Horror of Nigeria clashes uncovered

Nearly 400 people have died in violence between Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria.

Reports on Saturday said that about 150 bodies had been recovered from wells in Kuru Jantar, near the city of Jos, where clashes began last week before spreading to nearby villages.

Locals in Kuru Jantar, also known as Kuru Karama, told Andrew Simmons, Al Jazeera’s Africa editor, that a massacre had taken place in the village.

They said armed men had surrounded and attacked the village on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera saw the bodies recovered from wells, as well as the burnt bodies of children recovered from ransacked houses.

Up to 18,000 people in the area are thought to have been left homeless by the clashes in Nigeria’s Plateau State.

Military presence

The violence abated after Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s vice-president, deployed the military to contain the situation.

Simmons reported that the military presence in Jos was extensive, but that it did not spread effectively into the countryside.

“The whole area is inundated, everywhere there are roadblocks”

Andrew Simmons, Al Jazeera’s Africa editor

“The whole area is inundated, everywhere there are roadblocks and a curfew, which has been relaxed, is still fairly limiting … the military have orders to shoot on sight after warning shots right the way through the night,” he said.

“But many, many people are packing their bags and leaving [Jos]. They’re going outside the control of the military and into the rural areas, which are virtually unprotected – as we saw in Kuru Jantar.”

The military said it had arrested three people, all wearing military-style uniforms and in possession of a firearm. Two men were detained and one was released.

Political failure

Muslim leaders have told Human Rights Watch at least 364 people have been killed in the region in the last week, while the Christian death toll was still being compiled.

The state government has given no official death toll for the violence.

Timeline: Tensions in Nigera

Jos and other central and northern areas in Nigeria have been plagued by religious violence in recent years.

There are conflicting reports about what triggered the violence. But some residents say the clashes started due to a dispute over the building of a mosque.

But Christian and Muslim leaders in Plateau State said previous bouts of unrest owed more to the failure of political leaders to address ethnic differences than to inter-faith rivalries.

‘Intense rivalries’

Eric Guttschuss, a Nigeria researcher with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, said the violence is more than simply a religious dispute.

“You have these intense rivalries for limited natural resources,” he told Al Jazeera.

“It’s more to do with political and economic rivalries than have to do with religion. This is not a conflict over religious differences.

“It’s rooted in a couple of issues, one being the discriminatory policies of local and state governments, discriminating against ethnic groups that are considered non indigents of the areas they live in.

“[It’s also rooted in] government corruption that has continued to impoverish Nigeria.”

Guttschuss said there is also a lack of political will on the part of the government to hold people accountable for the violence.

“The Nigerian citizens have to hold their government accountable and say ‘Enough is enough, we’ve got to end this cycle of senseless violence’.”


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