Tag Archives: Kuru Jenta

The Most recent violence in Plateau State

When I read the news last night (after receiving a text earlier in the day from one of my friends who had heard about it on the news), I wanted to vomit. There has been a fresh wave of violence in villages on the outskirts of southern Jos killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. The attacks on Dogo Nahawa, Shen village, and others seem to be reprisal attacks for atrocities committed during the January 2010 crisis (particularly the well-publicized case of the massacre at Kuru Karama).

According to BBC:

Some 500 people, including many women and children, are now reported to have been killed in a weekend ethnic clash near Jos in Nigeria, officials say.

The figure was earlier put at 100 and it is hard to verify casualties. Troops have been deployed and local officials said dozens of arrests had been made.

They said three mainly Christian villages near Jos were attacked from nearby hills by people with machetes.

There is a long history of local tension between Muslims and Christians.

The attacks are said to have been in revenge for the killing of several hundred people around Jos in January.

[UPDATE 9pm: Naijablog, at 3:25pm,  reposted a report by the Nigeria Red Cross Society, Plateau Branch, on a visit yesterday07/03/2010,  to Dogo Na Hauwa:

A joint team of the NRCS, Plateau state branch and NEMA visited Dogo Na Hauwa, a village about 20km from Jos the Plateau State Capital. It was reported that as early as 3.00am, some group of unknown persons attacked Dogo Na Hauwa and three other villages of Jos South LGA, all to the South east of Bukuru, Headquarters of Jos South LGA of Plateau state.

Findings

The visit revealed the following:

1) Four villages were attacked

(a) Dogo Na Hauwa

(b) Shen

(c) Zot-Foron

(d) Rasat

2) Several houses burnt

3) 23 injured and hospitalized at JUTH; one has died. Some other injured people were hospitalized at the Plateau State Hospital

4) We were able to see the corpses of about sixty people mostly women and children that were killed in Dogo Na Hauwa alone. The villagers claimed the figures could be more. The other three villages attacked were not accessible by us.

5) Several people were displaced within the communities

6) Police were seen at Dogo Na Hauwa]]]]]

[UPDATE 10 March 2010: To see the Human Rights Watch call for an investigation with three witness accounts, click here.]

My family, who live on the north side of Jos, says that so far, today (as of 10am this morning when I spoke to my father), things on their part of town seem to be calm. [UPDATE 12:20pm: I just received a phone call from my brother, who is visiting Jos right now, asking me to send him phone credit and saying he had received a phone call saying there were rumours (at this point it’s all rumours) of violence on Ahmadu Bello way.]

Here are a few more articles on the most recent violence, though you can find the same range of articles if you go to Google News and search for Jos. As I post these, I contemplate the double-edged nature of global news. While I think it is imperative that these atrocities be known and condemned by the world, at the same time, I wonder how much news coverage of events actually fuels hatred and violence in other locations. There are other links I am choosing not to post here, because I think they contain opinions that could be inflammatory, but, of course, all you have to do, if you’d like to see them, is google.

BBC: Nigeria Religious Clashes “kill 500” near Jos

NEXT: Herdsmen Raid Jos Village, Kill Hundreds

Al-Jazeera: Deadly Clashes in Central Nigeria

Punch: 150 Die in Fresh Jos Violence

NEXT: Jonathan places security on red alert in Jos

While this most recent violence was committed against Beroms (mostly identifying as Christians) by Fulani cattleherders (mostly identifying as Muslims), the use of the word genocide (I think the term “mutual genocide” might be appropriate) and allegations of conspiracy by victims of both side must be read in context of events going back for years. As those who have followed the case may recall, around 300 Muslim men, women, and children were killed in Kuru Karama by raiders self-identifying as Christians (as slogans written on a burned mosque testify). It is difficult to say who has “started” the crises, which often do seem to have a very planned feel about them, but the reality is that the tensions have gone back for years, from the resistance of people in the Plateau against the Fulani wars of aggression in the early 19th century to the resentment against colonial policies in the early 20th century to more recent national policies on indigine/settler rights.  My own knowledge of these tensions goes back to the beginning of the decade in Plateau State to the 2001 Jos crisis (Though there has certainly been much earlier violence in other parts of the middlebelt and north). From the early Jos crisis in 2001, the violence has since spread into a web of reprisal attacks.

