Viewing cable 01ABUJA2347

01ABUJA23472001-09-19 17:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002347 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2006 
REF: (A) ABUJA 2290 (B) SECSTATE 160413 (C) ABUJA 
     2258 (D) ABUJA 2255 
¶1. (U)  Summary.  A team of officials from the U.S., U.K. and 
Netherlands diplomatic missions in Abuja drove to Jos on 
Friday, September 14, to meet with their nationals and to 
assess the situation there following the ethnic and religious 
conflict that began on September 7.  It appears that over 
2,300 people may have lost their lives in the conflict in the 
immediate vicinity of Jos, while a significant but unknown 
number of casualties also occurred in outlying villages and 
towns.  Calm was restored following a flare-up of violence on 
September 12, and only two Amcit and two British families 
elected to depart Jos temporarily with the diplomatic convoy. 
We have not heard of further violence in the countryside. 
However the diplomatic team did not venture outside of town. 
Consular issues pertaining to the American community in Jos 
will be reported in septel.  President Obasanjo has put 
pressure on Governor Dariye of Plateau State to take 
corrective measures to reconcile the two sides, but Dariye's 
government, through its pro-Christian partisanship, may have 
already forfeited its ability to be a fair arbiter for peace. 
 End Summary. 
¶2. (U)  American citizen, governmental and private sources 
emphasized to Poloff that tensions had been building in Jos 
for months for several reasons.    Primary among these was 
the influx of new residents from Kaduna and Kano in the 
aftermath of last year's crises there, which resulted in a 
near doubling of Jos' population.  The immigrants included 
many ethnic Ibgos, Yoruba and other non-Muslim ethnic groups 
from Kaduna and Bauchi, but many others were Hausa.  The 
influx of new residents sparked competition for state 
resources; chief among these was access to state and federal 
government positions in Plateau State.  Even though Jos 
itself was initially founded largely by Hausa-Fulani families 
around the turn of the century, the non-Muslim ethnic groups 
indigenous to the surrounding area have refused to accord 
them the status of "indigenes," which Nigerians understand to 
mean a group possessing the right to lay claim to government 
resources and patronage. 
¶3. (U)  While the status of its Hausa population has remained 
unsettled for years, the descendants of the early Hausa 
families in Jos have long dominated the city's economic 
life--provoking a certain amount of envy among their 
"indigenous" neighbors.  The recent influx of Hausa-Fulani 
immigrants from elsewhere in the North, economic stagnation, 
and the introduction of different versions of criminal 
Shari'a law in the North, have all contributed to rising fear 
and resentment among major indigenous ethnic groups in 
northern Plateau State: the Birom, Anaguta, Jarawa and 
Niango.  The recurring conflict between urban Hausa-Fulani 
Muslims in Tafawa Balewa in southern Bauchi, nearly 100 
kilometers from Jos, and "indigenous" ethnic groups 
surrounding it, has also contributed to rising tensions in 
Plateau State. 
¶4. (U)  Against this backdrop, Alhaji Mukhtar Mohammed was in 
mid-August appointed to head the National Poverty Eradication 
Program (NPEP) for the Jos North Local Government Area. 
(Note: Jos is divided into two LGA's, North and South.  Jos 
North contains most of the Hausa/Muslim population of the 
city, roughly 40%.  End Note.)  Mukhtar's appointment was 
strongly opposed by the non-Hausa-Fulani residents of Jos 
North.  This appointment sparked a battle of increasingly 
strident ethnic and religious rhetoric between two youth 
organizations, the Jasawa Development Association for the 
predominantly Muslim Hausa-Fulani, and the Plateau Youth 
Council for the predominantly Christian other indigenous 
ethnic groups.  Contacts in Jos have reported that both 
organizations consist of unemployed, uneducated and/or 
impoverished youth, seeking to create--and to capitalize 
upon--ethnic and religious conflict. 
¶5. (U)  As tensions rose in Jos, rumors began spreading of 
men having their genitals magically removed or shrunken by 
shaking hands with ill-intentioned magicians from the 
opposing ethnic groups.  Christians also appear to have 
believed that a well-armed invasion of Muslim hordes from the 
core North, Niger and Chad was imminent.  Oblivious to the 
potential for unrest, or perhaps relying on the fact that Jos 
had never suffered ethnic conflict, Governor Joshua Dariye 
left for the U.S. nearly one week prior to the outbreak of 
violence and was not present for the slaughter that ensued. 
