Interview: Thousands of North Korea Juche supporters exist in Nigeria

Secretary General of Nigerian-DPRK Friendship Association talks to NK News about Juche, KCNA's racist comments, human rights
June 17th, 2014

Thousands of supporters of North Korea’s Juche philosophy exist in Nigeria, Dr Alhassan Mamman Muhammed, Chairman of the Nigerian committee for the study of the Juche idea, has told NK News.

Speaking on Nigeria – DPRK cooperation in an extended interview, Muhammed said that there are approximately 2000 to 2500 registered members of Nigeria’s Juche study group, organized in numerous branches across country. A further 10,000 unregistered followers exist across the nation, he said, though numbers could not be independently verified. According to Muhammed, the Juche study committee is even represented in the Nigeria’s institute of Journalism.

Muhammed, who is also the Secretary General of the Nigerian-DPRK Friendship Association, further explained that there are many North Koreans currently working in Nigeria, across several sectors, from healthcare to agriculture, echoing recent media reports on the issue.

A frequent traveler to the DPRK, Muhammed said he is often invited to visit North Korea, with trips often paid for by a body called the Korean Association of Social Scientists (KASS).

A look at North Korean state media suggests Muhammed is certainly no stranger to the country, with his contributions to the study of Juche and reverence of the Kim family mentioned in nearly 30 articles by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). According to the NK News KCNA Watch graphing tool, the state run media outlet wrote articles using Dr Muhammed’s name 22 times in 2012 alone, quoting him as recently as April 14, in a story entitled “Kim Jong Un Honored in Nigeria”.

Interviews from members of DPRK friendship organizations with non-North Korean outlets are relatively rare and Muhammed sheds light on some interesting detail, such as his organization’s direct involvement with North Korea, among other issues. Also weighing in on Nigerian-North Korean cooperation and the future of the Korean Peninsula, Muhammed further touches upon North Korean human rights and KCNA’s racist comments directed toward President Obama in May.

Dr Alhassan Mamman Muhammed, Chairman of the Nigerian committee for the study of the Juche idea


NK News: Did you set up the Nigerian committee for the study of the Juche idea?

The organization was set up in the late 1970s. I became the Chairman around the year 2000. I am also the National Secretary General of the Nigeria-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Friendship Association.

Nk News: What is your relationship with the DPRK?

Our relationship has to do with the socialist ideas embodied by Juche Idea. We are progressives and we are concerned with good governance for Nigeria and Africa. Africa and Africans are yearning for development and for this to happen, we need an ideology that can drive our developmental strides and aspirations.

In terms of membership, I can say we have about 2000 and 2500 registered students members and more than 10,000 non-registered members but ardent sympathizers across Nigeria.

“(There are) more than 10,000 non-registered members but ardent sympathizers across Nigeria”

I’m the national chairman and we have many branches across Nigeria. We have branches in major tertiary institutions in Nigeria (Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education). Furthermore, we have a branch at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism with headquarters at our nation’s capital, Abuja. This branch caters for journalists in Nigeria and helps in information dissemination.

NK News: What is the level of involvement with North Koreans in Nigeria?

Our level of involvement with DPRK is mainly celebrating their national days, including the main one on September 9, and of course, the birthdays of their leaders.

We like to celebrate the birthdays of the founding father of the Korean nation- HE comrade Kim Il Sung, HE comrade Kim Jong Il and HE respected comrade Kim Jong Un, because of their outstanding exemplary leadership qualities, the love and concern shown to their people and their sacrifices and sense of dedication to Korea, Koreans and progressives all over the world. These are things that we try to pass on to our younger generation here.

We also get involved with consular visits to the embassy of DPR of Korea in Abuja, our nation’s capital on the occasion of their national day, which is September 9 of every year.

Furthermore, we are sometimes invited to Pyongyang to attend their national day celebrations. The committee for the study of the Juche idea however, is run by Nigerians.

“Every African nation as far as I’m aware, has a similar organization”

We also have the African regional committee on the study of the Juche idea. This is organized at the Africa regional level where all the leadership of the Juche idea in each African country is a member.