I don’t know what will stop this cycle of hatred and atrocity, only that I keep going back to that 1957 Christmas sermon preached by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, entitled, “Loving your Enemies.” It calls for a love and forgiveness that rises above our human nature. Is such a love possible, when we have so many truly potent grievances against each other? I think that, though of course, as those civil rights reformers did, we must pursue legal redress and seek to change a system that perpetuates such violence , in the end, a wide-scale change of heart–an insistence on reconciliation by this generation–is our only hope. [See for example, the song “Nigeria Tamu Ce” “Nigeria is Ours,” which calls for us to “unite as one,” by young Kano-based singer DJ Yaks. You can listen to the song in Hausa, with an English rap, on his myspace page.] In the last paragraph Martin Luther King, Jr, throws out this challenge to those living under the oppression of racist policies and segregation in the United States:

To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”

This is a very hard teaching. My sense of justice revolts against the idea of  wearing down the enemy by “our capacity to suffer.” But, in a system where justice is slow and faulty, what is the other choice?  King, who, like the early Christian writer Paul, knew what he was talking about when he spoke on suffering, warns that:

[W]hen Jesus says “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies-or else? The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

For more information on sectarian violence in middle-belt and northern Nigeria, particularly in Plateau State, see the following links:

Nigeria: Protect Survivors, Fully Investigate Massacre Reports, a January 2010 call by Human Rights Watch for the Nigerian government to investigate the massacre at Kuru Karama.

“Jonah Jang and the Jasawa: Ethno-Religious Conflict in Jos, Nigeria” an August report published by “Sharia Debates in Africa”  in August 2009 by Phil Ostien

Arbitrary Killings by Security Forces:a July 2009 Human Rights Watch Report on extrajudicial killings by security forces during the November 2008 crisis in Jos

“They Do Not Own This Place”A  2006 Human Rights Watch Report on the Indigene/Settler Policies in Nigeria that has often been blamed for these crises in the middlebelt, including a case study on violence in Plateau State

Revenge in the Name of ReligionA 2005 Human Rights Watch Description of violence, between Muslims and Christians, in the Plateau town of Yelwa in February and May 2004, and reprisal attacks in Kano May 2004

My own thoughts on the January 2010 crisis: January 21st  On the latest Jos crisis ; January 23rd Massacre at Kuru Kenta/Kuru Karama ; January 28th Taking Sides

and a very subjective/emotional reaction I wrote in December 2008 on the November 2008 Jos crisis, during which my family had had a refugee camp at our house.

God help us all.

Massacre at Kuru Jenta/Kuru Karama

Today Al-Jazeera picked up on a horrifying story that I have been hearing rumours of since Tuesday. On Tuesday, a friend posted on Facebook and on his blog the following email plea from a farm owner based in Plateau State on the outskirts of Jos:

We are receiving terrible news from the village where Zamani Farms is located, called Kuru Jenta, on the way to Jos Airport Evidently the village has been set on fire and the Muslims in the village, including our workers some of whom are Muslims, have been surrounded and fear they are about to be executed. We have tried unsuccessfully to reach army and police authorities in Jos. Please, if any of you in Abuja have access to any authorities who can help stop this situation we would very much appreciate it.

The post was followed a few hours with an defeated sounding email post saying:

First of all, thanks to all of you who tried to help me rescue some of our staff and others in Kuru Jenta. I want to state that I have not yet been able to go to the farm to see for myself what is the situation, but have been in touch with some individuals by phone. According to reports, all of the Muslim houses in Kuru were burnt, and most of the Muslims were killed. Only a few are still alive. Although the person I spoke with (one of our farm staff) was naturally upset and a bit confused, he told me that he believed that except for himself, the other Muslim members of staff of the farm were all killed, along with many other inhabitants of the village.He along with his wife and children were injured but managed to escape, and at that point (this evening) he was attempting to walk through the bush to get to the Police Staff College, which he felt was the nearest place of refuge where they could be safe.

