From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has said that only through a comprehensive and rights-based approach could the cycle of violence be broken and lasting peace achieved in South East Nigeria.

In its Special Report, “Unveiling the Roots of Insecurity, Healing the Wounds of Human Rights Violations in South East Nigeria: A Path Towards Peace, Open Democratic Space, and a Prosperous Future,” produced in partnership with Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS) and launched on Wednesday in Enugu, the human rights advocacy organisation said that moving forward, a de-escalation strategy that prioritises dialogue and respect for human rights was urgently needed.

RULAAC stressed that investigating and holding accountable perpetrators of abuses, both within the military and civilian spheres, was essential to restore trust and prevent further violence in the region.

The Executives Director of the organisation, Okechukwu Nwanguma, in his opening remarks noted as part of the report that “Understanding the insecurity in the South East requires looking beyond simplistic narratives. It demands a nuanced examination of historical grievances, economic hardship, institutional weaknesses, and the interplay between state actors, armed groups, and communities.”

He further said that “The roots of this issue run deep, intertwined with the complex challenges of governance and responsible political leadership in the region. Weak institutions and corruption create an environment conducive to illicit arms production and trafficking. Failure to deliver good governance fuels grievances and fosters distrust in state authorities, leaving communities vulnerable to exploitation by armed groups. Breaking this cycle necessitates a multifaceted approach that tackles not only the immediate threat of armed violence but also addresses the underlying issues of poverty, inequality, and weak governance. Only then can the South East begin to heal the wounds of conflict and chart a path toward a more peaceful and prosperous future.”

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On reasons for the trouble in the region, the report had it that, “A major reason for the South East’s violence lies in the restricted space for political participation and expression. Citizens are often robbed of making informed electoral decisions through a cocktail of tactics like vote-buying, intimidation, violence, and even blatant rigging, leaving them feeling disenfranchised and unheard. This simmering political frustration fuels social unrest and creates fertile ground for violence and militancy to flourish.”

It further said that “Addressing pro-Biafra insurgency, while crucial, must be accompanied by tackling these deeply rooted internal conflicts. Dismantling the influence of cults, curbing the flow of illegal arms, and mediating disputes over land and community leadership are equally critical steps toward achieving lasting peace and stability in the region. Only by understanding the multifaceted nature of the problem and implementing a comprehensive approach can we hope to create a secure and prosperous future for the South East.

“The human rights crisis in South East Nigeria demands immediate and decisive action. By implementing these recommendations, the Tinubu administration can take a significant step towards restoring peace, justice, and accountability in the region.”

RULAAC boss noted that the report was an attempt to document and project the correct narrative about the roots, drivers, actors, patterns, dimensions and effects of insecurity in the South East, adding that the report was a sequel to the various stakeholder convening and brainstorming on insecurity in the South East facilitated by RULAAC and its partners, including the Institute for Development Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria.

“It was particularly inspired by the need to address the narrative challenge regarding the nature, roots and consequences of insecurity and to influence appropriate and informed government approach in responding to insecurity in the South East. Federal government’s single and prejudiced narrative is responsible for its failure to adopt an open-minded and holistic approach in responding to insecurity in the South-East,” he added.