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Nigeria’s Unholy War

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Posted on Apr 6, 2010
Nigerian women
AP / Jon Gambrell

Women react to the sight of dead bodies in Dogo Nahwa, Nigeria, on March 8.

By Gbemisola Olujobi

(Page 2)

Jos is surrounded by beautiful hills, the most well known being Shere Hills, about 1,800 meters high. Others are Jarawa Hills, Vom Hills and Gana Wuri Hills. Jos is therefore a favored destination for tourists interested in trekking and hiking. Another attraction is the area’s unspoiled savannas, featuring an abundance of wild animals such as leopards and hippos, waterfalls and curious rock outcroppings.

Jos grew rapidly after the British discovered vast tin deposits in the area. Both tin and columbite were extensively mined in the area up until the 1960s. By 1943, tin mining on the Jos Plateau was at its peak. Up to 1960, Jos was the sixth largest producer of tin in the world and is still often referred to as “Tin City.” Tin mining led to the influx of migrants (Hausas, Igbos, Yorubas and Europeans), who constitute more than half of the population of Jos, making the city one of the most cosmopolitan of Nigeria’s cities. Apart from tin, Jos boasts a buried treasure of unexplored minerals such as sapphire, ruby, topaz, amethyst, tourmaline, aquamarine, garnet and quartz.

By the 1970s, however, the mining industry started to slow down. After the discovery of oil, the Nigerian economy became dominated by the new “liquid gold.” Other export goods like coal, tin, palm oil and cocoa were almost completely neglected. This decline continued until what used to be a prosperous Jos became a civil service town. Those who could not secure civil service jobs became farmers. An unhealthy competition for jobs among the educated and for land among farmers and pastoralists soon developed.

Consequently, tensions started mounting among the various ethnic groups that previously had lived side by side in peace and harmony. This mounting tension reached its peak in September 2001, when over 1000 people were killed in an orgy of violence that rocked the city for about two weeks.

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Significantly, the fighting broke out over the appointment of a Muslim politician as local coordinator of the federal Poverty Alleviation Program. The original inhabitants, who are mostly Christians, felt shortchanged. In Jos, the Muslim population is considered to be “non-indigene” while the Christian population regards itself as the indigenous population—with natural rights to political power and the area’s resources.

Since then, Jos has not known peace. About 700 people were killed in 2004 in a similar uprising. More than 300 residents died during another round of riots in 2008. The two attacks this year have claimed more than a thousand lives and displaced several thousand people.

It’s easy to label these clashes as religious uprisings. Jos is populated by distinct ethnic groups such as Tiv, Jukun, Pyem, Kofyar, Berom, Hausa-Fulani and many others. The city is in what is known as the Middle Belt in Nigeria, the dividing line between the Muslim north and the mostly Christian south. Most indigenes of Jos and its environs are Berom Christians, while most settlers are Hausa/Fulani Muslims. The other ethnic groups in Plateau state, who are predominantly Christian, readily identify with the Christian Berom. They collectively see Islam as a threat, especially with the introduction of Shariah law in several northern states, and fear that if the Muslim Hausa/Fulani settlers are not contained, they may Islamize the area and bring the much-dreaded Shariah law to Plateau state. This may be where the religious aspect of the conflict ends.

Professor Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja says the violence in Jos is a result of a combination of factors including social apathy, economic deprivation and political frustration.

“I don’t see anything religious. Wherein religion could be the difference between the two warring factions, fundamentally it’s a manifestation of economic alienation. Social apathy, political frustration, economic deprivation and so many factors are responsible,” he argues.

According to Mato, “what is happening in Jos is simply an exhibition of the failure of governance in Nigeria; it’s an exhibition of a very serious economic problem that Nigerians find themselves in. It’s a breakdown of law and order.” 

Significantly, the area was supposed to be under a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the military in the aftermath of the January attacks. “We were supposed to be under curfew. How did they attack?” asks a bemused Gabriel Gyang, one of the survivors of the violence. How did the attackers manage to evade the military curfew that early Sunday morning?

The northern caucus in the House of Representatives also blamed the recurring crises in Jos, Plateau state and other parts of the region on poverty and frustration.

The chairman of the caucus, Terngu Tsegba of Benue state, who read the group’s resolution on the latest crisis in Jos at a press conference, said that poverty remained the basic problem in Plateau state and other parts of the region.

Commenting on inter-ethnic clashes in Nigeria, a Nigerian Marxist, D.C. Gaye, argues that these clashes are due to the fundamental crisis of underdevelopment. “There is widespread poverty and this gives rise to a scramble for limited resources. In less than a decade, Nigeria has slipped from a middle-income-status nation to a low-income category, and is currently regarded as one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa.”