At Kuru, there was not a fight between groups, as had been the case in Jos. Muslim inhabitants were rounded up and shot or burnt in their houses. As I said, I have yet to see for myself, but I received the same report from both Muslim and Christian staff and have no reason to doubt its veracity. Only that I am not sure of the details of the exact number killed

A Human Rights Watch call for investigation posted today gives more details. All of the reports I have heard so far seem to indicate that the killings were carried out by armed invaders:

Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that groups of armed men attacked the largely Muslim population of Kuru Karama around 10 a.m. on January 19, 2010. After surrounding the town, they hunted down and attacked Muslim residents, some of whom had sought refuge in homes and a local mosque, killing many as they tried to flee and burning many others alive. The witnesses said they believed members of the armed groups to be Christians.

Community leaders from Jos and journalists who visited the town under military escort later in the week told Human Rights Watch that they saw bodies, including several charred corpses of young children and babies, strewn around town, including dozens stuffed down wells or in sewage pits. According to a Muslim official who visited the town to arrange for burial of the bodies, 121 have been recovered so far, including the bodies of 22 young children. The official told Human Rights Watch that corpses are still lodged in 16 wells. Journalists and community leaders who visited the town said that nearly all of the homes and the three main mosques were burned and destroyed.

One of the town’s Muslim imams wounded in the attack told Human Rights Watch that a Christian pastor tried to stop the attack but was beaten by the armed mob. There are conflicting reports of the police response. One witness reported that at least one police officer participated in the attack, while another said the police abandoned their post shortly before the violence began. Witnesses said the killings took place throughout the day, without police intervention to stop the violence, despite repeated calls to the police.

Human Rights Watch publishes eye witness reports from two witnesses:

A 32-year-old resident of Kuru Karama, described to Human Rights Watch what happened:

“Kuru is an old mining town. There are over 3,000 people who live in the community. When we heard that there was crisis in Jos [on Sunday], we went to the [local] Berom chief on Sunday and Monday, he said we should go back home, and go in peace. We went home and relaxed. On Tuesday [January 19] we sat down in the police station and [all] agreed that nothing would happen in the community. The three Muslim leaders were there; the three pastors were there; the chiefs of the Berom and Hausa were there. We then went home. After 15-20 minutes we saw people dropping [entering the town] from the mountains. They were Berom – the tribe of the governor. They were armed with cutlasses, guns, sticks, and bags of stones. It was not the Christians from our community but those from outside who came. Before they reached the area, we called the pastors who said it was none of their business.

I saw one policeman kill more than three people. This is not what I heard from people; I saw it with my own eyes. We were running away, and we met the policeman. He shot a small boy who fell on the ground, and we hid. We had only stones in our hands. He also killed a woman with a baby.

The children were running helter-skelter. The men were trying to protect the women. People who ran to the bush were killed. Some were burned in the mosque, and some went to the houses and were burned. We think 250-300 have been killed, including babies and children. My brother lost four of his children. I personally saw more than 20-30 bodies of children. Some were sliced into two from the head downward; others were burned; others were amputated. I saw a mother lying down and the baby lying next to her.

I am married with two children and one wife. I was waiting for her [my wife], I could not see her. I left Kuru after 12 midnight [early Wednesday morning]. I ran to neighboring villages. The next evening I saw her. She was wounded badly. The 11-month-old girl, they [the mobs] used an axe and cut her. They are both at the hospital.

I came back on Wednesday evening escorted by the military. I saw dead bodies everywhere. The corpses were there, but now you can just see the blood on the ground. None of the houses are standing. All the mosques were liquidated.”

A community leader who was in Kuru Karama the day of the massacre described to Human Rights Watch what he saw:

“Around 10 a.m. we started seeing people coming around and surrounding us. They said they will take our land, saying we are the non-indigenes. They started throwing stones, shooting bows and arrows, shooting guns; we tried to defend ourselves, but we had nothing.

