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UN-forefront against hate speech in Nigeria

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By Timothy Akintola

Political figures urged to desist from words that will trigger chaos.

As the general election draws near, controversial debates, opinions and political campaigns have surfaced. Hate speech is one instrument that have been consistently employed during political campaigns. Ahead of the impending general election however, the United Nations has effectively strengthened its message against hate speech and actions that can enact profiling and violence against people on the basis of their ethnic groups, language, religious convictions or political choices. The United Nations further noted that it would activate the instruments within its disposal to ensure sanctioning individuals or groups that enact hate speeches or actions in the course of the election campaigns. Politicians were also urged to eschew this action to avoid crisis in the country.

This message was passed during a press conference organized by the United Nations System in Nigeria to celebrate the International Day in Memory of the victims of the holocaust which took place at the UN House in Abuja on Thursday. This commemoration is known to take place every January 27 and the theme for this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was started with “How hate speech can cause real harm.” Mr. Matthias Schmale, the United Nation’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria stated that it was necessary for the country’s political figures to desist from using words that may trigger chaos within the country. He stressed that the holocaust in Germany in which over 6 million Jews were extrajudicially killed was triggered by hate speech against the Jews.

Public urged to be vigilant to avoid words being weaponized to cause harm.

Mr. Schmale noted that with the imminence of the national election, everyone must be aware of upsurges in hate speeches and misinformation, especially in cases of high tension between political, regional and ethnic groups. He urged the public to be immensely vigilant to avoid words being weaponized to cause physical harm. He again stressed on the necessity of avoiding the steps of historical experiences in committing atrocities like the holocaust which was heralded by hate speech against the Jews, the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda or the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica.

Continuing on, he asserted that hate speech was a huge threat to our individual values and convictions, as well as the cohesions of the society. He also noted that hate speech was a threat to the lives of the most vulnerable in the society. He admitted that although the presence of social media had supercharged this risk, the resilience of young people must be further strengthened against hate and educate them on the dangers of misinformation. Mr. Schmale urged the government to use the Holocaust Remembrance Day as a lesson and as a means to ensure the upholding of human rights and dignity of all citizens.

United Nations urged political figures to avert from crisis.

On the Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration, he noted that the UN remembered the six million Jewish people, as well as the Sinti and Roma, people with disabilities and every other victims of the holocaust, killed by the Nazis and their abettors. He also mourned the victims of  World War Two, and per reflection of our humanity, renewed the UN’s promise for these horrors never to happen again. Nigeria’s 1967-1970 civil war which saw the deaths of at least three million people, this led to hate speeches geared by politically and regionally motivated crisis in which millions of people have become victims.

The impending general election in Nigeria presents an uncertain moment in the country’s political history. However judging by the previous occurrences of electoral irregularities and violence in Nigeria, the United Nations was quick to urge political figures and the general public to avert from actions that might ruin the country’s chances at progress. The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres in his speech, stated that while the organization mourned the holocaust, it must be recognized that the holocaust was not inevitable.

20% of Europeans still believe the Holocaust never happened.

António further explained that the holocaust was abetted by a deafening silence both home and abroad, immensely emboldening the perpetrators. The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Michael Freeman also speaking, lamented about existing denials about the realities of the holocaust. According to him, at least 20 percent of Europeans where this horrid event occurred either believe the holocaust never happened or feel it is exaggerated. He noted that the best way to ensure that this history is not repeated is by re-educating the world about the history.

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United Nations: Website

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