Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Kaduna Declaration: Nigeria in the shadow of Biafra


By Elizabeth Kendal

Nigeria is home to "over 520 ethnic groups" (Operation World 2010). The three largest ethnic groups are roughly distributed by geography and defined by religion. Northern Nigeria is dominated by the Hausa-Fulani Muslims, while the south is mostly non-Muslim and predominately Christian, with the Yoruba in west and the Igbo in the east.

THE KADUNA DECLARATION

On Tuesday 6 June, at a press conference in Arewa House, Kaduna (in Nigeria’s volatile Middle Belt), a coalition of sixteen northern youth groups delivered a chilling ultimatum.  As spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Youths (CNY), Alhaji AbdulAziz Suleiman delivered the terms.

“With the effective date of this [Kaduna Declaration], which is today, Tuesday, June 06, 2017, all Igbos currently residing in any part of Northern Nigeria are hereby served notice to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the East are advised likewise.”

In a lengthy statement, Suleiman railed against the “ungrateful, uncultured” and “cruel Igbos”, accusing them of exhibiting a “reckless disrespect for the other federating units”. He charged the Igbo (collectively) with having “stained the integrity of the entire nation with their insatiable criminal obsessions”, and insisted they be held “responsible for Nigeria’s cultural and moral degeneracy”. He even claimed that “Igbos masquerade as Fulani herdsmen to commit violent atrocities” from which they reap political gain.

After thoroughly vilifying the Igbo collectively as a people, Suleiman complained that “northern leaders have adopted and have been dragging its people into a pitifully pacifist position in order to sustain an elusive national cohesion that has long been ridiculed by the Igbos.”

He then laid out the solution as proposed by the Coalition of Northern Youth: ethnic cleansing and separation.

“Since the Igbo have clearly abused the unreciprocated hospitality that gave them unrestricted access to, and ownership of landed properties all over the North, our first major move shall be to reclaim, assume and assert sole ownership and control of these landed resources currently owned, rented or in any way enjoyed by the ingrate Igbos in any part of Northern Nigeria.

“Consequently, officials of the signatory groups to this declaration are already mandated to commence immediate inventory of all properties, spaces or activity in the north currently occupied by the Igbos for forfeiture at the expiration of the ultimatum contained in this declaration. In specific terms, the groups are directed to compile and forward an up-to-date data of all locations occupied by any Igbo in any part of Northern Nigeria including schools, markets, shops, workshops, residences and every other activity spaces.

“We are hereby placing the Nigerian authorities and the entire nation on notice that as from the 1st October 2017, we shall commence the implementation of visible actions to prove to the whole world that we are no longer part of any federal union that should do with the Igbos. From that date, effective, peaceful and safe mop-up of all the remnants of the stubborn Igbos that neglect to heed this quit notice shall commence to finally eject them from every part of the North.”

Full statement can be read here:
Biafra: North give Igbos 3 months to leave zone, say they are ungrateful, uncultured
By Amos Tauna, Daily Post (Nigeria), 6 June 2017

NIGERIA: IN THE SHADOW OF BIAFRA

On 30 May 1967, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwa (34) became the first and only leader of the Republic of Biafra. His declaration of Biafran independence from Nigeria is remembered annually by many Nigerians, primarily because of the horrendous civil war which followed it. The Nigerian Civil War – also known as the Biafran War (1967-1970) – claimed the lives of some 100,000 Nigerian military personnel and between 500,000 and two million Igbo civilians, most of who perished from starvation.

This year, to mark the 50-year anniversary of the outbreak of the Biafran War, pro-secessionist Igbo groups such as BNYL (Biafra Nations Youth League), MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra), IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) and others, decided to turn up the heat.

Ostensibly to protest (1) the neglect and marginalisation of the Igbo by the government of Muhammadu Buhari (a northern Muslim), and (2) escalating Fulani (northern Muslim) violence and southward territorial expansion (jihad), IPOB issued a “sit-at-home” order for 30 May 2017. The order was of course illegal, as IPOB has no authority to issue such an order. Regardless, in cities and towns throughout the south-east, schools, churches, banks and businesses closed their doors, primarily on account of fear and a desire to avoid retaliation from belligerent, militant IPOB youths.

