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.
The visit revealed the following:
1) Four villages were attacked
(a) Dogo Na Hauwa
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.
Al-Jazeera: Deadly Clashes in Central Nigeria
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 Religion: A 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
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.