2001-09-19 17:09:00
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable
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


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.