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Kaduna is increasingly the epicenter of violence in Nigeria, rivaling Borno state, the home turf of Boko Haram. In rural areas, conflicts over water and land use are escalating, and Ansaru, a less prominent Islamist group, is active. Over the past year, some four hundred people were abducted for ransom in the state by criminal gangs; more than two hundred violent events resulted in nearly one thousand fatalities, and some fifty thousand are internally displaced. These estimates apply to the state as a whole, including the city of Kaduna, the capital of the state. The city of Kaduna has long been a center of political, ethnic, and religious violence. The city has undergone ethnic "cleansing," with Christians now concentrated in south Kaduna city and the Muslims in the north. Since the end of military rule in 1998–99, Kaduna city saw election-related violence that soon turned into bloodshed along ethnic and religious lines.
Like the Nigerian state, the city of Kaduna is a British colonial creation orchestrated by Lord Frederick Lugard, first governor general of an amalgamated Nigeria. He established Kaduna as the British administrative capital of the northern half of the country, to be situated on the railway that linked Lagos and Kano—then, as now, Nigeria's largest cities. As the administrative capital of the north, Kaduna acquired some of the accoutrements of British colonialism, including a race track, polo, and expat club. A number of foreign governments, including the United States, established consulates in Kaduna, an "artificial," planned city reminiscent of the current capital, Abuja. The British encouraged Muslims incomers to settle in the north and Christians in the south. In part because of the railway connections, Kaduna became an important manufacturing center, especially for textiles. An international airport was eventually built.
But the last half-century has not been kind. Nigeria moved from four regions, of which Kaduna was the capital of the largest, to thirty-six states. The establishment of a new national capital at Abuja led to the departure of consulates and many international business links, and, while the airport survives, most regional air traffic goes to Abuja. The textile industry and most heavy manufacturing have also collapsed, the consequence of erratic economic policy, underinvestment, and foreign competition. The national railway network became moribund and is only now being restored by the Chinese.
Yet Kaduna's urban population has exploded. In the 2006 census [PDF], the state capital's population was 760,084; now, the estimate is closer to 1.8 million. Agricultural output has collapsed, the result of climate change and the breakdown of security, resulting in waves of migrants into a city that does not have the infrastructure to accommodate them. Very high levels of unemployment (nobody really knows how high), a youth bulge, and shortage of housing makes the city a veritable petri dish for violence that acquires an ethnic and religious coloration. Further, the traditional Islamic institutions to be found elsewhere in the north were either never present in the British-founded city or have been weak.
Hence, in the city of Kaduna, violence is multifaceted in origin, and no one strategy is likely to bring it under control. At best, small steps to improve services to the population could buy some time for the larger political, economic, and social changes that will be necessary to restore the health of the city.