It must be noted that pro-secessionist IPOB has escalated its rhetoric and its actions over recent years, especially since its leader, Nnamdi Kanu was arrested on charges of treason in October 2015. While many IPOB rallies have turned violent, the response of the Nigerian security forces has been equally so, resulting in many deaths, drawing the ire of human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Kanu was released on bail in April (2017) and is still awaiting trial.

As it turned out, 30 May 2017 passed relatively peacefully. Though some IPOB youths did wreak havoc, seemingly in the hope of triggering a clash with Nigerian military personnel, the state was well prepared. Having secured potential flash-points ahead of time, the military retired to the barracks on the evening of 29 May, leaving local police to handle local incidents.

Unfortunately, that was not to be the end of it. The secessionists rhetoric emanating from pro-secessionists Ibgo youths has inflamed latent ethnic-religious hatreds in northern Hausa-Fulani Muslim youths.

The Coalition of Northern Youths’ 6 June “Kaduna Declaration” – in which Igbo are given until 1 October to quit the north – is but a response, a return volley to the pro-secessionist rhetoric emanating from the Igbo youths in the south-east. Coming as it does in these days of revived fundamentalist Islam and heightened Islamic zeal, the threat must be taken seriously.

screenshot: Most Rev Benjamin Kwashi,
Anglican Archbishop of Jos,
speaks to Global Christian News.
This is indeed an unfolding crisis.

If the situation is not defused; if the youths cannot be contained or reasoned with; and if security is not maintained or preferably tightened, then Nigeria could see an eruption of ethnic-religious violence leading to a new round of ethnic cleansing, culminating in a further entrenchment of hostility and division.

Tensions will doubtless escalate as the anniversaries roll by.

While 30 May marked the 50yr anniversary of the declaration of Biafran independence, 6 July marks the 50yr anniversary of the day the war actually began – the day artillery shells started raining down on Ogoja (10km south of the border with the north) and battalions of mostly northern Muslim forces started advancing on Enugu (the Biafran capital).

And of course the anniversaries will continue rolling by – battles won, battles lost – climaxing in the months between October 2018 and early 2019, when the Ibgo will remember 50yrs since the encirclement and blockade of Biafra. By the end of 1968 Igbo children were perishing at the rate of around one thousand per day on account of the decision by the Nigerian government to use starvation as a weapon of mass destruction against its own people. Most critically, the Igbo will be remembering this famine just as Nigeria heads into its next General Election, slated for February 2019.

If Nigeria manages to get through the next two years without massive bloodletting, it will be nothing short of a miracle.

Ethnic-religious cleansing not unprecedented

The Coalition of Northern Youths has given the Igbo until 1 October to quit the north. After that, northern youths will “commence the implementation” of actions to reclaim lands and properties and “mop-up” the remnants of the “stubborn Igbos” that have neglected to heed the quit notice, “to finally eject them from every part of the North.”

How likely is this scenario? 

Across Nigeria, senior community leaders are scrambling to douse the flames. Unlike the belligerent youths of the east and north, these senior leaders are old enough to have lived through the Nigerian Civil War. Driven by their nightmares, they are eager to do all in their power to avert a new outbreak of hostilities. Many are calling for dialogue to address fundamental issues such as injustice, corruption and marginalisation; as well as Boko Haram and the issue of Fulani banditry and southward territorial expansion (jihad).

In the East, MASSOB leader Ralph Uwazuruike has distanced his group from Kanu’s IPOB. He insists that pro-Biafra groups have no interest secessionist conflict. “Self-determination without violence is a fundamental right,” he said. “We must strive against sowing the seeds of discord but do all that will promote peace and justice.” On Monday 12 June, Uwazuruike travelled to Kaduna in an effort to advance peace.

