Monday, 3 March 2008

Remember the Bremen Tribunal on Nigeria?

Nigeria Tribunal Programm deutsch - Nigeria Tribunal Programme english
Tribunal on the human rights situation in Nigeria - First hearing: Nigerian opposition speaks - from 26th – 28th of April 2001 in Bremen
In public perception, the recent history of Nigeria is exemplary for the transition from a post-colonial dictatorship to a young democracy. The West African State, till recently notorious for its military rule, brutal human rights violations and deep-rooted corruption, is now considered by the German Foreign Office as safe enough for asylum seekers to be deported without cause for concern. At the same time, there are controversial estimations of the present democratisation process.
The tribunal will analyse and illuminate different aspects of the present human rights situation and democracy process in Nigeria. All sides and different points of view should be given a hearing in this process.
Due to the complexity of the subject, the tribunal will take place in the form of a series of conferences. From 26-28. April 2001 the first hearing will take place in Bremen, with different representatives of the Nigerian opposition movement coming to word.
We have invited following guests:
Prof. Olusola Adeyeye (General Secretary of the United Democratic Front of Nigeria, USA)
Dr. Beko Kuti (Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance, Chairperson of the Campaign for Democracy, Nigeria)
Dr. Frederick Fasheun (President of the O'odua Peoples Congress, Nigeria)
Kayode Ogundamisi (General Secretary of the O'odua Peoples Congress, Nigeria)
Oronto Douglas (Deputy Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action, President of the Chikoko Movement, Niger-Delta, Nigeria)
Annie Brisibe (National Secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Canada)
Sani Shehu (Civil Rights Congress, Nigeria)
Doifie Buokoribo Ola (Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria)
Günter Werner (Lawyer, Germany)
The conference will take place at: Bürger- und Sozialzentrum Huchting e.V. Amersfoorter Straße 8 Bremen-Huchting

Background of the tribunal
Is Nigeria presently undergoing a thoroughgoing democratic transformation?
The roots of the present problems in Nigeria can be traced back to its colonial history. As the BBC puts it “some (Nigerians) have never forgiven the British colonialists for arbitrarily throwing together myriad of ethnic and religious groups, and then leaving them to try to get on with each other”.
Soon after Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960, the early Nigerian leadership negotiated a federal constitution which guaranteed self rule for the three ethnically based regions in the new republic. For a certain period Nigeria's leaders were able to undo, up to an extent, the harm done by the British by effectively decentralising power. Further, there was an attempt to build a united Nigeria which celebrated its diversity. But Britain had other plans. Nigeria had massive oil resources and a decentralised system was not conducive to Western powers for the rapid extraction of oil. This is the context for the military coup in 1966, which led to a forced unitary system imposed by military dictatorship. From then on, one military ruler after another violently crushed every form of opposition, specially in the oil rich Niger Delta, thereby guaranteeing an uninterrupted flow of oil to Western countries.
While the extraction of oil yielded fabulous wealth for the oil transnational companies and the elite in Nigeria, the mass of Nigerians were forced to live in poverty. For the Ogoni people, living on oil rich lands became a curse instead of a blessing, as the corrupt military rulers and the oil multinationals saw them as an obstacle to getting the "black gold" under their feet. This is why Ken Saro Wiwa the environmental activist and Ogoni leader was executed by the military dictator General Sani Abacha as the West sat by and watched.
Several European governments and the USA now prognose that under the present government, Nigeria is finally on the way to democracy. Former U.S. President Clinton, singled out Nigeria in his Millennium speech. Through his recent visit in August 2000, Clinton underlined the importance the USA attached to Nigeria. The new US president George W Bush's slip about the 'continent Nigeria', is quite likely to be Freudian as it exposes the strategic importance of Nigeria to the US establishment for the control of the African continent.
Large scale military deployment under the government of Obasanjo has left many thousands dead. Is this legitimate use of state force against anti-social, criminal and terrorist forces? What is the scope of action of the pro-democracy movement?
Is the support of the US government to Obasanjo a guarantee for democracy and social economic and political stability in Nigeria?
Is the warm welcome offered to Obasanjo by the German government evidence that Nigeria is well on the way to democratic governance?
Are the German Foreign Ministry reports on Nigeria whereby there is no fear of human rights violations in Obasanjo's Nigeria, based on objective assessments or are they influenced by economic interests and asylum policy considerations?
Is the long standing demand for a Sovereign National Conference relevant to a democratic Nigeria?
Are the demands of organisations like the OPC, MOSOP, MASSOB, INC, etc., for self determination directed against an unjust state system, as proclaimed by these organisations? Or are these religious or ethnic conflicts, as perceived by the German Foreign Office?
The International Human Rights Association - Bremen will host this tribunal in order to throw light on these and similar questions.

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