wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
01ABUJA3200 2001-12-13 15:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ARMY MINISTER OF STATE ON BENUE:

Tags:   PREL PINS PHUM NI 
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 003200 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2011
TAGS: PREL PINS PHUM NI
SUBJECT: SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ARMY MINISTER OF STATE ON BENUE:
UPCOMING VISIT TO WASHINGTON


REF: PARK-BROWNE E-MAILS


Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5 (b)
and (d).




1. (C) Summary: Minister of State for Army Lawal Batagarawa
departed Nigeria on
December 8 on his way to Washington to explain developments
in Benue and
neighboring states. In Washington, Batagarawa told us that
the Nigerian
Embassy has arranged several meetings on the Hill beginning
December 10.
Batagarawa will be in Washington until o/a December 18.
During that time, he
would like meetings in the Department (AF, DRL) and at the
NSC. The following
information is to give Washington interlocutors a preview of
what Batagarawa
will likely say. End summary.




2. (C) During our conversations with Batagarawa, he
emphasized that the
Tiv-Jukun rivalry, which is at the heart of the chaos in
Benue and unrest in
adjacent areas of Nasarawa and Taraba, is a long standing
one. Violence
between the two groups goes back many years. The cause of
the feud is
competition for arable land accentuated by Tiv expansionism.
Both groups are
agrarian. However, the hard-working Tiv have a much higher
population growth
rate; they keep grabbing new land to accommodate their
numbers. They are known
to move to greener fields after farming a parcel until soil
fertility is
exhausted. Tivs also are insular socially and culturally.
Jukun and other
ethnic groups feel severely threatened because the Tiv have
expanded into lands
formerly not theirs. This expansion would cause problems by
itself but is
further compounded by the alleged Tiv propensity to dominate
and eventually
expropriate new areas into which they move. Tension exists
wherever a Tiv
presence abuts another ethnic community. Because of their
appetite for land and control, the Tiv are generally disliked
by their neighbors.




3. (C) The perceived Tiv encroachment has larger political
ramifications under
democratic governance than under military rule. Control of
land often begets
control of local government administration, i.e., budgets and
other significant
resources. Both Tiv and Jukun have been well represented in
the military (the
Tiv more so), meaning there are numbers of retired soldiers
and available
weapons in the Benue-Taraba-Nasarawa border region. Both
sides can count
relatively well trained people in their informal militias.
Given the longevity
and violent nature of this feud, the military was faced with
a difficult task
when deployed to halt the ethnic clashes, Batagarawa will
admit.




4. (C) Batagarawa and other GON officials perceive the
outside world as
focussing primarily on the military's attacks against the
civilians and paying
little, if any, attention to the gruesome murders of the 19
soldiers.
Nevertheless, he will refute any suggestion that reprisal
attacks against
civilians were ordered by senior GON officials, particularly
the President. He
will state that the situation in Benue is complex -- all of
the damage after
the 19 soldiers were killed cannot be laid at the feet of the
military. He
attributes some of the damage and mayhem to Jukun
counter-attacks. The Minister
will blame the media for sensationalized reporting that
brands the military as
the sole culprit. Some Tiv politicians have willfully
abetted the skewed media
coverage. These Tiv have been angry at the Obasanjo regime,
he will say.
Obasanjo has dismissed many Tiv officers from the military,
including Chief of
Staff Victor Malu after he publicly defied the President's
authority. Obasanjo
had also deflected Tiv entreaties for more senior-level GON
positions. Some Tiv also blame Obasanjo
for the sacking of their ethnic brother, recently ousted PDP
chairman Barnabas
Gemade, in favor of an ethnic Idoma from Benue State, Audu
Ogbeh. While
moderate Tiv want to calm tensions, hard-line elements want
Obasanjo to pay a
political price for what they see as an estranged
relationship.




5. (C) Batagarawa will state that resolution of problems in
Benue requires a
dual track approach. First, the GON must quell the violence.
Reports indicate
small-scale confrontations still occurring in some isolated
areas, and that
several people have been killed recently. The situation will
require continued
military deployment for the near future. Thus, the
government is wary of
taking any action undermining the morale or mandate of the
deployed troops.
While not trying to absolve guilty soldiers of blame for the
violence they
committed, Batagarawa will assert that investigating the
reprisals will take
time and must be done in a way that does not re-ignite armed
hostilities.
Although the army was not responsible for all of the reprisal
violence, a govern
ment statement indicating that Jukun were partially culpable
may inspire
militant Tiv to exact revenge. This is something the GON will
work to avoid.
Nevertheless, Batagarawa will state that the GON is committed
to identifying
and punishing guilty soldiers and civilians. But again, the
government will proceed in a manner that does
not foment additional unrest.




6. (C) Second, the GON must seek long-term solutions to the
crisis. Long-term
solutions involve convincing the Tiv to change land use
methods and to eschew
ethnic chauvinism. The Taraba Deputy Governor also told the
Ambassador a few
days ago that local non-Tiv groups will never allow Tivs to
be a part of their
traditional and/or political institutions. The GON must
convince the Jukun and
others to accept the Tiv presence and to accept the ethnic
dynamics of
migration in their specific rural setting. However, neither
side will
compromise and work toward these goals if they have been
publicly fustigated by
the GON as being the bad guy.


7 (C) Comment. The GON is edgy and defensive about Benue.
Trying to boost its
international image by amassing a commendable peacekeeping
record abroad, the
GON does not want this goal dashed by the military developing
a sullied
reputation for "peacekeeping" at home. Also, there is a
genuine sense of regret
in the GON for the loss of innocent lives in Benue. In their
own way, the
Nigerians will try to address human right concerns. There is
a historical
association between outbreaks of violence in Tiv-land and the
later onset of
larger-scale threats to national security and national
integrity. Hence, the
relative weight the GON attaches to human rights
considerations in this matter
differs significantly from ours. Moreover, there has not
been a loud hue and
cry raised within Nigeria over the reprisals against the
Tivs. Due to the
macabre execution and gruesome mutilation of the 19 soldiers
and partly due to
the general animus toward the Tivs, many Nigerians believe,
however wrongfully,
that the Tiv got their due.




8. (C) Comment cont. For Batagarawa and the GON, the bottom
line is internal
security. Because its soldiers constitute the last line of
defense against
widespread unrest, protecting the army as an institution from
serious domestic
fall-out will be a compelling GON imperative. This does not
mean the GON will
not punish miscreants; but it will proceed in a manner that
neither causes
rupture in the army nor sparks ethnic conflict. Judging by
what Batagarawa and
others have said, any investigative or judicial proceeding
will be tempered by
political considerations. Nevertheless, Batagarawa's visit
provides an
opportunity to underscore our concerns about Benue and the
need for an
impartial investigation there. The underlying message is that
promoting the
rule of law and human rights, at a moment when these ideas
are right but
politically awkward, is a sign of true commitment. Meeting
Batagarawa also
demonstrates that our minds are open and that we want to give
the GON a fair
hearing on the allegations of military brutality. End
comment.
Jeter