations as a worldwide memoriam for the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany during the course of the Second World War. Today also marks the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one of most notorious Nazi concentration camps in its occupied Poland where the Jewish genocide was perpetrated in addition to camps elsewhere in east and central Europe.

On 29 May 1966, just about six months to the day after the world commemorated the 21st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and made the customary solemn declaration of “Never Again”, Hausa-Fulani emirs, muslim clerics and intellectuals, military officers, politicians and other public figures in Nigeria defiled that season of reflection, commiseration and hope. They planned and executed the first phase of the Igbo genocide, the foundational and most expansive genocide in post-(European)conquest Africa. Apparently emboldened by the scant criticism of this crime from across Africa and the rest of the world, including, particularly, the United Nations, the Nigerians expanded the territorial range of their genocidal campaign on the Igbo by attacking Biafra, Igboland, in July 1967. A band of intellectuals from west Nigeria led by Obafemi Awolowo, a lawyer, provided the genocide-perpetration with its presumed “theoretical” cover. Awolowo himself doubled as chief genocidist “theorist” and head of the finance ministry and vice-chair of the waging junta. 3.1 million Igbo or a quarter of this nation’s total population were slaughtered during the 44-month duration of the genocide.

Age of pestilence

The Igbo genocide inaugurated Africa’s prevailing age of pestilence. It is the launch pad for the haunting killing fields that have expanded almost inexorably across the African geographical landscape since. During the period, 12 million additional Africans have been murdered in the ever-expanding genocidal killing fields of the continent in Rwanda (1994), Zaïre/Democratic Republic of the Congo (variously, since the late 1990s), Darfur – west of the Sudan – (since 2004), Abyei – south of the Sudan – (ongoing) and Nuba Mountains/south Kordofan – south of the Sudan – (ongoing) and in other killings in Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo Republic, Somalia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Mozambique, Algeria, Libya, Kenya, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Angola, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Mali.

The lives of these additional 12 million Africans would probably have been spared if Africa and the world had worked robustly to prevent the genocide of the Igbo. The United Nations could have stopped this genocide; the United Nations should have stopped this genocide instead of protecting the interests of the Nigeria state, the very perpetrator of the crime. In the wake of the Jewish genocide, Africa was, with hindsight, most cruelly unlucky to have been the testing ground for the presumed global community’s resolve to fight genocide subsequently, particularly after the 1948 historic United Nations declaration on this crime against humanity.

The Igbo genocide is one of the most comprehensively documented crimes against humanity. Nonetheless, Igbo intellectuals must endeavour, assiduously, to continue to inform the entire world of the nature and extent of the genocide, examining, especially, the variegated contours of the expansive trail of this crime, the parameters and strictures of the monstrosity of denialism of the crime especially by some clusters of the core perpetrators of the crime in Nigeria and their collaborators abroad including some in academia and media, and the debilitating and oppressive burden of 43 years of Nigeria’s occupation of Igboland. 

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