From Laolu Akande:
ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan’s dissolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has forced the United Nations (UN) to change some of its plans towards Nigeria and postpone the visit of its Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Francis Deng, to Nigeria.
The UN had last week hinted of Deng’s trip to Nigeria to work out ways with the Federal Government on how to avert genocide in Jos, Plateau State.
Deng, who also spoke on his job at the weekend, described it as tough but assured that “it is achievable.”
In a statement from his office in New York, Deng, who is already in West Africa, said: “I am tasked with an impossible mandate that must be made possible.”
The statement from his office said the postponement of the visit to Nigeria was “due to the recent political developments in Nigeria.” The UN initially planned the meeting for today and tomorrow.
A UN official in Deng’s office, Kelly Whitty, told The Guardian at the weekend that the planned visit to Nigeria has been postponed since there are no ministers in place for him to meet as earlier arranged. Last Wednesday, Jonathan dissolved the federal cabinet.
According to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Deng is mandated to “collect information on serious violations of human rights that could lead to genocide and to bring potential genocidal situations to the attention of the Security Council.”
Deng’s visit to West Africa last week has raised the spectacle at the UN as it coincided with the recurring religious killings in Jos, which the world body has described as massacre and an issue several UN organs have been speaking against at the secretariat.
An official of the Nigerian Mission to the UN, Mr. Kio Solomon Amieyeofori, in a reaction denied that Deng’s trip has anything to do with the Jos killings.
Amieyeofori argued that the issue is not whether the UN called the killings a massacre but that the visit has nothing to do with the Jos mayhem. Asked why he kept quiet after the UN called the killings massacre, he said: “The issue we are dealing with here is not whether the UN described the Jos crisis as a massacre or genocide. It is whether Mr. Deng is visiting Abuja, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) headquarters, to investigate the Jos violence.”
According to the UN, the “Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide is travelling to West Africa to identify how national and sub-regional bodies can help prevent the scourge.”
It said: “Deng will stop in Guinea, Nigeria and Ghana, where he will discuss his mandate with UN and government officials on the ground and representatives from ECOWAS.”
In its conclusion, the UN added that “Mr. Deng, a Sudanese scholar and advocate, was named to the post by Mr. Ban in 2007 to collect information on serious violations of human rights that could lead to genocide and to bring potential genocidal situations to the attention of the Security Council.”
Trying to deflect the “serious violations of human rights that could lead to genocide” in Jos, Amieyeofori insisted that the timing of the UN envoy’s visit had nothing to do with the killings in Plateau. The Nigerian envoy said he had been personally involved in planning Deng’s visit long before the recent Jos killings.
UN sources however argued that the envoy’s mandate covers any crisis that can lead to a genocidal situation just like the Jos killings, pointing to the clear dissatisfaction of the international community on the crisis.
Not only has Ban spoken against the killings, the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination has also condemned the violence and called for justice. The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, also described the killings as a “massacre.”
When contacted on his trip, Deng said it is merely to garner support for his mandate. It is believed in the global body that its resolution on the Responsibility to Protect Principle is a difficult concept as it tries to prevent a situation where a sovereign government does not stop the violation, including that of right to life of its own citizens. Deng said: “I am tasked with an impossible mandate that must be made possible.”
By that Responsibility to Protect Resolution, the UN decides to intervene in such circumstances and the creation of the office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is the very first step the UN took to implement the resolution. It is the job of Deng’s office to first gather information and table such before the Security Council.
In fact, the Special Adviser’s office in its statement noted that Deng’s “approach to his mandate is to see genocide as an extreme form of identity-related conflicts emanating from gross inequalities in the sharing of power, wealth, services and development opportunities. Prevention is therefore a challenge of constructive management of diversity. This is a function of both state responsibility and regional and international co-operation.”
His words: “I believe that empowering and strengthening regional organisations and mechanisms to deal with the prevention of genocide and related violence is crucial if we are to halt such tragic occurrences.”
The statement reiterated that “the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) defines genocide as ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.'”
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