Every African nation as far as I’m aware, has a similar organization, though they may not be active. But every African nation has a similar organization with its own leadership structure. I know of least one person in every African country who represents a branch.

The Africa regional committee is run by a board of directors that are elected to run the affairs at the regional level. The last meeting of the regional committee was last May 2013 at Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

NK News: Are there many North Koreans in Nigeria? I read last year for example that three North Koreans doctors were killed.

Yes of course. There are so many North Koreans here. They are in Nigeria helping us, in our health care system, with our agriculture.  They also provide technical experience and there are also some joint ventures between Nigerians and North Koreans. These joint ventures are in chemicals, fertilizers, agricultures, furniture, marble, mostly from granite (the North Koreans are very good in this), hospitals in Yobe, Adamawa, Zamfara, Enugu, Nasarawa, Delta, Rivers and Borno as well as Lagos states.

“There are so many North Koreans here. They are in Nigeria helping us, in our health care system, with our agriculture.  They also provide technical experience”

The three DPRK doctors that were killed were working in Yobe state, which is in the northeastern part of Nigeria. As you may aware, the northeastern part of Nigeria is the hot bed of the insurgency in Nigeria.

However, most expatriates working in these areas were attacked. Nigerians and I especially do regret that the incident happened. It was very unfortunate and we offer our sympathies to their families and loved ones as well as the Korean nation.

NK News: Can you confirm that there are five Juche organizations in Nigeria?

They are all branches of the national body, and they have their own membership.

NK News: Have you been to the North Korean embassy there and met the ambassador? 

I do visit the North Korean embassy and have met the embassy staff on numerous occasions.

NK News: How would Juche ideas apply to Nigeria and African countries in general?

Africa is primed to be the richest continent. We have many resources here. However, one of our major problems is the inability of our leaders to tap into these resources (both natural and human). We need a guiding ideology. The Juche idea is perfect for us as it places the premium on the people. It will ensure that our ideology will drive our developmental strides. It will make Africa the focus of attention in terms of investment and development. It will address the issue of capital flight.

I am sure you are aware of the fact that some African leaders and most senior government officials stash away looted funds in western countries particularly Switzerland and that this Swiss bank and government provide cover for these looted funds. These funds, if made available for Africa can go a long way in lessening the poverty, diseases and dearth of basic infrastructure, in Africa.

With the Juche Idea, most of our leaders will now look in-ward; they will have that ideology of looking inward towards Africa.   Why should we look outside Africa for help with African problems?

“I am in agreement with the condemnation of the Paris meeting of Presidents of Cameroon Chad, Niger, Benin and Nigeria by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame”

For example, the insurgency in northeastern part of Nigeria. These insurgents find sanctuary in countries neighbouring Nigeria namely Cameroon, Niger and Chad.  (Nothing happened) until the French President called a conference in Paris. Nigeria’s neighbors agreed to man their boarders and stamp out the insurgents bases in their countries.

This is shameful and worrisome. This is what African Union (AU) should have initiated. I am in agreement with the condemnation of the Paris meeting of Presidents of Cameroun Chad, Niger, Benin and Nigeria by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.

What do you think is the future of the Korean peninsula?

One of my areas of interest is the Korean peninsula and the Asia Pacific Rim as a whole. The division of Korea in 1953 was implemented and sustained by the U.S. and its western allies.

This is not in the interest of either Korea on both sides of 38th parallel or the peace loving peoples of the world.  If I am to re-echo the words of the founding father of the DPRK, HE comrade Kim Il Sung, a reunited Korean peninsula is our last wish. I look forward to the reunification of Korea by Koreans without outside interference and on the terms of Koreans. Not on terms of a supposed super power and the self-acclaimed policeman of the world.

I hope that most Koreans will be looking inward with the Juche idea and will be re-united under the Juche idea. The U.S. wants a hegemonic foothold on the peninsula, and with this idea, they have divided the nation.

Our concern today is that the U.S. and her allies should lift the sanctions and allow free interaction between the South and the North, and they should stop military exercises along the disputed border. There is no problem with military exercises in general of course, but they must cease from operating near North Korea.