According to Gaye, “most of these communities are no better than slums. Most families find it difficult to feed themselves. There is no potable water, no good roads, no proper medical facilities, no social infrastructures, and no good schools. Environments such as these generate fear, distrust, hatred, frustrations and anger. Under such circumstances, it is easy to believe that if the other ethnic group[s] go away, there will be enough.”

He concludes with an ominous warning: “a specter haunts Nigeria: the specter of ethnic cleansing. It has already signaled its approach. This takes form in ever-increasing acts of violence between diverse ethnic groups.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged acting President Goodluck Jonathan to treat the Jos situation as genocide. In a report signed by HRW Sub-Sahara Africa Rapporteur Sonya Maldar and sent to Jonathan for his “urgent attention,” the organization said the slaughter was nothing less than “ethnic cleansing.” 

“It is our humble opinion that the perpetrators of this dastardly act are not faceless, and their sponsors can also be found and made to face the full wrath of the law,” the report stated. “There is a need for you to see this wanton destruction of lives as ethnic cleansing or genocide in its entire dimension and investigate the killings with such in mind.”

Meanwhile, as the latest bodies are stuffed into wells, sewers and unmarked graves, the people of Jos wait in terror for the next round of attacks. No one knows for sure when and where tempers will boil over next, so there is no running away from it.

Well, perhaps only in nearby Shen do people have an idea of what lies ahead. Chief Gabriel Gyang of Shen told the BBC’s “Focus on Africa” program that people in his village feared more attacks.

He said he received text messages from people who claimed responsibility for the March 17 attacks and threatened to return.

Residents of other villages in the area have reportedly been receiving hundreds of daily text messages urging Christians to kill Muslims or urging Muslims to kill Christians.

“I believe this will last a long time,” says an exasperated state police commissioner, Ikechuckwu Aduba.

“It is not over. Where are we heading?” Aduba asks.


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By Inherit The Wind, April 7, 2010 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Tribalism in its worst form is racism. Even without Europeans, Africa has a history of racism.  Masai and other black tribes absolutely HATED Hottentots and bushmen who are smaller in stature and lighter in color.  Bushmen didn’t have the concept of ownership, particularly of animals and would kill cattle—which the Black tribes considered the ultimate form of wealth, thus infuriating them against the Yellow tribes.

But tribalism isn’t selectively African.  It’s American as well, both North and South. It’s European, and Asian.  It’s “Us” versus “Them”.

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By gerard, April 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

Common sense based on experience tells me that it isn’t “hate” that does it.  Hate is the last stage before hysterical violence, and often it has to be artificlally, deliberately, sponsored by interests behind the scenes. 
  In order for such a condition to occur, there has to be prejudice, separation, emphasis on fear of differences, calls for “protection from the others.”  If there is economic desperation, it is easy to sew seeds of blame and a desire for revenge. If there are no respectable jobs, it is easy to lead men into killing, partly out of inarticulate rage, partly out of a sense of worthlessness.
  The sad pattern goes on and on, psychologically complicated and insidious.  Grasping the problem carefully and kindly in its earliest stages, it can (could) be prevented from reaching its inevitable conclusion.  But it means understanding and treating the causes, not laying on some “message” from the outside or exploiting the situation by pretending to “win hearts and minds” for ulterior reasons.
  PS—This is not news, by the way.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, April 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment

It is most enlightening to receive personal insight
to problems like these, the MSM offers little to
form opinion on, for their job is not to educate,
rather to manipulate.

“Also, since this article is about Nigeria, aren’t
Israel and the Palestinians a bit off topic?”

Possibly; Israel/Palestin problem may be off topic
if they become exclusive here, though I suggest,
demonizing people because of differences happens
every where in the world. This seems to be proven by
history, demonizing seems a propagation of hate and
is not exclusive to Nigeria.

Though this article is about Nigeria, it may be
useful to attempt to understand why these kinds of
things seem rampart around the world?

No place in the world is exempt from hate, except
maybe the South Pole, with global warming this may
no longer be true!

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By gerard, April 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

I have a sneaking suspicion that small arms manufacturers in “enlightened” countries are enjoying the revenue they receive from selling weapons to all sides of these massacres.  Years ago at a world peace conference I heard a weeping young African gentleman plead the case for which he had come all the way from abroad:  “Please, I beg you, stop selling weapons that enable my brothers to kill each other!”
  I will never forget it—nor have I been able to do anything to answer his plea.  Why can’t we get hold of this filthy armaments business and stop the universal killing?

