By Chima Christian
I welcome the news that the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, has issued an order for troops to take control of areas where the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) enforce their sit-at-home order throughout the southeast states of Nigeria.
It is however important to acknowledge that previous military campaigns in the southeast, as well as other parts of Nigeria, have not been beyond reproach. Many of these campaigns have been fraught with accusations of excessive use of force, violation of civil liberties, injuries, wanton destruction of property, forced disappearances, fatalities even among the non-combatant population, and extra-judicial killings.
While I appreciate the bravery and sacrifices of our service personnel, I strongly urge them to adhere to established rules of engagement this time. Conscientious efforts must be made to distinguish between civilians and the criminal elements within the population. The era of indiscriminate rampages and the destruction of entire communities should be long gone.
I implore our people, particularly our youths to conduct themselves with restraint and utmost decorum throughout this military campaign. I also implore community leaders and stakeholders to offer the military all possible assistance to see to it that peace is restored.
It should be clear by now that the people of the southeast are indeed tired of terrorists who initially presented themselves as freedom fighters. The military, representing the Nigerian state, must therefore work hard to earn back the trust of the civilian population. And the best way to do this is to conduct themselves reputably even as they undertake this admittedly difficult task of restoring the peace.
My limited endorsement of this announced military campaign in the southeast is only as a short-term response to complex societal issues. The elite of the southeast and their federal counterparts must painstakingly discuss the underlining issues and work out pathways to sustainable peace.
If we do not back up this military action with efforts geared at genuinely addressing the root causes of the problems which IPOB is only a violent manifestation of, then I’m afraid that any success recorded by the barrel, if at all, will be short-lived.
Africa’s morning is at hand.