The Conflict 
¶6. (U)  There are many stories about how the fighting was 
triggered.  We have strong confidence in none of them, but 
most credible overall involved the attempt by a Christian 
woman to drive through a street near the Central Mosque, 
which was closed due to overflow crowds at Juma'at prayers on 
Friday, September 7.  (Note: When urban mosques overflow on 
Friday, surrounding streets may be closed for 45-60 minutes, 
as worshippers roll out prayer mats and listen to the Imam on 
loudspeakers.  End Note.)  Both sides claim that the other 
had planned the violence--Muslims claiming that after the 
woman left they were attacked while at prayer, Christians 
claiming that the Muslims used this as an excuse for "jihad." 
 It appears that members of the youth organizations on both 
sides--the JDA and the PYC--took the lead in initiating and 
expanding the violence. 
¶7. (U)  Unlike Kaduna, where there was mass destruction of 
property, the destruction in Jos was selective, and localized 
largely in Jos North and Bukaru, a southern suburb.  The 
houses and businesses of the old Hausa families were 
particularly targeted by Christians, while Muslims also 
killed Christians and destroyed their property in 
Hausa-dominated neighborhoods.  Throughout the town Poloff 
observed burned-out tanker trucks and other large transport 
vehicles, as well as burned fuel stations and car lots--all 
businesses associated with Hausa traders. 
The Military 
¶8. (U)  The Third Armored Infantry Division, joined by some 
personnel from the local Air Force base, were brought in  to 
restore order on Saturday, September 8 (Ref C).  Reports of 
their performance were largely positive.  It appears that 
they did not use excessive lethal force, but were unable to 
immediately stop the violence, since much of it was 
surreptitious ethnic cleansing within neighborhoods rather 
than large mob action.  Most sources report that by Sunday, 
September 9, the killings had ceased in Jos.  On Wednesday, 
September 12, some youths apparently took advantage of a 
substantial downpour to loot shops in the market.  The 
military were allegedly given the order on that day to shoot 
to kill, and began a massive display of firepower that began 
around 9:00 a.m. and ended around 3:00 p.m.  This effectively 
stopped the looting.  Forces are reported to have fired their 
weapons into the air, as well as into abandoned buildings, 
while Jos residents cowered in their homes.  There were few 
casualties reported by hospitals on Wednesday, including five 
or six people injured by stray bullets.  Some Christians 
reported that the flare-up on Wednesday was in response to 
"jubilation" among Jos Muslims about the attack on the U.S. 
on September 11.  This macabre claim, reported in some 
newspapers as fact, was not borne out by our investigation. 
Either false or wildly exaggerated, such stories are 
indicative of the extent to which some predominantly 
Christian ethnic groups, who are opposed to Islam and its 
Hausa-speaking adherents, have seized on events in the U.S. 
in an attempt to discredit their Muslim compatriots, and to 
exacerbate conflict.  See septel. 
¶9. (SBU)  Post has received reliable reports that the death 
toll in Jos exceeds 2300, not counting what may have occurred 
in surrounding areas.  Amcits confimed the large number of 
casualties with eyewitness accounts of bodies being hauled 
out of town in open-top cattle trucks, about the size of a 
standard American semi-trailers, after the curfew was 
imposed.  A colleague at the German Embassy reported that 
Julius Berger Nigeria reported to him that they provided 
earth-moving equipment to the military for digging mass 
graves.  (Note: Nigerian officials, and the Army, have had 
plenty of experience with the danger of bodies being 
transported to other states, where they become the trigger 
for reprisals and counter-reprisals.  In this case it was 
prudent from a security standpoint to bury all bodies as soon 
as possible, preventing them from being transported elsewhere 
for burial, but also preventing an accurate assessment of the 
loss of life.  End Note.) 
