2010 Jos riots
|2010 Jos riots|
Location of Jos in Nigeria
|Date||17 January 2010|
The 2010 Jos riots were clashes between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups in central Nigeria near the city of Jos. The area has been plagued by violence for the past twenty years motivated by multiple factors. The clashes have been characterised as "religious violence" by many news sources, although others cite ethnic and economic differences as the root of the violence. The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin A. Kwashi stated, "What seems to be a recurring decimal is that over time, those who have in the past used violence to settle political issues, economic issues, social matters, intertribal disagreements, or any issue for that matter, now continue to use that same path of violence and cover it up with religion."
The first spate of violence of 2010 started on 17 January and lasted at least four days. Houses, churches, mosques and vehicles were set ablaze during the fighting. At least 200 people were killed.
Hundreds of people died in fresh clashes in March 2010. According to the New York Times, the slaughtered villagers were mostly Christians, slain by machete attacks from the Hausa-Fulani, a group of Muslim herdsmen. Hundreds more left the scene of the attack in case the perpetrators returned.
Jos is the capital of Plateau State, in the middle of the divide between the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria and the predominately Christian south. More than 5,000 people have been displaced in the violence. Reports on the catalyst vary. According to the state police commissioner, skirmishes began after Muslim youths set a Catholic church, filled with worshippers, on fire. Other community leaders say it began with an argument over the rebuilding of a Muslim home in a predominantly Christian neighbourhood that had been destroyed in the November 2008 riots. A 24-hour curfew was imposed on the city on 17 January 2010, and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan ordered troops to Jos to restore order. Vice-President Jonathan currently holds executive authority, as President Umaru Yar'Adua was in Saudi Arabia receiving medical treatment from November 2009 until his return on 24 February 2010 with current medical and governmental status as yet unclear. By 19 January 2010, at least 50 people had been arrested.
On 20 January 2010, the BBC reported the fighting had spread to Pankshin, 100 km from Jos. These reports have been denied by the Army. Figures provided by medical and aid officials, religious and community leaders as well as global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) put the death toll in the clashes at 492. HRW, quoting figures it got from Muslim officials, said that 364 of those killed were Muslims. The state police command said that there were 326 deaths and 313 arrests.
Before dawn on 7 March 2010, more than one hundred Christian villagers were killed by Muslim Hausa-Fulani herders in Dogo-Nahawa village near Jos. The attacks went on for four hours, and nearby villages were also targeted. Guns were fired by the perpetrators to cause panic and led to villagers running towards them to be chopped up by machetes. The villagers were mainly Berom Christians. Buildings were also set alight. Most of the dead were women and children. One of the dead was an infant less than three months of age. Corpses were dumped in the streets. Goodluck Jonathan urged that the killers be caught. The death toll was later updated to more than 300 and later 500. Hundreds more left the village in case the attackers returned.
Both Muslim and Christian youth have been blamed for starting the violence, with various reasons given. According to a local paper, attackers yelled "Allahu Akhbar" before burning down churches and homes. The Vatican has expressed outrage and sadness. The Plateau State Christian Elders Consultative Forum said that the attack was "yet another jihad and provocation".
The significance of religious differences has been questioned with the roles of social, economic, and tribal differences also considered. An ethnic rivalry between the Hausa and Berom peoples may be a factor in the violence. However, this simplistic assertion is challenged because most ethnic groups in Plateau, who are predominantly Christian share the same sentiments with the Berom, and collectively see an Islamic threat in their own lands. The archbishop of the capital Abuja said that it was "a classic conflict between pastoralists and farmers, except that all the Fulani are Muslims and all the Berom are Christians." Professor Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja also played down the role of religion in the riots: "I don't see anything religious. Wherein religion could be the difference between the two warring factions, fundamentally it's a manifestation of economic alienation. So social apathy, political frustration, economic deprivation and so many factors are responsible." But this view has also been challenged by the fact places of worship like Churches have always been the targets of these riots for whatever root reason. So religion is a galvanising force in the crisis no matter what the initial cause of conflict. <Quote ref>"The Beroms have been accused of resenting the economic progress of other settler groups: yet, this is another simplistic assertion. Most Plateau natives collectively feel they do not have the Federal connections or patronage other major ethnic groups have. And most Nigerian wealth has been driven by oil money. The Beroms and other Plateau natives are predominantly farmers and have had to experience their lands taken away and degraded by tin mining. Now, they have to contend with migrant groups who use Federal influence and wealth to displace them from their own lands. The massive structure of the Federal Government is fuelled primarily by oil money. The Beroms, as well as other Plateau natives, feel they should have a measure of autonomy in their core lands just the way Native Americans in their homesteads are treated as a Sovereign nation, elevated to the status of a protected minority. Nigeria's constitution has no place for respecting the rights of minorities, whether it is Jos, or the Niger Delta."
There is also the issue of discrimination against the mainly Muslim "settlers" of Jos, even if they have been living in the city for decades. This further accentuates divisions in the city. While the mainly Christian indigenous population are classified as "indigenes," the mainly Muslim immigrants to Jos are classified as "settlers" and find it difficult to stand for election- among other things.
The "Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project" wrote to the International Criminal Court, asking them to investigate the riots for potential crimes against humanity. The prosecutor replied in November 2010 saying the situation is being analysed by the prosecutor to see if a case should be opened.
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