Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
For two days, stakeholders drawn from the media, civil society, and human rights organisations converged in Enugu, the capital of Enugu State, to brainstorm on the issues of mass atrocities reportedly going on in parts of the South East.
Participants came from the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo.
The parley, tagged roundtable discussion on increasing partnership and collaboration by critical stakeholders to ensure that minimum standards for documentation of atrocities in the South East was convened by Alliances for Africa (AfA) with support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Organisers said the project has the overall objective to develop an effective mechanism for documenting atrocities that occur in vulnerable communities and provide support used for demanding accountability.
The move, Daily Sun gathered, was targeted at increasing partnership or collaboration with government institutions to develop framework for mass atrocities which include minimum standards for documentation.
In its project overview, the AfA said that the “increase in human atrocities across South Eastern States is primarily as a result of citizens inaction, supported by ignorance and lack of institutional system, willingness and political will to address the issue holistically.”
It went further to accuse state governments of corruption, alleging that they indirectly support the widespread of mass atrocities: “State Governments on their part, are corrupt, in the sense that, their focus is not on the wellbeing and safety of their citizens, they indirectly support the widespread of mass atrocities because of selfish personal gains.”
The group further alleged that many civil society organisations which are expected to help hold government accountable in this regard have not understood the fundamentals of human rights violation as according to it, 85 per cent of them are ignorant of regional and international treaties that Nigeria is signatory to.
But to ensure that the situation is remedied and also moving forward, engender proper documentation which would help to hold government accountable, Alliances for Africa, elected to engage critical stakeholders who would help to drive its objective.
At the event, Project Officer, Ihuoma Chidire, while underscoring the importance of the project said: “The project recognises the imperatives of documenting gross violations of human rights (mass atrocities) as significant effort to strengthen institutions and stimulate citizens to demand for accountability from perpetrators of mass atrocities. We acknowledge that women are most hit and vulnerable in situations of mass atrocities.”
She explained that project which is being implemented in the Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States specifically targets women in the region.
One of the facilitators who led the participants in some of the sessions, Dr Jude Ohanele, noted that it was imperative to take ownership of documentation for the purpose of holding government accountable.
Speaking on “Understanding mass atrocities as a violation of human rights; its impact on women and girls in the South East”, Ohanele emphasized that stakeholders need to understand the issue so that they would be able to recognize same wherever and whenever it happens.
He led the participants to identify and map stakeholders responsible for ensuring accountability for mass atrocities in the region, emphasising that in mapping stakeholders, all parties relevant to the issues must be included if such map out would be complete.
He listed some of the stakeholders thus: survivors, victims and their families; eye witnesses, women groups, community leaders/groups, the media particularly practitioners within the circle of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), schools/school heads, the police and other necessary security agencies, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), health centres and hospitals, National Human Rights Commission, among others.
Ohanele also taught that in understanding partnership and collaboration as a strategic tool to ensure minimum standards for documentation, it is imperative to understand that values of partnership must be employed.
The values of partnership, according to him, include: equality, information symmetry, respect, tolerance; openness, value of trust, humility, and respect among others.