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By Night-Gaunt, April 7, 2010 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Africa was and still is called the “Dark Continent” not because of the color of the locals skin, you can find just as dark all around the equatorial belt, but the unknown nature of it. Now today the only excuse for that in this day and age of instant communication is lack of interest is media black or brown out. The UN failed in Darfur and the USA didn’t care for the moment what happened there. Though I would have expected them to support the Christians in those areas and get to the oil wealth there. [That may still happen.]

Seems to me no one should play favorites, the only reason why the Palestinians get any air time at all is what happens to them from Israel who is the stronger and aggressive party in that area. However Darfur wasn’t ignored by the Left anymore than Biafera was. But as to being able to do something is different from talking about it. We must not pick sides and in what is happening in Nigeria all sides are in need of help and condemnation. Both aggressor and retaliators and all of those who suffered from each.

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By gerard, April 7, 2010 at 11:23 am Link to this comment

I have to admit that I know almost nothing about African cultures and politics.  That’s not accidental.  Africa doesn’t figure big in American educational institutions for the same reasons, probably, rooted in racism.  If we know nothing, we can’t do anything.  Furthermore, if we know nothing we don’t have to worry about starvation, disease, hopelessness and inter-tribal mayhem.  That way the oil companies and the mineral miners can just go on year after year drilling and mining and exploiting and taking advantage of the ignorance and carelessness. 

I’m amazed that more doesn’t filter through to us from the U.N. where reps from African localities meet together.  What are they doing?  What do they want to see happen?  Can’t they break through the awful media silence with something more than brutality and violence?  Or are we only supposed to see Africa through dark glasses?

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, April 7, 2010 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

If I have a dogma, it may be my feeling of discontent
with religion. Though religion seems only an excuse for
the manipulations are ever present via politics,
society economics or religion, little difference except
in the one who is pulling of the strings.

Can it be opportunists are ever present to manipulate
these events for their own ends?

As the world becomes smaller and smaller, it seems this
may be the constant story.

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By Ayo, April 7, 2010 at 2:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i cant figure out what seem to be happening to Nigeria…..“suicide bomber"guys this foul play people killing each other not given prospect to religion.guys lets think about what we are doing its not time to be killing each other its time to work hand in hand to see how things will work out.mere reading the article about jos crisis is mad enough without even thinking about what has gone down there.kudos to the survivors you guys are the luckiest people on earth just try to stay strong for your people,its hard but you guys just have to try…..i’m out

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By ritamary, April 7, 2010 at 12:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I lived in Lagos for two years in the 1970s and have to agree with the Nigerian Marxist’s take on the problems in Nigeria. There is a total failure of national leadership, both Christian and Muslim, and the most abject poverty imaginable.

The Biafran War was about oil with a big helping hand extended by some Western intelligence agencies. The oil is in eastern Nigeria where the Ibos live. The oil wealth was/is taken out of eastern Nigeria and stolen by the upper class Western-educated Nigerians.

What I observed on a personal level is what Nigerians call tribalism. Tribalism is something akin to racism. For example, at the secondary school where I taught English the ethnic groups would sit separately when we ate lunch. The Ibos would sit in one area and the Yorubas would sit in another. And guess what, all the Ibos were Christians and so were most of the Yorubas. These two groups of people did not like each other and religion had nothing to do with it.

Is it possible that tribalism is playing a large part in what is happening in Jos? The genocide in Rwanda was committed by Hutu Christians against Tutsi Christians. Or that particular genocide just does not fit in with the theories of you brave anti-Islamic warriors out there?

Also, since this article is about Nigeria, aren’t Israel and the Palestinians a bit off topic? Or bringing that issue into any discussion is never off topic for some.

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By Inherit The Wind, April 6, 2010 at 7:56 pm Link to this comment

OM:
Sure, I remember Biafra. It was an attempt by the Ibo tribe to set up an independent state to escape discrimination.  My cousin was there in the Peace Corps.  One day, while he was on a trip, his village that he was a guest in, was attacked.  He was never able to go back there, lost every possession he wasn’t carrying, including his precious tape recorder he used for audio letters, illustrated with color slide.  He was lucky to escape alive.

Unlike you, I have nothing against Islam. Christians, though were both friends and the bane of my existence growing up (not the same ones, of course).  Fundamentalists of EVERY religion repel me, whether Islamic, Robertson/Fallwell Christians, or neo-Zionist Orthodox Jews.  I am equally repelled by fundamentalist fanatical Hindus.  All are equally violent and equally corrupting of their religions, in their zeal to TELL other people what THEY should do, and then enforcing it on them, even to death.

Not one of “The Contingent” has ever answered the question: Why didn’t the 22 Arab nations, with 3/4 of a billion people, and land area 2 or 3x that of the USA, refuse to take their “brethren” in?

