STATEMENT BY NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION,
At The Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,
Durban, South Africa
31 St August- 7th September, 2001.
The President of the Conference,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria wishes to express its solidarity with the Secretary General Of The United Nations, The High Commissioner For Human Rights, The Goverrnnlent and People Of South Africa and humanity, in general, for convening this all-important Conference at this auspicious and historic venue.
The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria fully associates itself with, and endorses the Statement by The National Human Rights Institutions delivered on their behalf by Dr Barney Pityana, The Chairperson of The South African Human Rights Commission.
This World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance affords us the long-awaited opportunity to examine ourselves as one humanity, and tell ourselves the truth. It is said in the popular adage, `The truth shall set you free.' The time has come for us to move away from the deceptions, and face the scourge of man's inhumanity to man in the form of racism and related intolerance. In doing so, we do not demean ourselves, but on the contrary, exalt ourselves when we admit our faults and undertake that, `never again shall such bigotry exist in the peaceful world that we intend to bequeath to our children.'
For the people of Africa, Africans in the diaspora and all peoples of colour, we say, `we cannot forget the ultimate crimes; the crime of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, the trans-atlantic slave trade and the expropriation of our land and resources.' Our current state of development is directly tied to the crimes committed during the slave trade, and compounded by colonialism and the present day neocolonialism. The time has come for those who have perpetrated these crimes against humanity, their descendants, multi-national corporations and their agencies who have all benefitted, one way or another, to admit their guilt and seek atonement for the commission of these crimes. The victims and their descendants deserve an unreserved apology. Apologies have been offered and accepted for lesser crimes. We cannot wish away what has happened. The perpetrators, their descendants and their agents must, as a sign of atonement, apologise for their deeds, if only to achieve a lasting reconciliation.
The demand for reparations from these victims and their descendants is a just demand. There is no statute of limitation for crimes against humanity. The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria calls on this World Conference to demand for reparations, not necessarily in terms of monetary compensation to individuals [even though this was recently done to victims after the second world war] but in the cancellation of the crippling debt burdens imposed on African nations by the IMF, The World Bank, and related agencies, accompanied by massive aid targetted at substantively providing unfettered development to the victims and their descendants, wherever they may reside all over the world. We stand by institution building, not individual cash payments.
This World Conference represents a milestone in compelling the international community to address an issue it has ignored for centuries. These issues will not end with the closing ceremony of this World Conference. The momentum is growing and the ideas have germinated and gained increasing acceptance. We shall return home, and exploit the strong ties that have been forged during this World Conference to draw up a National Action Plan for the strategic follow-up of its conclusions National Institutions like ours must resolve to form pressure groups to assist our nations in drawing up concrete measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at national, regional and international levels.
Your Excellencies, this is a solemn duty for all of us, to enable us say, decisively, never again to these evils.