September 23, 2016
Today a group affiliated with the Indigenous People of Biafra brought a peaceful protest to the area outside of the Human Rights Initiative office here in Dallas. Biafra is a region of Nigeria. Their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is on trial in Nigeria.
As reported by Newsweek, “Nigerian security forces arrested Kanu—the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)—in October 2015 as the U.K.-based activist was visiting Lagos. He is facing six counts of treasonable felony, which he denies and which carry a maximum life sentence in Nigeria. Kanu, who also directs the underground media outlet Radio Biafra, campaigns for the independence of Biafra, which existed as a federal republic in southeast Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 before it was forcibly reintegrated at the end of a bloody civil war.”
Kanu is a holder of dual citizenship in both Nigeria and Great Britain. His wife has stated her concern for her husband, after allegations of harassment, while being imprisoned, surfaced. Amnesty International has confirmed that Nigerian security forces have used excessive force against pro-Biafran protesters in the past.
Upon speaking with our Executive Director, Bill Holston, the Dallas Biafran Coordinator, informed HRI staff that, Nnamdi Kanu’s trial is staring on Monday September 26, 2016.
According to a report released by the United Kingdom International Business Times, “Pro-Biafrans call for the independence of Biafran territories, forcibly annexed to modern-day Nigeria during British colonization – which ended in 1960.”
The Nigerian government claims that Nigeria’s unity continues to be a top a priority for the country and while peaceful pro-Biafran protests are welcomed, demands for Biafra and Nigeria separation are unconstitutional.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, has stated that Kanu would not be granted bail. The president’s comments have stirred controversy among many human rights groups who urged him to follow protocol.
According to the Pro-Biafra Dallas Coordinator, peaceful demonstrations are happening all around the world today. The group brought their Dallas demonstration to the area outside of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas office. The protesters asserted that they were having difficulty gaining the attention of media or the United States State Department.
The mission of Human Rights Initiative is to advocate for human rights. This includes rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Many are being held as political prisoners around the world. Many of our HRI clients come to us, having been political prisoners now seeking asylum in the U.S. As an organization that fights for human rights and abhors crimes against humanity, we stand in solidarity for all seeking justice, due process, and safety.
The protesters sought to bring attention to the Nigerian Government’s mistreatment of peaceful protesters.
Amnesty International has documented human rights abuses against the IPOB:
We will always seek to condemn human rights abuses which drive people to leave the safety of their home and seek refuge in the United States. Thankfully these protesters are able to take advantage of our freedoms and can peacefully bring attention to their claims in the United States.
-Human Rights Initiative Team