In the North, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has ordered the arrest of all signatories to the Kaduna Declaration. Critically, on Wednesday 7 June, the governors of 19 northern Nigerian states met in Maiduguri, Borno, to publically denounce the Kaduna Declaration.  Premium Times reports: “The governors said they are in touch with heads of their security agencies and have taken measures that will guarantee the rights of all Nigerians to live in the 19 states in the three geo-political zones within the north.” Hopefully their rhetoric will translate into action.

While a return to civil war is highly unlikely, the threat posed to over a million mostly Christian Igbo living and working in the Muslim north cannot be overstated.

As the CNY deadline of 1 October approaches, the Igbo will also be remembering the massacres of 1966. On 29 May 1966 more than 3,000 Igbo were slaughtered in various northern cities, including Kaduna, Kano and Jos, in Islamic pogroms incited by the clerics and organised in the mosques.

Resenting Igbo success, the northern Muslims feared the more educated Igbo might one day come to dominate Nigeria. Then, after the 29 July 1966 Hausa-led military coup, a campaign of ethnic cleansing was unleashed across the north. Some 30,000 Igbo were killed as more than 1.3 million fled. The mass exodus of Igbo from the north resulted in a humanitarian crisis in the east as the east sought to adsorb this flood of displaced and traumatised humanity.

The massacres and ethnic cleansing of 1966 convinced the Igbo that the Muslim Hausa-Fulani would never tolerate the existence in their midst of the now-successful Igbo – i.e. an infidel people who the northerners had previously only ever viewed as savages fit only to be kept as slaves. This was also the reason why the war lasted as long as it did; for the Igbo were convinced that defeat would culminate in genocide. As it turned out, everyone was simply too exhausted for that.

Now (2017) as then (1967), the likelihood of an independent Biafra being realised is zero – after all, Nigeria’s oil (discovered in 1956) lies predominantly in the Delta region.

Today – 50yrs on from the pogroms of 1966 and the war of 1967-1970 – in these days of Islamic revival and heightened Islamic fundamentalist zeal; in these days when Islamists seem to have access to bottomless pit of career transnational jihadis and terror-funding to draw on, the question that needs to be answered is this: can Nigeria’s “Wahhabised” northern youths be contained?


---------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Syria and Chemical Weapons: listen to the experts

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Monday 26 June, the White House issued the following press statement:

The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.  The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.

As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.


Coming, as it does, comes hot on the heels of President Trump’s visit to Riyadh and his speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit, this statement may indicate that the Trump administration is preparing to escalate the conflict in Syria.

See: Trump in Riyadh: A Message to Tehran,
by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 29 June 2017

Now that President Trump has redrawn Obama’s Red Line, all we have to do is wait for the chemical attack that should deliver the Turkey-Arab Sunni Axis and its militant/jihadist proxies exactly what they so desperately want: US missile strikes against the Syrian government – only this time, far more devastating.

Like previous chemical attacks, this one too will be the work of Islamic jihadists – most probably foreigners who have no qualms about sacrificing Syrian nationals for what they regard as the greater Islamic good.

Anyone who finds this difficult to believe should consider the following expert analysis.

Under the heading: “Strategic Trajectories: Indicators of emerging patterns of global significance”, Issue 4,2017 of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (D&FA, the magazine of the Washington-based International Strategic Studies Association) included a report entitled, “Attack on Syria: US Has Returned to ‘Business as Usual’.” 

Excerpt:

“US Pres. Donald Trump may, on April 7, 2017, have sacrificed the direction of his Presidency largely to calm domestic critics. He authorized the firing, by two US Navy destroyers in the Western Mediterranean, of 60 BGM-109B unitary warhead and BGM-109D cluster munition Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAM) at the Syrian Air Force base at al-Shayrat; 58 of the TLAMs hit designated targets. The incident may well be a strategically pivotal – domestically as well as internationally – as the decision in January 2002 by US Pres. George W. Bush to attack Iraq.” (emphasis in the original)

After examining various intended and unintended or unavoidable consequences of this action, D&FA examined the casus belli (the incident that provoked the attack).

