By: Maureen Babatunde
There is a great task ahead of Amnesty International, which describes itself as a non governmental organization that investigates and exposes the facts, whenever and wherever abuses happen.
For a group that grew from seeking the release of political prisoners to upholding the whole spectrum of human rights, the greatest task now is holding itself up to the same standard it has claimed to be imposing on the world. Since the bulk of its work is about fighting against rights abuses, Amnesty International should by now realize that it has crossed the threshold of neutrality and has itself become an aggressor in a world where the lines have become blurred wether in the many needless conflicts and wars or the everyday matters of governance.
It is therefore losing the moral high ground more rapidly than it climbed into prominence for being the last bastion between the oppressed of the earth and the oppressors. In the last decade, as this organization strives to keep pace with evolution across a wide range of human endeavor – like technology that allowed it to interview victims in remote or risky areas, its modus operandi has mutated to the extent that they are today desperately in need of change. Amnesty International therefore need to first locate a reset button and then marshal the needed courage to press it so that it could again be on the path to being a darling organization that the world looks up to as the moral compass.
For a start, it would have to review it staffing. It has to face the reality that its ranks has been overwhelmed by fanatical luvvies who have superimposed their own version of post traumatic stress disorders on the operations of their employers. What this has done is that report after report churned out, because they are dictated by these resident extremists, turn out to be balderdash that the countries and authorities at the receiving end easily pick holes in them. Today, Nigeria is among the countries where this trend is playing out.
Those it has recruited to work for it in Nigeria are misleading the world and putting Amnesty International in a bad light – except of course it wants to say they are acting to brief. A strong indication of this contamination is the aggressive media marketing the staff engaged in to justify the outrage caused by the recently released 2016 State of the World’s Human Rights Report. Here was an organization whose annual report use to provoke wide sweeping reforms by governments but today has been reduced to having to mount paid media campaign to argue its so called findings.
Assuming Amnesty International's staff are not compromised but are rather victims of people's overactive imagination, the situation has not been helped by it being in bed with governments of powerful nations that are known to be repressive abroad. These countries may tout compliance with human rights at home yet they daily commit war crimes in places they have no genuine business playing global cowboy. The one individual known to have ordered the highest number of drone kills in human history, including the murder of school children and wedding party guests won a Nobel Laureate right under Amnesty International's nose and it was still brave enough to come to Nigeria to criminalize a legitimate push to rid the country of terrorists.
This perhaps explains the righteous anger that erupted in the wake of its report as people deduced that there must be something dirty afoot for an Army that has done much to crush Boko Haram's murderous insurgency to be vilified and presented as the evil while the international terrorist organization simply got the equivalent of a tap on the wrist. To worsen everything, Amnesty International's staff or those that put together the report practically rallied for the terrorists – asking the military to take on Boko Haram fighters using a template that is as ridiculous as it is impracticable.
Since the release of the report, which practically pitched it against the larger population of Nigerians going by views expressed on national television, newspapers, radio and the social media, it is obvious that Amnesty International has allowed itself to be used and exploited by some dollar-hungry Nigerians that fed it with cooked up inputs just to get some notes of the greenback for their daily living.
The situation led to people digging up facts to a point where they came across the several other questionable activities of the NGO. Here is an institution that operate under the claim of neutrality yet the least of the missteps it has been accused of sound like an extreme case of conspiracy theory. The only problem is that the host of the accusations against AI in other countries are stuff that will stick – it is a contractor whose sole brief is to worsen crisis situation by putting armies and their commanders in tight corners to prevent them from fighting to save their countries. It was further stated that this is the intention for Nigeria.
The resulting demand for apology by concerned Nigerians is therefore not misplaced. Nigeria is bigger than this NGO irrespective of the big names keeping it in place. Apologizing to the country of over 180 million persons for attempting to denigrate its highly revered institutions and authority will not reduce Amnesty International's standing in the eyes of the public but will rather prove to the world, especially the countries AI has robbed of peace that there is still some iota of honor and prospect of redemption for the organization.
In showing remorse its anti-Nigeria actions, Amnesty International should not omit to commend the Nigerian Army and sister agencies for not taking the laws into their hands contrary to falsehood its staff made it dish out in its report. In some other barbaric situations like they have described, citizens would have gone to force them out of the country, but people are still aware that the Nigerian police would not stand by idle to allow mass action against even this foreign aggressor to show the extent of their anger. We have a culture, a proud background and customs that are still better refined than some of the laws that AI and their minions want us to promote over and above our tradition as a people. This is what Amnesty International must recognize and apologize.
Whether Amnesty International seeks redemption by apologizing or not, the Nigerian Army must condition itself not to be deterred. It should look to further strengthening the Human Rights Desk it has created. It should show more example as it did in sanctioning the two military police that beat up a disabled man for wearing camouflage and another soldier that was jailed for assaulting a lady. The human rights record it has begun to set for itself in the performance of its duty could soon become a benchmark for other countries if it put in more efforts at growing the desk.
The mass outcry that greeted the 2016 Report should convince officers and men of the Nigerian military that there is honor in living for one's country. Nigerians have demonstrated that their voice could be more than any weapon of mass destruction. By coming out openly and en mass to rally round the military and other segments of the security architecture, Nigerians have proven that President Muhammadu Buhari awakened a Nigeria that citizens are increasingly becoming proud of.
So as Amnesty International continues to lobby governments, and other powerful groups to make sure they respect international law, it should also remove the log in its own eyes by respecting that aspect of the law that bestows sovereignty to nations. It has violated that aspect of the international law long enough where Nigeria is concerned and an apology is overdue.
Babatunde writes from 199 Watford Way, London, United Kingdom. (NW4 4SL).