On the 22nd and 23rd February 2022, Global Rights-led Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities convened a 2-day National Summit on Mass Atrocities themed: “Remembering to Prevent: Enhancing Collective Memory for Mass Atrocities Prevention”. The Summit was a hybrid event featuring a physical gathering in Nigeria’s Federal Capital, Abuja, and online participation across the country and globally.
The Summit had in attendance representatives of civil society organizations from across the country, Government Ministries and Agencies including the National Human Rights Commission, the National Orientation Agency, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Défense, and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, as well as Development Partners including Heinrich Boll Foundation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) among others.
The core objective of the convening was to inspire a shared understanding of the narratives and challenges associated with the prevention of, and accountability for mass atrocities in Nigeria, with a view to enhance knowledge and understanding of the various forms and manifestations of mass atrocities, contextualized within the various theatres of violence and instances of disrespect for the rule of law across Nigeria, and equip civic actors in their quest to prevent atrocities, and demand accountability. It was also intended to explore the extent to which the deficit of memory, and the lack of institutional capacity to employ memory perpetuate these atrocities.
The Summit sought to explore the premise that: mass atrocities, invariably, are political crimes and in dealing with them, three deficits need to be confronted: the deficit of memory; the deficit of evidence, and; the deficit of will and/or capacity. Given the frequent debate in Nigeria’s context on whether it is the deficit of memory, or the lack of institutional capacity to latch memory that sustains chronic mass atrocities in Nigeria, the Community of Practice, therefore, found it essential to study the phenomenon of memory in the prevention of and accountability for mass atrocities.
The Summit interrogated why and how the formation of a public memory culture can prevent the occurrence of future atrocities. It also examined best practices that exemplify the nature of collective memory, and demonstrated the prospect of memory in uniting people, rather than ostracizing them.