Excerpts: 

“The US attack authorized by Pres. Trump was in response to an alleged attack by Syrian Air Force aircraft on the north-western Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, in southern Idlib province, supposedly using chemical-payload bombs. Despite US government claims of irrefutable evidence that the Syrian Arab Air Force had used chemical weapons, no evidence was provided that the Syrian Government was involved in the use of chemical weapons. The US claims, when examined, are all based on reports from partisan sources within the Syrian opposition and from the Turkish Government, and not a single piece of evidence was from direct reporting by any US military or intelligence officer with an understanding of chemical weapons.

“Site investigations of the alleged attacks, in fact, revealed cratering from BM21 122mm Grad rocket launcher munitions, not aircraft-delivered munitions. Several of BM21 systems – including long range versions – were brought in from Turkey to jihadists groups operating in Idlib province shortly before the alleged ‘Syrian attack’, roughly about the same time that the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the removal of Syrian Pres. Assad was not (then) a US priority.”

As D&FA notes, every time the US had indicated that the removal of Assad was no longer an absolute goal, “Turkey and its allies (including jihadist and ‘Syrian opposition’ groups) produce ‘evidence’ that Syria had used chemical weapons against its own people”. . .  What’s more, “The model for the release of such ‘evidence’ has been virtually identical in all cases . . .”

D&FA also notes that “Sarin (GB) has been the chemical weapon of choice by terrorist groups linked to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the past in the Syrian conflict, not just the August 21, 2013, now-verified false-flag attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, by Saud-backed jihadists with the knowledge of the US Intelligence Community. . .

“Chemical analysis of the sarin residue found at Khan Sheikhoun indicated that it was made to the same recipe as the sarin used in the Ghouta attack in 2013, which has been absolutely and independently confirmed to have been used by Saudi-backed jihadis in that attack. It is explicitly not military-grade sarin and not the type which had been used by the Syrian Armed Forces before the internationally monitored disposal of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. . .

“It is probably that the Trump White House was aware that the evidence to support the claims of Syrian Government use of chemical weapons was questionable, tainted, and based on mere allegations. However, domestic political pressures in the US – coupled with a US media outcry at the reports – gave the President a chance to calm his critics at home by appearing strong internationally. . .”

Having covered asymmetric warfare and the August 2013 Ghouta false-flag chemical attack in my book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, I was not remotely surprise to see experts declaring the April 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack a false-flag; indeed, as noted by D&FA, the pattern was "virtually identical".

After viewing the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) on Khan Sheikhoun, chemical weapons expert Theodore A. Postol (Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) penned a cursory assessment: “A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report, Issued on April 11, 2017, About the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria”. [Full Text - Addendum]

The photo that launched 60 cruise missiles 
In his report, which makes fascinating reading, Prof. Postol is scathing about the US assessment.  He comments that both the cratering and the way the munition was exploded indicate that, rather than being delivered from the air (in which case it would have exploded outwards, and above the ground) it is clear that the munition had been placed on the ground and that an external explosive device was detonated on top of it, crushing it inwards, and leaving a crater. This is just one of Prof. Postol’s many cursory observations.

Postol writes: “It is hard for me to believe that anybody competent could have been involved in producing the WHR and the implications of such an obviously predetermined result strongly suggests that this report was not motivated by a serious analysis of any kind.

“This finding is disturbing.  It indicates that the WHR was probably a report purely aimed at justifying actions that were not supported by any legitimate intelligence. . .

“On August 30, 2013, the White House produced a similarly false report about the nerve agent attack on August 21, 2013 in Damascus. This report also contained numerous intelligence claims that could not be true. . .

“I therefore conclude that there needs to be a comprehensive investigation of these events that have either misled people in the White House, or worse yet, been perpetrated by people seeking to force decisions that were not justified by the cited intelligence.”


If the Trump administration has decided to enter the Syrian war on side of the regime change coalition (Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia), with the aim of pushing back against Iran, in defense of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, then it should stop playing games and just say so.

However, before the US Government starts firing missiles into Syria, it should also look forward and be open about the likely costs: Hezballah and Iranian Quds Force terror will surely strike back against US interests; Syria (presently secular) will become a potentially hostile Islamic state; and Syria’s Christians and Alawites will most surely face genocide.

------------------------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).