UK/Nigeria: London Igbos march in protest against killings committed by Boko Haram
By Chizom Ekeh
Saturday 18 February 2012
More than 200 people from London’s Igbo community have marched on Downing Street calling for an end to the targeted killing of Christians in northern eastern Nigeria by the terrorist Islamist group, Boko Haram.
The protest, organised by the Nigeria Peace Rally, which was set up in the aftermath of the Christmas day church bombings last year, aimed to alert the UK Government and the Nigerian High Commission in London that ethnic cleansing is taking place in Nigeria.
The Peace Rally’s PR Director, Ifanyo Okongwu said: “We have over 300 ethnic groups in Nigeria, which means there are many different communities. Boko Haram has to understand that they cannot impose Islamisation by force on all Nigerians.”
He added: “The killing of Igbos has been going on since 1945. Igbos cannot live the way of life the Islamists want to impose. We have different cultures, religions, ways of dressing and even different types of food. They have to understand that no one has a monopoly on the world.”
Ifanyi said he was pessimistic about Nigeria’s future and whether it could remain as a single country given what he described as the failure of multiculturalism in Nigeria. Ifanyi said he favoured a resolution that would lead to the separation of the mainly Muslim north from the mainly Christian south. He pointed to the recent division of north and south Sudan, and even the creations of new states following the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Ifanyi said he was convinced that Boko Haram is being funded and supported by fundamentalist terror groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaida and Al Shabaab in Somalia. He also claimed that some funding was coming from Saudi Arabia.
Outside the Nigerian High Commission just off London’s Trafalgar Square, protesters sent out an impassioned plea to President Goodluck Jonathan to do more to protect civilians from terrorist attacks and restore security and stability to the country.
Nnamdi Kanu, executive director of Nigeria Peace Rally said: “ We want an avenue to be created for a dialogue that will bring peace, justice and unity and reinforce the primacy of democracy and the rule of law. Our aim in staging this protest is to foster closer cooperation between the UK and Nigeria. One country on its own cannot tackle terrorism - it will need a cross border solution.”
However, Mazi Oke, director of the Igbo Union in Germany,who flew in especially to attend the rally, was more sceptical about the current events in Nigeria, placing them within the context of Nigeria’s recent political history. He recalled the pogroms launched against Igbos before the outbreak of Nigeria’s bloody 1967 to 1970 civil war, in which an estimated one million Igbo people died. He said: “What we want is a total political solution. Anyone that calls the atrocities committed by Boko Haram terrorist attacks lacks an understanding of the problem in Nigeria. These are a continuation of the pogroms from the 1960s and it needs to stop. Ninety percent of Boko Haram’s victims are Igbos.”
Boko Haram means ‘western education is sacrilege’ and Mazi strongly believes that this puts Igbos living in north eastern Nigeria in the firing line. He said: “When Boko Haram talks of western education they are directing their threats mostly at the Igbos because it is the Igbos that are the traders that sell non-cultural western clothes like American jeans. It’s the Igbos who run the restaurants, bars and hotels that sell alcohol. We have to let the world know that it is not terrorism but systematic cleansing like 40 years ago.”
Jenny Chika Okafor, director of Nigerian Women for Leadership, stressed the important role to be played by women to promote peace and development in Nigeria.
Ms Okafor said she believed that it was vital that Nigerian women are present and participate in drawing up a peace plan for the country at all levels and stages of the process. She highlighted the successes of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s first woman president and the progress achieved by countries like Rwanda, where 53% of parliamentarians are women.
Okafor said: “We need to engage with the Muslim women in the north because it is their sons who are part of Boko Haram. We need to adopt a solidarity with these northern mothers who have also brought up some of our presidents. We want to teach them that religion is not the foundation of their lives but only a part of it and encourage them to take part in the peace movement.”