Military Should Respect People’s Rights In War Against Insurgency – Kayanja | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Military Should Respect People’s Rights In War Against Insurgency – Kayanja

Posted: Mar 28, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Mr. Ronald Kayanja, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Lagos . In this interview with Ejikeme Omenazu, he spoke on the sideline of event marking this year’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, held recently in Lagos. Excerpts:

Could you explain the objectives of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade?

Let me explain it by reading out the message of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, on this day. The message reads: “Each year on March 25, the United Nations honours the memory of millions of Africans forcibly removed from their families and homelands over hundreds of years. The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the TransAtlantic Slave Trade also shines a spotlight on the prevailing racism and prejudice today. It is imperative that mankind work together for equal opportunity, justice and sustainable development for people of African descent. That is why the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme is reaching out to young people and old alike to create awareness, promote understanding and change attitudes. The theme of this year’s observance is ‘Remember Slavery: Celebrating the Heritage and Culture of the African Diaspora and its Roots.’
The dynamic culture and traditions of Africa continue to enrich life in the countries that were once involved in the TransAtlantic slave trade. Africa’s influence and legacy are plain to see in the vibrant music, bold art, rich foods and inspiring literature that infuse modern culture. Less recognised, perhaps, are the contributions that the people of the African Diaspora have made to medicine, science, government and general leadership in society.
Tested to the limits of their spirit and endurance, slaves from Africa left their descendants a wide range of invaluable assets, including fortitude, courage, strength, tolerance, patience and compassion. On this day, mankind renews the resolve to fight racism and celebrate the heritage that enhances societies around the world today.”

How did the experiences of slavery shape political development in Africa?

You cannot differentiate between racism, colonialism and slave trade. The three changed Africa. We do not know what Africa would have been if these had not happened. Slave trade fundamentally changed Africa. Many of our strong men and women, millions of them, were taken away. What would have happened if they were not taken away? Slave trade brought a lot of distortions in Africa.
What lessons should the modern African leaders learn from the history slave trade?
It is dangerous for people to discriminate between one another on the basis of race or colour. This is the basis of colonialism and racism. The whites discriminated against Africans because of colour of their skin and so think they are superior. We must do away with racism and discrimination, even among Africans.

How much would you say that Africa lost in human capital through slave trade?

We cannot quantify that. There were no records. The first slaves were taken from the middle of Africa to India. Many died and many survived. Many were also taken from West Africa to West Indies. What I can tell you is that we know that millions of able bodied Africans were taken.

Slave trade has today been replaced human trafficking and child labour. What are the ills associated with the new trend?
Human trafficking is a huge problem. Europe is struggling with migrants from Africa who cross the Mediterranean. Many of them die on the way. A lot of them drown and many of them are raped. Out of these you have modern slaves. Many are involved in sex trafficking which is another form of modern slavery. So, slavery has not ended. Most of these people are from Africa because of the impression and orientation that things are better there and bad here. Even the international media emphasise these too. In some countries things are bad because of conflicts in these countries. All these make the people leave in droves to the West and Europe where they think things are better.

Do you think African leaders have the political will to stop human trafficking when situations in their countries are not favourable to their citizens thereby making it conducive for human trafficking?

It is not just the African leaders. It is the responsibility of everybody. When people are involved in conflicts, guns are supplied. Where are these guns from? Europe is feeling the impact of terrorism because many have seen the effect of racism. It is the responsibility of everybody to ensure that there is equity. If we develop our society and people are treated fairly, people will not risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean.

What is your perspective on  the recent Amnesty International allegation of genocide against the Nigerian government and military over the prosecution of the war against the Boko Haram?

I did not hear about genocide; I think what Amnesty International is talking about is human rights abuses. The Nigerian military is taking this allegation seriously. They have set up human rights desks. It is their duty to respond to this allegation. They should ensure that people are not killed anyhow in the fight against Boko Haram.

Would you say that the recent decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to take Nigerian into the Coalition of Islamic Countries Against Terror will not impact negatively of the support from the Western allies who have been supporting Nigerian in the war against Boko Haram?

This is an internal affair of the country. In the United Nations, we have no issue against that if the leader thinks it is in the interest of the country. Issue of terror is a serious problem and every country is free to take decisions to deal with it. Nigeria has suffered a lot because of Boko Haram. France and other countries are also facing the problem of terror. It is indeed a global problem. So, Nigerians can have discussions about the issue of joining any group to assist the country tackle the issue of terror. The country has a huge problem in its hands and has to take decisions how to tackle it.
The country can collaborate with other regional countries in the war against terror. It is strategic to involve other regions. That is why the effort of  President Muhammadu Buhari  to involve other countries in the West African sub-region to fight the Boko Haram is also very strategic. Boko Haram is beyond the borders of these countries. We commend the efforts of Nigeria and other countries in the region to unite against it.

Don’t you see the joining of the Coalition of Islamic Countries Against Terror as an excuse for the ISIS to see Nigeria as a target?
Well, so far, we have not seen that threat yet. As I said earlier, the Boko Haram issue is serious and anything the government can do to tackle it is acceptable and should be considered as strategic.