After they started beating us and we ran back to the village, we started to gather our wives and children and put them in the central mosque because anyone who knows religion knows the mosque and church are safe places. We left a few people in the mosque and then went back to defend ourselves, but we couldn’t make it because we didn’t have anything to protect ourselves with, and we couldn’t run because they had surrounded us. So we had to just try to defend ourselves before they killed us. So along the way they were killing us. They were shooting us, hitting us with knives, burning us. They followed us; we went to another place, and they killed us. We were going round, and round, and round.

I saw what happened in the central mosque. They pursued us. They burned the mosque. They killed people in our presence. They burned the mosque with the women and children in it. There were over 100 bodies in the mosque – women and children. We couldn’t run away. All of us were wounded. They burned the whole village. There are 200-500 Muslim houses and they burned them all. The central mosque is a big mosque and was destroyed. They have killed almost 500 people. Some people ran to the bush and were killed. The dead bodies are in the wells, some in the soakaways. The fighting went on from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. They [the mobs] ran away and left at night.

I have three wives and four children. I saw the dead body of one wife; they had burned half of her. The remaining wives and my four children, I have not seen them. There are those who are burned to ashes, and you don’t know who is who.”

Other reports and reactions to this massacre can be found here:

IRIN: Nigeria: “Our Lives will Never be the same again”

Vanguard: Religious Renegades

Daily Trust: Norma farms proprietor sends distress message

Next: Jonathan orders troops to Jos religious crisis

BBC: Nigeria Religious Riots Bodies found in village wells

Yahoo News: ‘150 Bodies found in Wells’ After Nigerian Massacre

AFP: Clashes Bring Horror to Nigerian Village

Reuters: Bodies Pulled from Wells after Nigeria Clashes

CNN: Christian-Muslim violence warrants probe rights group says

Sunday Trust (24 Jan ’10): Jos Crisis: 150 bodies stuffed in wells in a village

[UPDATE 24 January 2009: Let me just note at this point, that, as a Christian, I find this an excrutiatingly painful thing–to see those who claim to be Christians carrying out massacres against fellow human beings created in God’s image. Anyone who knows the scriptures and words of Jesus, who even as one of his disciples tried to protect him against arrest by cutting off a man’s ear healed the wounded man and said: “Put your sword back in its place […] for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52), will know that this sort of violence is blasphemy. This is a political/ethnic crisis that has much more to do with resources, identity, and belonging, than it does to do with religion, as this Human Rights Watch report case study on the indigene/settler politics in Nigeria might help explain. That said, I find very troubling the trend on other Christian websites I have seen spinning the story as one of “persecution” against Christians without acknowledging the other side of the story or admitting that there are those who claim to be Christians who are murdering, killing, and destroying. Rather than attempting to excuse reprisals against “those who started it,” we also must acknowledge, both as Christians and Muslims, that there are those who are using the names of our God to commit atrocities, and we must denounce them in the strongest possible terms. So I say: To those who kill and loot and politic and conspire and corrupt youth in God’s name, may He judge you with the same fire you used to burn the houses and bodies of innocent people. To those who preach hatred and prejudice and violence in God’s name, listen to the words of Jesus, who is venerated in both Christianity and Islam: Luke 17: 1-4Matthew 7:15-23Matthew 26:52,Matthew 23:13-39John 3:19-21. For those who excuse attacks on those who are of a different religion or ethnicity because you think if you don’t strike first, they will persecute you: Matthew 18:21-22, Matthew 5:38-45Luke 6:27-31Matthew 10:24-31John 13: 34-35,John 14:27. These are just a few selections of many more passages from the New Testament, which reflect a focus on the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. To kill one’s neighbor in the name of Christ is a complete opposition to the whole meaning of Christianity [and although, as a Christian,  I speak more knowledgeably about Christianity than Islam, and am here specifically talking about the atrocities committed by so-called “Christians”, here are a few links to sites about peace and love in Islam as well: Islamforpeace.org, Islam and World Peace: Explanations of a Sufi, A Book of God’s Love The Necessity of Interfaith Dialogue: A Muslim Perspective, etc] , and to those who selectively defend an ideology of hate out of a few passages taken out of context, I think Jesus’s words in John 8:44 are appropriate: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  ]