NIGERIA- The Plateau State, where Jos is the capital, is known as the ‘The Home of Peace and Tourism.” It has a beautiful landscape, undisturbed savannas, countless wildlife, magnificent waterfalls, and a very strange rock made out of cropping. It was once an industrial manufacturer of tin and columbite.
Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Sunni Muslim is the north and predominately Christians in the south. The city of Jos is approximately 300 miles from the Nigerian capital Lagos and is the center of Nigeria’s tumultuous “middle belt,” a cultural fault line that divides the countries religious groups. There are also over 250 tribes that live within the region. For a while, Christians and Muslims lived in peace with one another, bartering services and helping each other with farm and house work.
That was then. Now the city of Jos, is the center stage to an ongoing bloody struggle between the Muslims and the Christians.
The most recent violent clash began on Sunday, March 7, 2010. Muslims of the Fulani tribe entered the Christian village occupied by the Berom ethnic group at 3:00 a.m. and ambushed the unsuspecting group. Eyewitnesses to massacre said the Muslims using machetes and other dangerous tools hacked up everyone within sight, including innocent children, women and the elderly. Some reports estimate that over 500 people are dead and that dozens of corpses were piled up in the streets near the center city of Jos.
A villager, Peter Jang, said: “They came around three o’clock in the morning and started shooting into the air. The shooting was meant to bring people from their houses and then, when people came out, they started cutting them with machetes.” –Guardian UK
Some witnesses said villagers were caught in fishing nets and animal traps as they tried to escape and were then hacked to death. Mud huts were also set on fire.
Other survivors recounted being stopped by people and asked “Who are you?” in Fulani, a language spoken mostly by Muslim. If the person could not or did not respond in Fulani, they were immediately killed. There are even allegations that some attackers were paid by organizations.
Source of the Conflict
Many insist these violent uprising are the cause of religious and ethnic differences, but the problems go much deeper, according to a recent TIME’s article:
Many Nigerians argue that the real reason for the violence isn’t ethnic or religious differences but the scramble for land, scarce resources and political clout. Poverty, joblessness and corrupt politics drive extremists from both sides to commit horrendous atrocities. Although the nation rakes in billions of dollars in oil revenue annually, the majority of Nigerians scrape by on less than a dollar a day. In Plateau State, where Jos is located, Muslim cattle herders from the north and Christian farmers from the south vie for control of the fertile plains.
That poor distribution of wealth has also sparked conflict in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern Delta region, where militants lobbying for a greater share of oil revenue regularly blow up pipelines and kidnap foreign oil workers. Andrew Kakabadse, professor of international management development at the U.K.-based Cranfield School of Management, says oil companies have at various times pitted ethnic factions against one another for economic gain.
Kakabadse blames a lethal combination of outside oil interests, long-standing local conflicts and poverty for the sectarian strife. “In Nigeria the Christian-Muslim thing is the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “What’s underneath the water is a much more complex sociopolitical situation, which cannot be explained just in terms of the religious divide. You have a recipe ripe for conflict, and it just so happens to be Christian-Muslim.”
In addition to the reasons mentioned, some report this most recent attack was retaliation against Christians who allegedly attacked Muslims in January, killing 200 and displacing thousands. Similarly, Muslim eyewitnesses to those atrocities recall Christians approaching them on the streets and asking if they were Christian. If they answered “no” or refuse to answer, they were murdered.
International Red Cross reports that hundreds have fled the city of Jos in the aftermath of the recent violence.
The clashes represent a challenge for Acting President Jonathan. He formally took over the government last month from President Umaru Yar’Adua, who disappeared for weeks and was located in a Saudi Arabia hospital undergoing treatment for his a heart problem. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan promised protection through security forces, but Jos Christians fear the Muslim controlled police and military forces.