June 22, 2009

Kidnapping: A crime against humanity…What is the way out?

FOR the purpose of this   discourse, in pursuance of our goal of celebrating the personages who changed the course of humanity through peaceful protest like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr. and because protest is the immediate cause of kidnapping in Nigeria, we shall stay with the political activists who kidnap men, women and children for political reasons, that is the idealists and pseudo-  activists.

We shall not here bother with the criminals who kidnap for financial reward and for the final goals of the assuagement of their unenlightened appetites. Let me note that this categorization is not an endorsement of the group we have chosen for this discourse, not an attempt to fade or shade their culpability into lighter or darker hues. To be sure both portend the same results for their victims – psychological trauma, the loss of freedom and dignity, inter alia.

Again, both perpetrators proffer ready but hollow excuses, the one redress from injustice and the other relief from hunger. It must be said loud and clear that any measures deployed to reduce human suffering but which itself inflicts suffering on others, is unacceptable and should be forbidden by all.

Down the centuries, men and indeed women have protested against unjust conditions, unfair treatment, oppression and every condition that negated the development of the human persona. Protest is a part of human existence.

The life of the gentleman whose assassination 41 years ago we are marking in this hall, was dedicated to protest, protest against racism and racial bias. Although Rev. Martin Luther King, Jnr, died 41 years ago, he is remembered fondly all over the world because of his balanced preachment and attitude to race issues.

Before MEND and indeed before the issues that birthed protest in the Niger-Delta were conceived, men have carried arms in protest, killed combatants and civilians alike deliberately, negligently and mistakenly. Injustice and indeed any conditions that inhibit the human spirit recreate men into beasts. But men are men and no amount of injustice, oppression and discrimination and not even the plenitude of precedence in that regard can excuse men WHO TRAFFIC IN THEIR FELLOW HUMANS to achieve redress. Kidnapping for any reason whatsoever is a crime against humanity, it reduces man into the semblance of an animal; captured, detained, shackled and caged not for his crimes but because of his value both to his captors and his family, government or company.

What have the militants in the Niger-Delta achieved for deploying kidnapping as a tool of protest? Kidnapping in the Niger- Delta has strangulated the economy of the region, caused a wave of migration both in expatriates and natives from the region and reduced social life in the region to a tentative and distorted level.

For their trouble , MEND and her sister organisations have lost the sympathy of the international community, the tolerance of fellow Nigerians and the solidarity of fellow indigenes of the Niger- Delta. Although the issues that surround the Niger-Delta struggle are clear and well defined, kidnapping and other acts of irresponsibility perpetrated by militant activists, now define the struggle, thereby reducing the real issues into the background.

Before MEND, other militant organisations such as the IRA, UNITA, HAMAS, AL FATTAH, and the TAMIL Tigers had tried their hands on kidnapping and lost the sympathy of the world. The moral is that humanity abhors kidnapping because it constitutes an evil.

The replacement of one form of evil for another is not acceptable no matter the conditions and the motives. In the closing years of the Cold War, the British and American intelligence agencies had started to deploy torture, disinformation and the abduction of Russian and communist scientists to forestall the further proliferation of nuclear weapons in satellite Communist states such as Cuba, North Korea and Poland.

Their intentions were laudable but the deployment of such underhanded tactics birthed activism in the United Kingdom and the United States against their own governments. Writing in his autobiographical work, Dear Me, Peter Ustinov, British playwright and author argued that in fighting the evil of Communism, the proponents of democracy must stay within the confines of democratic norms to maintain the moral high ground.

Again, after the famous 9/11 attacks on the United States, Congress at the instance of President George W. Brush rolled out legislation that empowered security agencies to arrest and detain terrorist suspects for an inordinate period of time – a direct assault against and contradiction of the time honoured concept of habeas corpus. Military courts as opposed to civil courts were granted power to try certain classes of offenders.

To complete the package, the United States government established a special detention centre at Guantanamo Bay where torture and other forms of abuse alien to the American justice system and the American national psyche, were practiced. We know what has become of Guantanamo Bay and indeed that the electoral promise of bringing down that monstrosity aided Barack Obama in his march to eventual victory.

(To be continued next week)