Languages
Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

No end to Nigeria cycle of violence

Burnt houses in village of Ku-got
Many villagers fear the cycle of burning, killing and revenge is not over

By Caroline Duffield
BBC News, Jos

Five young Nigerian men kneel in front of police officers at Plateau State CID headquarters in the city of Jos.

"I killed three people," admits one youth in the local Hausa language. He looks almost childlike.

But he is referring to the horrific slaughter of at least 100 people in three nearby villages in the latest round in a brutal cycle of violence between Hausa-speaking Muslims and Christians from the Berom community.

"Two men and a woman... I killed them with a stick, with a knife. In the first crisis, they killed most of my brothers."

We were supposed to be under curfew. How did they attack?
Chief Gabriel Chyang

But another protests: "I never went there for killing anybody, only to carry my cows."

He describes fleeing the previous outbreak of violence in January, leaving his cattle behind.

His neighbours, he claims, seized them. He wanted them back, and so joined the attack.

"I did not kill. When the fighting started, we ran," he tells us.

They are clearly nervous - sometimes almost whispering. The detective in charge intervenes, telling them to speak up.

It is impossible to know whether they have been put under any pressure to admit taking part in the killings.

'Threat'

Some 200 young men are under arrest for the killings in the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Ratsat.

Man makes victory sign through police cell window
Some of those arrested insist they are innocent

They jostle and fight in dark, filthy cells, reeking of sweat and urine.

"Some were paid to do it, some were volunteers," says the local Police Commissioner, Ikechukwu Aduba.

"The threat is still there, that is the truth. We divisional police officers, we now sleep in our offices."

He - and other senior officers - believe there will be more arrests, and that the cycle of burning, killing and revenge is not over.

It is not over for the survivors of Dogo Nahawa.

'Undefended'

People in the village huddle silently, many gripping Bibles.

There are just three policemen resting in the shade of a tree.

But as we drove into the village, there were no military checkpoints or police on the steep track.

JOS, PLATEAU STATE
Map of Nigeria showing Jos
Deadly riots in 2001, 2008 and 2010
City divided into Christian and Muslim areas
Divisions accentuated by system of classifying people as indigenes and settlers
Hausa-speaking Muslims living in Jos for decades are still classified as settlers
Settlers find it difficult to stand for election
Communities divided along party lines: Christians mostly back the ruling PDP; Muslims generally supporting the opposition ANPP

"We are undefended," one elderly man cried to us. "They can return here any time."

We set up our TV cameras and radio equipment, reporting the lack of military presence.

Within an hour, more than 100 soldiers arrived, swarming the streets.

Astonished aid workers looked on, as several soldiers produced hand-held video cameras to record themselves patrolling.

The officer in charge dismissed questions about why they were there.

Twenty minutes later, he and his men pulled out.

Nigeria's military has come under fire for their role here.

Plateau State governor Jonah Jang and the Elders Christian Forum group - among others - accuse it of failing to act on early warnings of violence.

The commander of the regional task force here insists that they were only told of the mass killings after they occurred.

Chief Gabriel Chyang, the community leader of Dogo Nahawa, rejects that.

"We do not know how these men got to the village," he says, gesturing to fresh mounds of red earth that are mass graves.

"We were supposed to be under curfew. How did they attack?

"This community would never like to see a military man again. The youths are angry, because they did not take action in good time."

Explosions of violence have crackled along Nigeria's Middle Belt ever since the country was created.

Fears

A mosaic of distinct ethnic groups - Tiv, Jukun, Pyem, Kofyar, Berom, the Hausa-Fulani and many more - live along this dividing line between the Muslim north and mostly Christian south.

Women fleeing their villages
Many people have fled their homes in case of further violence

The region has a history of tin and columbite mining - abandoned mines mark the landscape.

The fertile land and jobs were a powerful draw for migrants seeking work. People travelled to Jos from all over Nigeria.

Those patterns of migration are marked today by sharp divisions in the community.

People here are either classified as indigenes or settlers.

Indigenes are able to prove their ancestry in the state.

Settlers - whose grandparents and great-grandparents settled here - cannot.

Settlers find it difficult to get jobs in local government, or apply for educational scholarships.

It is not over. Where are we heading?
Ikechukwu Aduba
Police Commissioner

Most indigenes are Berom Christians. Most settlers are Hausa Muslims.

Many Christians believe Hausa Muslim settlers seek to seize political control and impose Sharia law. They fear an extremist Islamist agenda and jihad.

Many Muslims believe the Plateau State government wishes to drive them out of certain areas.

The circle of violence, the emergence of vigilante groups and organised militia, the suspicion of the military within the Christian community and the lack of a political framework for talks worries those tasked with security.

"I believe this will last a long time," frowns Police Commissioner Aduba.

"It is not over. Where are we heading?"



Print Sponsor


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific