FLASHBACK: “There Was An Army” – the Stories of the Baga Genocide

imagesCAGEF4G1‘…when the baby girl buried alive is made to ask, for what crime she had been killed..‘ [Quran 81:8]

The Qur’an, as quoted above, refers to the Ultimate Day when Mankind will stand for judgement before the Almighty God — as individuals, communities, nations, epochs, as a race. That is the Day, in the inimitable words of the Quran [81:1-15]: ‘When the sun is shrouded in darkness… when the seas boil over…when all human beings are coupled [with their deeds]… when the scrolls [of men’s deeds] are unfolded, when heaven is laid bare, when the blazing fire [of hell] is kindled bright, and paradise is brought into view: [on that Day] every human being will come to know what he has prepared [for himself].’ A climax of that cosmic cataclysm will be when humankind is made to confront a bloody ghost of its past, the sum of all crimes. A baby girl, whose life had been abruptly, unjustly and brutally cut short, will be brought forth, in order to demand to know from her parents, society, nation or indeed the human race as the case may be, what crime, what sin, she had committed to warrant her murder! Crime against God, crime against humanity, starts with the murder of one innocent soul — not ten, a hundred, a thousand, a million.

Unfortunately this crime is committed habitually, over and over and over again, at the slightest excuse, by nations and their armies with astonishing brutality and incredible impunity. Worst of all, there appears to be a psychology of mass murder which singles out a baby girl – the symbol of life – as prime target. We offer three examples.

In Deir Yassin Massacre of April 9, 1948, young girls were specifically targeted for murder by the Israeli army and Zionist terrorist militia. Richard Catling, a British Police officer, reported: ‘One story is current concerning a case in which a young girl was literally torn in two. Many infants were also butchered and killed.’ Deir Yassin was a small peaceful village, but the unforeseen consequences of its destruction continue to haunt Israel and imperil the world. The renown Jewish theologian, Marc Ellis, wrote in Herald Tribune [9/4/98] that Deir Yassin had assumed the character of the ‘shadow side of Israel’s birth‘.

Sabra and Shatila massacre

Sabra and Shatila massacre

Dier Yassin Victim

Dier Yassin Victim

Robert Fisk reports on what he saw at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps after the massacre of Palestinians by Israeli sponsored militia on September 18, 1982. ‘One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed into her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her dark face frozen in horror.

Robert Fisk goes into some detail, in a book he appropriately named Pity the Nation:

This was a mass killing…an atrocity…a war crime. There were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.

Down a lane way there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain. One had been castrated, his trousers torn open and a settlement of flies throbbing over his torn intestines. On the other side of the main road, we found the bodies of five women and several children. The women were middle-aged and their corpses lay draped over a pile of rubble. One lay on her back, her dress torn open and the head of a little girl emerging from behind her. The girl had short dark curly hair, her eyes were staring at us and there was a frown on her face. She was dead. Another child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old. The back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain.

We leave this most extraordinarily sordid scene with the words of one of the perpetrators, as quoted by Wikipedia. ‘The question we are putting to ourselves is — how to begin, by raping or killing?

Baga Massacre

Baga Massacre

In Baga, the Nigerian Army engaged in the sum of all crimes by willfully subjecting babies, male and female, to gruesome death by burning during the massacre of April 16 and April 17, 2013. Adam Nossiter, [The New York Times 29/4/13] quotes Antony Emmanuel, a fish buyer, as saying concerning the massacre: “Small children, their parents left them, they were burned.” He also quoted another resident Isa Kukulala as saying concerning the Nigerian Army: ‘They took a small child from his mother and threw him inside the fire. This is what I have witnessed.

Adam Nossiter tells the world in some detail what had happened in Baga. He wrote:

Even by the scorched-earth standards of the Nigerian military’s campaign against Islamist insurgents stalking the nation’s north, what happened on the muddy shores of Lake Chad appears exceptional. The village, Baga, found itself in the cross hairs of Nigerian soldiers enraged by the killing of one of their own, said survivors who fled here to the capital of Borno State, 100 miles south. Their home had paid a heavy price: as many as 200 civilians, maybe more, were killed during the military’s rampage, according to refugees, senior relief workers, civilian officials and human rights organizations.

Some Baga residents who did not perish in the flames drowned while attempting to escape into Lake Chad, refugees here in the state capital [Maiduguri] said. Others were attacked by hippopotamuses in the shallow waters, officials said. Soldiers shot people as they ran from the burning houses, refugees said. “Many dead, many dead,” said Mohammed Muhammed, 40, a taxi driver from Baga. “People running into the flames, I saw that. If they didn’t run into the flames, the army will shoot them.” As flames enveloped the houses — “they used petroleum,” he said of the soldiers. “If you come out” from the flaming houses “they will shoot you,” he said. “Please, sir, charge them in the international court!” he shouted. Isa Kukulala, 26, a lanky bus driver who had left Baga that morning, gave a similar account: “They poured petrol on the properties. At the same time, they are shooting sporadically, inside the fire. Hundreds of residents fled into the bush, where they lived for days in harsh conditions, and are only now trickling back into the town. “The aged people, the people that couldn’t run, most of those people were burned,” said Antony Emmanuel. “They were firing from the armored vehicles,” said Alhadji Adamu, a clothing seller at Baga’s market. “I saw them putting fire on people’s houses. They are the security of the state. They have no right to kill anybody. They are supposed to protect the people.”

One iconic picture which sums up the Baga Massacre is now in the public domain, preserved for the world and posterity. It is the picture of a mother lying on the ground, her baby beside her – both are naked, both are dead, both are burned alive, both are decomposing.

The Nigerian Army now faces a profound crisis of credibility and legitimacy, yet in this testing moment it is still unable or unwilling to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And the world has learned to ignore its lies and cover ups. But how has this most important national institution sunk so low? For, this obviously is not the Army that once saved Nigeria, and nurtured it to maturity and cohesion. That Army has since decayed, and is being systematically taken over by legions of cold blooded murderers, armed robbers, drug addicts, tribal supremacists, rapists, arsonists, common thieves. Certainly the trust of Nigeria has been betrayed, and the Nigerian Army has perhaps been damaged beyond recovery. Chinua Achebe, the most accomplished Nigerian novelist yet, has chronicled the rise and fall of Biafra in his last book shortly before his death. Its title: There Was A Country. The book is about an era since gone. So now: There Was An Army.

Ibraheem Sulaiman
May 5th 2013

Related Articles:

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