The Human Right Watch (HRW) has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to make sure that the massacre of at least 200 Christian villagers in central Nigeria on March 7, 2010 is thoroughly and promptly investigated and that those responsible are prosecuted.
In a statement by its Researcher on Nigeria, Eric Guttschuss, he tasked the acting president Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the military and the police act swiftly to protect civilians of all ethnicities at risk of further attacks or reprisal killings stating the need for conducting regular patrols throughout the vulnerable region.
“The latest killings in Nigeria’s restive Plateau State took place in the early morning hours of March 7, when groups of men armed with guns, machetes, and knives attacked residents of the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Zot, and Ratsat, 10 kilometers south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State. The dead included scores of women and children,” he said.
He noted that most witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said the attacks were committed by Muslim men speaking Hausa and Fulani against Christians, mostly of the Berom ethnicity. “Civil society leaders in Jos said that the attacks appeared to be in retaliation for previous attacks against Muslim communities in the area and the theft of cattle from Fulani herdsmen. On January 19, more than 150 Muslim residents were killed in an attack on the nearby town of Kuru Karama.”
He said that groups of armed men attacked the largely Christian village of Dogo Nahawa at around 3 a.m. after surrounding the town and that they hunted down and attacked Christian residents, killing many as they tried to flee and burning many others alive adding that the witnesses are of the view that some of the attackers had previously lived in their villages before fleeing during the inter-communal tension in 2001, 2008, and earlier in 2010.
According to Guttschuss, the witnesses to the killings, community leaders from Jos, and journalists who visited the villages said they saw bodies, including corpses of young children and babies, inside houses, strewn around the streets, and in the pathways leading out of the villages.
He said that a Christian leader who participated in the mass burial of 67 bodies in Dogo Nahawa said that about 375 people were either killed or still missing adding that many homes, cars, and other property were burned and destroyed.
“An unprecedented outbreak of violence in Jos claimed as many as 1,000 lives in September 2001, more than 700 people died in May 2004 in inter-communal clashes in the town of Yelwa in the southern part of Plateau State and at least 700 people were killed in the violence in Jos on November 28 and 29, 2008. Human Rights Watch documented 133 cases of unlawful killings by members of the security forces in responding to the 2008 violence. Sectarian clashes broke out again in Jos on January 17 and quickly spread to neighboring communities, including Kuru Karama,” he added.
Guttschuss recalled that in December 2008, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua set up a panel to investigate the 2008 Jos violence, but the panel only began hearings in December 2009 and that the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, also formed a commission of inquiry that held public hearings, but the report has not been made public adding that following these incidents, police and judicial authorities have not conducted thorough investigations or prosecutions of those responsible for the violence.
“We urge the Nigerian government to take concrete steps to end policies that discriminate against “non-indigenes” – people who cannot trace their ancestry to those said to be the original inhabitants of an area – which fuel tension and underlie many of these conflicts. The federal government should pass and enforce legislation prohibiting government discrimination against non-indigenes in all matters that are not purely cultural or related to traditional leadership institutions,” he further said.