The Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB and it’s leadership have been making conservative efforts to see that the old eastern region of Nigeria regains it’s autonomy through a United Nations (UN) recognized referendum. At different stages of the struggle, the people of Biafra have demonstrated to the world to be the most peaceful freedom movement in the world with record of organized protests, rallies, exhibitions, media conferences and recently submitted a petition to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
In recent years, referendum have been an effective tool for solving issues bordering on territorial integrity. On 30 August, 1999 an independence referendum was held in East Timor. The referendum request was made by the President of Indonesia, B. J. Habibie, to the then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 27 January 1999, for the United Nations to hold a referendum, whereby the Indonesian province would be given choice of either greater autonomy within Indonesia or independence. This is the same thing IPOB and her leadership had done on 14th of September, 2018. IPOB has went and submit their request to UN.
In the preceding months, President Habibie had made various public statements whereby he mentioned that the costs of maintaining monetary subsidies to support the province were not balanced by any measurable benefit to Indonesia. Due to this unfavourable cost-benefit analysis, the most rational decision would be for the province, which was not part of the original 1945 boundaries of Indonesia, to be given democratic choice on whether they want to remain within Indonesia or not. This choice was also in line with Habibie’s general democratization program in the immediate post-Suharto period.
As the follow-up step to Habibie’s request, the United Nations organized a meeting between the Indonesian government and the Portuguese government (as the previous colonial authority over East Timor). On 5 May 1999, these talks resulted in the “Agreement between the Republic of Indonesia and the Portuguese Republic on the Question of East Timor” which spelt out the details of the requested referendum. The referendum was to be held to determine whether East Timor would remain part of Indonesia, as a special autonomous region, or separate from Indonesia. The referendum was organized and monitored by the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) and 450,000 people were registered to vote including 13,000 outside East Timor.
The agreement between the Indonesian and Portuguese governments included a “Constitutional Framework for a special autonomy for East Timor” as an annex. The framework would establish a “Special Autonomous Region of East Timor” (SARET) within the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia. The institutions of the SARET would include an executive branch consisting of a governor (elected by the SARET legislature) and an advisory board, a legislative branch, the Regional Council of People’s Representatives, an independent judiciary including Courts of First Instance, a Court of Appeal, a Court of Final Appeal and a Public Prosecutor’s Office, and a regional police force.
The Indonesian government would retain control of defense, employment law, economic and fiscal policies and foreign relations, whilst Indonesian laws would have continuity in the territory. The autonomous government would have had competence over all matters not reserved for the Government of Indonesia, including the right to adopt a coat of arms as a symbol of identity. It would be able to designate persons as having “East Timorese identity” and could limit rights of land ownership for persons without this identity. A traditional civil code could also have been adopted. The SARET could enter into agreements with city and regional governments for economic, cultural and educational purposes. The SARET would have been entitled to participate in cultural and sporting organizations where other non-state entities participate. The rest is story for another day. This is one out of millions of referendum that has happened around the world and we need to learn from it. We should know that referendum is not war as Nigeria governments and other gullible minded people are making it to be, it is a legal process.
My dear Biafrans, I am writing this for us to understand that referendum has procedure, it is a step after another. When Our able Deputy director Mazi Uche Mefor told us that our referendum is remaining 95% we should know he knew what he is saying and he is on the right path and we should also know that much consultations, much documentations and other things they will not tell us are needed and we should always support them by doing what they told us. The only thing needed now is our co-operation and tenacity. And one of them is advocating for 2019 Nigeria election boycott, because that will tell the world, UN that we are serious in what we are saying.
For those that are doubting the IPOB strategies, approach and procedure they should know that IPOB is on the right track and doing the right thing and we must be united and speak with one voice.
We are going to boycott 2019 dance of shame called election, as we advocate for the forthcoming Biafra referendum, may Chukwu Okike Abiama guide us with one voice, and at last we will rejoice on the street of Biafra land on that day of victory.