ICC and the Mladics in Nigeria
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
The arrest of Radko Mladic, the Serbian General who, in 1995, massacred over 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia, has just been confirmed by Serbian authorities. The arrest of Mladic, though long overdue, does send another strong signal to the rest of humanity that the enemies of peaceful coexistence can be apprehended wherever they may be in the globe.
When Mladic was directing the massacre, he and other Serbian leaders like Milosevic and Radovan Karadic, must have thought that they would get away with it, while enjoying the protection of the Serbian government and the cheers of its nationalists. They expected the Christian West to turn a blind eye on the massacre of Muslims, as it is doing to the Palestinians. It turned out to be a gross miscalculation similar to that done by agents of hate and barbarity in the Third Reich.
It was ultraconservatives like the British Prime Minsiter Margaret Thatcher that awakened the West to its responsibity. These are Europeans killed, she argued, pointing to the Muslim victims of Bosnia. In the end, the killings were stopped by the joint efforts of the UN, America and several European countries. Not withstanding the time it has taken to arrest the principal culprits, Europe has demonstrated its post World War II commitment that never would it allow atrocities similar to those committed by Nazi Germany be repeated on its soil.
With time that commitment is shouldered by the rest of the world. After Bosnia, agents of hate have continued to commit such atrocities in other parts of the world like the horrific massacre of 700,000 Tutsis in Rwanda and the war crimes committed in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Here too, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has reached at the main culprit, the ex-Liberian leader, Charles Taylor.
Different war crimes are still committed in various parts of the world with Africa registering the most barbaric. The prolonged wars in Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Uganda are daily witnessing killings, rapes, and maimings of innocent citizens. The brains behind these war crimes take solace that African countries and indeed the United Nations are incapable of stopping them. However, it is just a question of time before the world would unite and put an end to those who still cannot subdue the savage gene in their blood. Africa will be civilized, respecting the lives and properties of its citizens. A number of the culprits have been apprehended. There are some like Al-Bashir of Sudan who are still buying time. But, like Mladic, in the end the long arm of the law will reach them.
It is in this light that I think the ICC should take the recent trend of ethnic cleansing in Central Nigeria with all seriousness. Since the Kafanchan crisis of 1987, there has been efforts to depopulate certain areas in Central Nigeria of Muslim populations. Attempts have been made to trivialize the killings even in international circles which in other parts of the world would have strongly detested. As I drive into many such areas, I am reminded by their empty walls of settlements that were once flourishing there. And they are many. They have been ransacked and destroyed by agents of hate similar to those that carried the killings in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan and Congo. The culprits are known. They walk the streets free with the readiness to seize the next slight opportunity and repeat their horrendous acts.
The victims have no way of getting justice in Nigeria. The killings are serving the political interests of the present leadership, cultivating bad blood amongst northerners to ensure the electoral victory. And since the price of life is naught in Africa, no matter the thousands killed in every round of violence, there will always be publishers from other regions who always trivialize the atrocities, praise the criminals and vilify the victims. In almost all the cases, law enforcement agents side with the culprits and aid in the massacres. A stoppage is effected only with military intervention. Thereafter, lopsided arrests are made while the criminals go Scot free. It is a perfect case for the ICC to intervene.
But the ICC is reluctant, except for the recent threat which its prosecutors issued in the wake of the recent post-election violence, ostensibly at the instance of the Nigerian government. When civil society groups pressed the ICC Chief Prosecutor to investigate the ethnic cleansing that has been taking place in Central Nigeria, his reaction was that they have not reached the threshold for his intervention! It seems that on the scale of the ICC, lives of different races carry different weights. While the killing of 8,000 Bosnians was sufficient to kick-start its engine of justice, for Africa, the victims must be in hundreds of thousands. A figure like the Rwandan 700,000 Tutsis may just be eligible.
In any case, with the future unity of Nigeria increasingly becoming untenable, an investment by the ICC in stopping the recurring carnage in Nigeria will be yield dividends for the future. So while from a distant land of Africa we join the ICC in celebrating the arrival of its latest guest, Radko Mladic, we plead to the court to consider all lives equal and recognize the fact that there are many Mladics in Nigeria deserving to join him.
27 May, 2011