MUHAMMADU BUHARI NEXT AFTER GBAGBO?
By Celestin Ngoa Balla, US Africa News. Updated 2016-02-25
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is accused of crimes against humanity by Biafran secessionists. According to the American magazine Newsweek, a complaint has been filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Nigerian President.
On January 29, coincidentally the second day of the trial in The Hague against former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, accused of crimes against humanity, among others, a complaint against another African head of state was brought to the ICC by the Dutch lawyer Goran Sluiter, a specialist in human rights. Sluiter is representing a group of 17 Biafran separatists whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is the developer of a pirate radio station called Radio Biafra. Kanu, who has been languishing in prison since last October, is also the leader of The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a very active branch of the Biafran secessionists. "There has been an intensification of violence and crimes committed against Biafrans since Mr. Buhari became the Nigerian president," said Sluiter, a few minutes after leaving the Hague office. At the time of Kanu’s arrest in October more than 20 militants were killed while taking part in a public demonstration. Two Nigerian policemen were also killed during confrontation with the militants.
Asked by Newsweek to respond to the newly filed complaint against Buhari in The Hague, Femi Adissa, the Nigerian president’s spokesman, avoided commenting on the case. Instead, he talked about Nnamdi Kanu and claimed that Nigerian courts are now dealing with the Biafran secessionist’s case. Sluiter, meanwhile, decried the issue of impartiality in Nigerian justice. "Nigeria is already a long time on the agenda of the [ICC] prosecutor," said the Dutchman, before saying confidently that with respect to the Biafran secessionists, nothing will stop Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda from following through on the Nigerian case. According to Newsweek, the ICC has not yet officially confirmed receiving the complaint against Buhari for crimes against humanity. “Once a complaint is filed at the ICC, the prosecutor can decide to open an investigation if there is a reasonable basis for believing that crimes against humanity have been committed." says Newsweek, adding that "Nigeria is a signatory to the Rome Statute, upon which the ICC’s jurisdiction is based."
There is no love lost between Buhari and Biafra. As an Army colonel when the civil war in full swing between 1967 and 1970, Buhari led troops against secessionist Biafra. According to many sources, in several villages Buhari’s troops burned down houses containing children, women and elderly patients. With that behind him, Buhari openly said during his last presidential campaign that he was not counting on the electorate of Biafra. He also said he did not regret his service during the Civil War. But new Biafran secessionists are on the warpath since the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. They have begun to break the paradigm that oscillates power in Nigeria between Hausa and Yoruba. Analysts note that since the return to power of Buhari, secessionist activism has escalated. “Buhari, from what we have seen so far, did not come as a Nigerian president. He came as a northern president in a united Nigeria. That being the case, Buhari has not given us any cause to believe that he has come to keep Nigeria one. Rather, the feeling we get, through his actions and inactions, is that he has come to widen the ethnic gaps and divides among the peoples of Nigeria. Under Buhari’s discriminatory regime, the worst hit is the Igbo whom the president has willfully excluded from his administration," says the journalist Amanze Obi. From Holland, where he coordinates the activities of the IPOB, Ndubuisi Osuala called for peaceful recognition of Biafra.