¶10. (C)  One Amcit missionary who works as a medical doctor 
at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, one of two large 
hospitals in town, reported that roughly eighty percent of 
the casualties were Hausa, and the rest were spread among the 
other ethnic groups.  Some Amcits reported pogroms against 
Hausa-Fulani living in villages outside of Jos, where entire 
village populations were murdered and their villages were 
burned down.  Underlining the ethnic, rather than religious 
nature of the conflict, one Amcit reported that he witnessed 
Muslim Yoruba participating in killing their Hausa-Fulani 
Governmental Response 
¶11. (C)  Contacts in the Plateau State Government, including 
Deputy Governor Michael Botmang, Secretary to State 
Government Ezekiel Gomos, and the Permanent Secretary for 
Security Matters, Robert Taple, all revealed strongly 
pro-Christian biases regarding the violence in their 
discussions with Poloff.  All repeated what can be called the 
Christian exculpatory story: the Hausa were planning this, 
they wanted to bring Shari'a law to Plateau, they brought in 
armed Muslim fighters from Niger and Chad to attack 
Christians and take over Jos.  Unfortunately, this version of 
events did not square with what the delegation from Abuja 
witnessed on the ground, and the lack of objectivity on the 
part of Plateau State's Christian-dominated government was 
frankly disturbing.  Permanent Secretary Taple went so far as 
to claim that a helicopter landed on the Bauchi Road (Jos 
North) to supply weapons to the Muslims.  (Note:  Operation 
Focus Relief has the only functioning helicopters in Nigeria 
at the moment.  End Note.) 
¶12. (U)  Amcits complained of a lack of food in Jos, and said 
that the food security problem was exacerbating the larger 
security problem.  The delegation noted bags of corn, rice 
and gari at Government House, which was to be distributed to 
the hungry.  On Friday, September 14, there was no fuel to be 
found in Jos, as the Hausa fuel distributors would not risk 
sending another tanker truck after so many had been burned. 
President Obasanjo visited Jos on Saturday, September 15, and 
issued a press statement deploring the violence, and 
instructing Governor Dariye that he would be "watching 
closely" to see how things were handled by the current 
Government there.  During a September 16 service at the 
Presidential Villa commemorating the dead in New York, 
Washington and Jos, Obasanjo talked of seeing evidence that 
human beings had been eviscerated like animals.  The 
President said the humanity of persons who could commit such 
atrocities must be questioned. 
¶13. (U)  Comment:  While the world's attention has been 
understandably focused elsewhere, Nigeria has suffered its 
worst bout of ethnic violence since the events in Kaduna in 
Fegruary, 2000.  The death toll in Jos could well exceed 
one-half of those killed in the U.S. in the attacks on New 
York and Washington.  President Obasanjo's personal attention 
to the situation in Plateau, although somewhat belated, was 
encouraging.  Governor Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State reported 
to Poloff that he and his colleagues in the North were 
growing increasingly angry at what they perceive to be 
Dariye's mishandling of the situation in Plateau, which may 
have prompted the President's trip to Jos, and his warning 
for the Governor.  Dariye's government has already lost 
credibility as an impartial arbiter that can lead the way to 
reconciliation, as was done in Kaduna, and his actions do not 
appear to have slowed the pace of Hausa-Fulani refugees 
departing Plateau State. 
¶14. (C)  Comment continued: Concern by both the Federal and 
State governments over this crisis reflects long experience 
with the cycle of ethnic reprisal and revenge in Nigeria. 
The only way forward in Jos is for both sides to accept 
responsibility and to work toward reconciliation.  The 
Christians--in and out of Government--cling fiercely to the 
notion that the Muslims planned this, started it 
intentionally, and that Christians merely 
responded--inflicting an 80 percent casualty rate on their 
Hausa neighbors.  Irrespective of who started it, this does 
not lay the foundation for reconciliation.  Unlike in Kaduna, 
where losses were roughly equal and both sides quickly moved 
to acknowledge their own responsibility, the unrest in Jos 
has the appearance of ethnic cleansing, with the Hausas 
taking the worst hit.  Because Hausa Muslims across the North 
feel that their people were victimized in Jos, this conflict, 
if not adequately addressed, will lay the foundation for 
later Hausa reprisals, in Jos or elsewhere.  Many Nigerians 
are worried, with good reason, that if this kind of carnage 
can be triggered in traditionally peaceful Jos over the 
appointment of a minor official, what will happen in hotspots 
when campaigning for 2002 and 2003 elections begin in 
earnest.  End Comment.