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Moghalu to FG: Set up truth and reconciliation commission for civil war survivors

Moghalu to FG: Set up truth and reconciliation commission for civil war survivors
June 08
17:21 2021

Kingsley Moghalu, former presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), has advised the federal government to establish a truth and reconciliation commission for survivors of the Nigerian civil war.

Over one million people — including women and children — were said to have died in the war that took place from 1967 to 1970.

Over the years, there have been renewed agitations for secession, especially in the south-east, leading to the creation of groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

However, in recent times, attacks on government buildings in the south-east have increased, and security operatives have accused IPOB of being behind the rising insecurity in the region.

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In a statement on Tuesday, Moghalu said setting up the commission will be a first step to stabilise Nigeria and begin the process of national healing and reconciliation.

While condemning the attacks on public infrastructure and security operatives in the south-east, Moghalu said it is clear that the federal government has not adopted a root-cause approach to the agitations for secession in different parts of Nigeria.

“The root cause of these separatist agitations is injustice. An unwillingness to recognise this fact leads to avoidance or convenient distortions of history in order to maintain injustice and the transient advantage this state of affairs confers on certain vested interests,” he said.

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“A Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s primary assignment should be to reconcile Nigerians across sectarian divides that have been sustained by the more unfortunate aspects of our history, in particular the military coup of January 1966 and its casualties, the counter-coup of July 1966 and the pogrom of an estimated 100,000 Nigerians of a specific ethnic origin, and the consequent civil war in which an estimated two million people lost their lives. If we must build a nation of our dreams, we have to confront our history and utilise it for reconciliation and not for division.

“This begins with a conscious decision to end a policy of conveniently sweeping history under the carpet and to recognise certain historical facts. In this context, it is important to recognise through a National Holiday the loss of millions of lives in the Nigerian civil war, currently marked unofficially by many Nigerians as Biafra Remembrance Day.

“To continue to fail to do so is to deliberately avoid recognising the value of the millions of lives lost in the war. The lives of these departed were lost in the bid to keep Nigeria one. Rwanda recognises its dead in its civil war and the genocide, Israel recognises the Holocaust with a memorial and a museum, and the United Nations recognises that tragedy with an International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“A truth and reconciliation commission, along with other policy actions, will go a long way in cleansing the bitterness that has been planted in the hearts and minds of many Nigerians.

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“As a former senior official of the United Nations with a track record in conflict resolution and rebuilding failed states such as Angola, Cambodia, Croatia, Rwanda, and Somalia, and in international peace and security operations, I am making the recommendations in this press statement as a contribution to stopping immediately the current bleeding of our country.”

The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) further recommended that the commission should comprise seven independent members of high reputation and relevant expertise — one from each geopolitical zone, and one international member assigned from the United Nations or from South Africa, adding that both entities have extensive experience in reconciliation matters.

He added that the commission should be given a six-month mandate to examine the civil war, “invite witnesses, survivors and critical players still alive to make statements, and recommendations that will promote national reconciliation by turning historical memory into a positive force for mutual forgiveness and nation-building”.

Moghalu recommended that the president appoints a panel of historians, with equal representation from the northern and southern parts of Nigeria to review and agree on a curriculum of contemporary national history, including the Nigerian civil war, to be taught in schools from the specific perspective of lessons learned, national healing and reconciliation.

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He also recommended that May 30 be established as a national holiday to remember those that died in the civil war.

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