from Africa in Transition

Killings in Nigeria’s Plateau State

February 25, 2014

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The radical Islamist insurrection in northern Nigeria gets most of the Western media attention, when it is not crowded out by the president’s recent “suspension” of Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank. But, ethnic and religious violence continues to bedevil the Middle Belt, especially Plateau state. 

Accordingly, the Interfaith Mediation Center’s Community Peace Action Network does a service by issuing a February 24 Bulletin calling attention to “incessant attacks by unknown gunmen,” despite a large, official security presence. The Bulletin catalogs the recent carnage: a February 20 attack on a village with thirteen killed and nine injured. A February 21 attack where nine children, two women and two men were killed. A February 21 attack with five killed and five injured, and another attack the next day where eleven people, mostly children, were killed.

The killings are blamed on Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen when the victims are Christian Barome farmers and vice versa when the victims are Fulani. Though in some attacks on Barome villages, the security services were blamed. This is a familiar pattern. New, however, seems to be that the killers are wearing army uniforms and move about in trucks painted in army colors. Killers in the north are also often reported to be wearing army clothes, but the Interfaith Mediation Center does not link the Plateau killings with the north.

Escalating violence also may also reflect contentious local government elections scheduled for February 25. The governor, Jonah David Jang, who is from the People’s Democratic Party, has publicly said that there is “no opposition party” in the state; that did not go over well with the opposition political parties. He also staged a rally in support of President Jonathan’s 2015 campaign for re-election, though the president has not yet announced that he will run. The Community Peace Action Network notes that the refusal to acknowledge opposition political parties in a “violence indicator,” as is the increasing use of ethnic and religious stereotypes.

The Community Peace Action Network closes its bulletin with recommendations to curb gunmen use of military uniforms and other steps to increase public confidence in duly constituted authorities.

The violence in Plateau state could be a foretaste of what will come in other parts of the country before and after the national elections in early 2015.