Watch the excuses that fly in response to that—and the abuse they’ll heap on me (and you, and Shenonymous) rather than give the REAL answer: The Arab nations don’t and never have given a $#!T about the Palestinians.  They are merely pawns in the game each Arab leader is playing his quest to become the next Caliph, either him or his sons.  That’s what they all dream of, like medieval European kings dreaming of being crowned Holy Roman Emperor.  Germans and Austrians named their king the Kaiser, pronounced EXACTLY as Caesar is pronounce in Latin.  Russians named THEIR king Czar: Cee-Zar, get it?

This is what “The Contingent” fails to acknowledge. Unfortunately, the neo-Zionists currently leading Israel are as dangerous and bumble-headed as the neo-Cons who lead our nation into disaster after disaster under Bush.

But for all their “humanity”, they have none to spare for the victims in Darfur, Nigeria, or, by far the worst of all, Congo, where the UN estimates over 5 MILLION have died in the battle of the warlords for the mineral wealth and power that goes with it.

Yeah, I’m a liberal.  But I don’t turn my brain off and get my marching orders from Chris Hedges or Ralph Nader.

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By OzarkMichael, April 6, 2010 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment

Yes, ITW. But i propose we should do our homework. Learn some history. But trying to review history with the Contingent is like hammering nails into concrete.

You already know something about Darfur, its 3 million dead, mostly african Christians at the hand of Muslims. Likely you do not remember Biafra, which I suspect may have been a type of ‘Darfur’ played out in this very place, Nigeria. History repeats itself, but we forget the last go round. Thats why everything is such a surprise.

Eh, nevermind.

Nobody understood Biafra at the time, and nobody cares about it now. Quite unlike tiny Palestine, which was discussed at the UN daily for 40 years(that I recall), more than any other topic in the history of the UN. And Palestine was spread upon the newspaper pages daily for 40 years(that I can recall), and thus over time Palestine has been tranformed into a mythos which exemplifies the relationship of the world to Islam. The mythos seems to be that the Palestinian in Gaza is just like Mohammed, the Mohammed of the Holy Koran, who must have been dispossessed and oppressed by western colonialism.

Now the conservative sheds this mythos easily, but this mythos is an integral part of the Leftist worldview. It can see the speck of suffering in Palestine clearly but then cannot see the long and sorry log of Islamic conquest and oppression. 

But I digress. I shall at the very least place this slaughter of Christians in the proper context of the last few months. That shouldnt be too much to ask.

Or maybe it is, becuase the MSM today is filtering information to keep up the appearance that Islam is the Religion of Peace, that Islam is the “the great victim of the world”.(Someone at Truthdig actually wrote that. While it is perfectly false, it does accurately describe the narrative that the Leftist and MSM keep jamming into our heads) 

Nevertheless, I would like to examine the earlier January massacre in Nigeria, where “the Christians slaughtered the Muslims”, supposedly setting up this recent massacre as “retaliation”. Yes, thats how the news media portrays it.

But that isnt what happened.

In January the Christians were attacked by Muslims as they were going to church, so Christians fled into an already full church nearby. This had nothing to do with economic or pastoral vs agricultural disputes. The Muslims set fire to the church packed full of Christians(rich or poor, bankers or farmers, it didnt matter), burning them all alive. The Muslims kept attacking other Christians in the area and the bodies piled up for hours.

Up till this point, the Muslims have nothing to complain about, do they? Or to retaliate for?

But then other Christians in Jos heard what had happened and they did fight back. Not only against the perpetrators, but some Christians went out searching for Muslims to kill. It wasnt the right thing to do. But that is what happened.

In the end of the January fight far more Christians were dead than Muslims. The body count tells the truth. Isnt that the way that The Contingent sees the truth, ie, in the body count in Gaza vs the body count in Israel? You can tell who the good guy becuase he suffers more casualties, right?

Right?

Ah, but with Nigeria they ignore the Christian bodies. I guess that is a dead end too.

ITW, the other Leftists really go for “Islam, the great victim of the world” as their narrative in spite of every fact that this weary world bring against it. So this makes you remarkably different. Shenonymous too.

I would like to explore why that is. Before the Contingent arrive (for those who dont know, “The Contingent” is a term Shenonymous invented for Internet Jihadists and their useful idiot Leftist supporters.

Things will warm up shortly. Write back soon.

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By Inherit The Wind, April 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

Ask “The Contingent”. It’s only genocide when Christians are killing Muslims, but not when Muslims are killing Christians.  Of course, according to “TC”, the only REAL genocide or ethnic cleansing is when Jews kill Arabs. Remember: “The Contingent” contends that there’s no genocide in Darfur, either.

It’s all genocide.

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