Tuesday, March 9, 2010

NIGERIA: Why is Jos such a tinderbox?

This headline from The Times says it all:

500 butchered in Nigeria killing fields
8 March 2010
By Jonathan Clayton, Africa Correspondent and Ruth Gledhill

The blood-curdling massacre of possibly 500 predominantly Christian ethnic Berom in Jos South in the early hours of Sunday 7 March has been widely reported.

Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gregory Yenlong, described the attack on the Berom villages as ethnic cleansing.

So why is Jos such a tinderbox?

TRENDS

With foresight and good governance, individual trends can be managed. Multiple trends can also be managed, although that is obviously more difficult. The real trouble occurs when trends collide like two chemicals to cause an explosion, or merge like two rivers to cause a flood. Jos is a perfect example of the chaos that erupts upon a confluence of trends.

Consider these trends:

(1) Nigeria has a massive rate of population growth (double the world average).

(2) Nigeria has a rapid rate of urbanisation.

(3) Nigeria's southward migration of Hausa and Fulani Muslim pastoralists is putting great pressure on Nigerian's ethnic-religious fault-line. Pushed out of the Sahel by drought, the Muslim immigrants are drawn to the arable lands and industrial towns of sub-Saharan Africa which are populated by settled, mostly Christian African tribes.

(4) Nigeria has not been immune to the global revival of fundamentalist Islam. (Note: Islam is essentially a political construct with a religious element -- not the other way around.)

The first two trends portend (especially in third-world or developing state) increased competition for jobs, land and resources, as well as escalating crime and violence.

Add in the third trend -- immigration -- and much of this competition takes on "settler" vs "indigene", as well as ethnic (i.e. Fulani vs Berom) and religious (Muslim vs Christian) dimensions.

Add in the fourth trend -- the revival of fundamentalist Islam -- and we get, in the already volatile mix, increased polarisation of peoples; increased Muslim intolerance towards Christians; Muslim demands for Sharia law; and Muslim striving for dominance (political and social).

So while most commentators are saying that the Jos crisis is not religious, I would say that the revival of fundamentalist Islam is an integral element in the mix -- akin to fuel on fire.

Given an inch. . .

In 1991, President (General) Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) (a military dictator) introduced reforms to make local governments more autonomous and democratic. At the same time, as the the daily Sun news reports, "Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida created Jos North Local Government to respond to the 'need' of the settlers [Hausa and Fulani Muslims] to feel a sense of belonging". ( Undercurrents of the Jos mayhem, By Chinelo Agina. The Sun (Nigeria) 17 Feb 2010)

The Sun News continues: "For many years, the Beroms and the Anaragutas, the original owners of the local government, co-existed side by side with the Yorubas, the Hausas and the Fulanis who had come there to settle, but after a while, the Hausas and Fulanis, who had increased in population started agitating for an Emir (a King), an Hausa who will represent them and protect their interests at the state and national levels.

According to the Sun, they were also demanding that the Local Government Chairman of Jos North be a Hausa or a Fulani. Of course the Beroms vehemently objected to this, fearing that if such discrimination were permitted, then Muslim tribes would dominate and Christians would lose their rights.

Dr Aliyu U. Tilde comments that the creation of Jos North Local Government gave the Hausa and Fulani Muslims "a sort of majority assurance", whereby they could "use their number in a democracy to mitigate [their] vulnerability. That is why some natives see the creation of Jos North as a deliberate attempt by Babangida to protect [or advance] the Hausa/Fulani.

"The Hausa, however, became dominant in the heart of Jos City, the old Jos, where their parents and grandparents were among the first to settle. That area formed Jos North Local Government where all commercial and government activities take place. This raised a unique situation where the non-natives are the dominant ethnic group of the capital city."

(See also: Jos crisis: When a mining city becomes an eternal killing field
By Charles Kumolu. 8 March 2010)

In November 2008, a Berom Christian from Jos South was named the winner of the Jos North local government chairman elections. While this was widely cited as the cause of the November 2008 Muslim rioting left at least 300 dead, around 10,000 displaced, and "settler" vs "indigene" ethnic-religious tensions higher than ever, the rioting actually started before the result was known. Furthermore, as Christian Solidarity pointed out, the Muslim rioters did not target political institutions. Rather, "rioters armed with guns, spears, machetes and other weapons immediately attacked Christian businesses, churches and the homes of clergymen". A local source informed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW): "As usual they took Jos by surprise, and are now hiding behind election results to launch and excuse their mayhem." Sixteen churches were razed in that riot, and four Christian pastors were killed. (See: CSW press release Jos, Nigeria – ‘Inaccurate reporting’ causes resentment among Christian community. 1 Dec 2008)


Many in the Christian community believe that the "settlers" / Hausa and Fulani / Muslims are intent on driving the "indigenes" / Berom / Christians out of Jos -- or at least forcing their surrender.


Comments from the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Ben Kwashi:

Violence Is Not Religiously Motivated, Nigerian Archbishop Says
By ROBERT MACKEY, 8 March 2010

This insightful article includes three film clips, one of which (the last one) gives an excellent overview of the crisis.

While the headline says the "violence is not religiously motivated", what Archbishop Kwashi is saying is that the tribes are not fighting over alleged blasphemies or apostasies; the nature of Jesus or the preaching of the gospel.

However, as I noted earlier, Muslim supremacy and Muslim domination are integral to Islam which merely uses its religion as a means to advance its political agenda. As such, I would maintain that the violence is motivated and fuelled by Islam -- both the Muslim's striving for domination, and the Christian's legitimate fear of dhimmitude (the highly vulnerable, second-class status of Jews and Christians subjugated under Islam).

FINALLY

For suggestions regarding prayer see:

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 046
Nigeria: explosive situation needs defusing.
By Elizabeth Kendal. 10 March 2010