| Jan-Mar 09 | Apr-Jun 09 | Jul-Sept 09 | Oct-Dec 09 | Jan-May 10 | Jun-Dec 10 | Jan-May 11 | Jun-Dec 11 |

[Dehai-WN] Middle East Online: Jos: The Window into a Nigerian Civil War

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2012 22:51:04 +0100

Jos: The Window into a Nigerian Civil War


The collapse of Africa's most populous nation into civil war may hinge on
the stability of one unsuspecting middle belt city, argues Jay Radzinski.

 First Published: 2012-02-02

Middle East Online

Nigeria's Middle Belt region is where the country's Christian south and
Muslim north come to a head. This convergence of religion manifests in the
capital Abuja, where the equally represented populations are generally
tolerant of one another. In the nearby city of Jos whose societal make up is
starkly similar to the capital, religious intolerance is brewing tension to
a dangerous boiling point.

Over the last twenty years, Jos has been plagued by sectarian violence which
has claimed thousands of lives while displacing many others. In 2010,
week-long riots resulted in the death of hundreds of locals and the
destruction of churches and mosques alike. This steady campaign of attacks
against places of worship has made chances of reconciling these populations
a seemingly insurmountable feat. The people of Jos may not yet be cognizant
of this fact, but the deteriorating security situation in the rest of
Nigeria may have a far more tragic impact in a place with a deeply rooted
history of intolerance.

Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north has become increasingly engulfed in a
violent campaign by fundamentalist violence. On January 20, Nigeria's second
city of Kano was devastated by a wave of bombings by Boko Haram Jihadists
against military, police, and government installations, killing upwards of
250 people. Continuous attacks like these, along with a previous Boko Haram
warning for all Christians to leave the northern states, have incited nearly
35,000 people to flee southward thus far.

These newly created refugees, who are leaving with such panic and haste that
they are not bothering to bring their most valuable of possessions with
them, are making way for Jos. Positioned just outside of the Muslim north,
Jos provides a convenient safe haven for Christian refugees as they journey
towards the friendlier south. As many of those refugees opt to remain in
Jos, they threaten to alter the delicate sectarian balance in the city,
paving the way for shattering the city's hard-won peace.

Given Jos' recent history of violence, it remains clear that fierce and
deadly riots may erupt from even seemingly insignificant altercations. In
2001, the appointment of a Muslim resident as the Local Coordinator to
Eradicate Poverty, sparked outrage from the Christian community, which led
to mass rioting and destruction. The skyrocketing death toll of those riots
forced the local morgue to dig mass graves to compensate for the lack of
space. The 2001 riots are a testament that Christians of Nigeria are not
akin to sheep being led to the slaughter. Amidst the recent escalation in
the country's north, Christian residents have already been stockpiling arms,
becoming increasingly disillusioned from the government's willingness and
capability to protect them.

Just as the Muslims carry out attacks against Christians and their places of
worship in the north, the Christians are expected to respond forcefully and
aggressively. In Jos, the new Christian arrivals from the north may look to
seek revenge on those who made them flee, and the Muslim community of Jos
may be their most viable target. Increasing fear of marginalization amongst
the city's Muslims only plays to the hands of Boko Haram extremists, who
undoubtedly see Jos as a key target in their campaign to destabilize the
country. As with much of Nigeria's Muslims, many citizens of Jos already
identify with the group for its stated goals of toppling the government for
its widespread corruption, albeit through replacing it with a regime based
on Shariah law. While the city has until now been spared from Boko Haram's
wrath, it remains' clear that the Jos's Muslims will eventually be forced to
display where their loyalty truly lies.

Given its geopolitical position and contemporary politics, the city of Jos
is in many ways a microcosm for the whole of Nigeria. As such, Jos' descent
into sectarian violence may be the first indicator for the collapse of
stability in the nation's crucial beltway area, which has until now been
spared from such turmoil. Should widespread violence hit Jos, it will only
be a matter of time before other mixed cities in the area take note,
eventually threatening peace in the political center of Abuja. In a
striking, if not tragic coincidence, Christian citizens of Jos refer to
their town as "Jesus our savior." If the city's history is any indicator,
Jos will need its savior now more than ever, as the stability of Africa's
most populous nation may just hang in the balance.

Jay Radzinski is an intelligence manager specializing in sub-Saharan African
affairs at <http://www.max-security.com> Max Security Solutions, a
geo-political risk consulting firm based in the Middle East.


      ------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Thu Feb 02 2012 - 16:51:04 EST
Dehai Admin
© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 1993-2012
All rights reserved