We feel that the DPRK and the South Korean authorities can engage with one another without interference. They can achieve this without any other power dictating to Koreans. Because of this, we feel a unified Korea will offer greater credence to Africa.

“I hope that most Koreans … will be re-united under the Juche idea”

If we have another power such as a united Korea with its military and technological might, this would be better for us here in Africa. Look at the role China is playing in Africa. Before the emergence of China as a major player on the African continent, Africa was a forgotten continent, a continent ravaged by poverty, diseases and all kinds of vices. However, with the emergence of China’s hunger for energy and raw materials on the African continent, it has spurred the spirit of competition by western countries. A continent they had abandoned decades ago.

In our thinking, if a united Korea becomes a possibility, it would provide additional avenue to the one China is providing.

NK News: What do you think of North Korea’s human rights record?

Those accusing North Korea of violating rights, do not have a better record than North Korea. America is the greatest human rights violator in the world. Look at the treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and their use of depleted uranium in Iraq. We have watched the scene of the after effects of depleted uranium use.

You can imagine what hundreds thousands of Iraqis are now suffering because of the after effects of the use of depleted uranium. This in my opinion; is the worst human rights violations in human history.

Look at abuse of prisoners at Baghram prison in Baghdad, Iraq. The world has never experienced these kinds of human right violations and that the entire world was appalled by the conduct of these American soldiers.

I don’t think South Korea is any better. Look at what happened in Gangjeong community on Jeju Island. The South Korean Navy has begun construction of a $970 million base in Gangjeong to be completed in 2014; it will be home to 20 warships.

All the locals were evacuated forcefully just to satisfy the whims of the United States and South Korea government. For some time now, dozens of banners adorn this village on the southern coast of South Korea’s southernmost major island, trumpeting the concern that has invaded this otherwise idyllic community and divided it so deeply that residents say some fathers and sons have stopped talking to one another.

Please, cast your mind back to shortly before and during the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korean government troops cracking down on people they suspected of being leftists who might sympathize with North Korea devastated Jeju, burning villages and killing about 30,000 people, or one-tenth of the population.

If some nations accuse the DPRK of human rights violations then we must re-define human right violations.

NK News: Have you ever been to North Korea? 

I have been there six or seven times. I have been there this year in April.  It is a fantastic country. In my last two visits, I saw a lot of positive changes; the current leader has brought them. He is modernizing the country. So many projects have been completed and new ones are on going.

“Most of the time, the trips are funded by the Korean Association of Social Scientists (KASS)”

Most important of all, there are leisure parks and leisure facilities, new apartment buildings; old roads are being re-surfaced new ones being built, holiday resorts, among others. I have been all around the country, not just Pyongyang.

NK News: Did you go North Korea at the invite of North Korea? Did they pay for your trips, or were they self funded?

I have always been invited by the Korean Association of Social Scientists (KASS). Most of the time, the trips are funded by the Korean Association of Social Scientists (KASS), but on few instances, the trips were self-sponsored.

NK News: What did you make of the racist comments published by the KCNA about President Obama?

No, it was taken out of context because KCNA is the official mouthpiece of the Korea. I do not think they would have made racist comments. It was propaganda to smear the KCNA.

The founding father of the Korean nation supported Africa. He has provided weapons and support for Africans to liberate themselves. There is no way that this country would use racist insults like this.

I have the highest regard for President Obama, as an African American.  At the same time, the racist comments that have been bandied about by propagandists have been taken out of context.

NK News: Occasionally KCNA reports on a ‘Kim Jong Il’ library in Nigeria. What is that? 

We have a printing press. What they refer to as library is a printing press.  It prints all the materials that come out of the DPRK.  We print and mass reproduce the works of Kim Jong Il, (and) the songun policy.  We distribute them during our seminars.

Featured image from the Nigerian National Committee on the Study of Juche Idea blog

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About the Author

Leo Byrne

Leo Byrne is the Data and Analytic Director at NK News and is based in Seoul, South Korea. Follow him on twitter @LeoPByrne