December 1, 2008
Jos Violence Settles
Death count still climbing after a weekend of election-related Muslim-Christian fighting.
Nigerians in Jos are collecting bodies after a weekend of fighting. Several hundred are dead so far in violence that began on Friday, November 28 - a day after polls closed on a local council election and one day before the incumbent People's Democratic Party was announced the winner.
Compass Direct reports that Muslims began attacking Christians, accusing them of tampering with the votes, after officials reportedly refused to post results.
Emmanuel Itapson, an assistant professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, is from Jos. He says, "Everyone I spoke with said the level of destruction is unprecedented. Christians were caught unawares at 2am and most of the pastors that were killed died because they live within the church area. I am in pain! My beloved city is filled with the blood of the innocent."
BBC published an eyewitness account:
I have a telescope and through it I watched what was happening from my home in the Christian quarters, high up on Shaka Hill overlooking Jos.
I could see the burning houses, all the smoke and hear the gunshots. Women were running away carrying their children, clothes, foodstuffs and water. Men were using petrol to douse the grass-roofed houses and then lighting with a match.
I could hear shouts of "Allahu Akbar".
Some of the Christians came running to safety at our place.
I saw all this on Friday and again on Saturday but on Saturday there was even more shooting and a lot of shouting.
One of my neighbours is a doctor and he could not reach work alone and so they came and picked him up so he could attend to casualties. He told me most of the wounded had had their hands and legs cut off with long sharp knives.
Police have been ordered to shoot on sight after the evening curfew.
Jos, a city of over 800,000, lies midway between the mostly Muslim northern half of Nigeria and the Christian and animist south. The Associated Press adds that "The structure of Nigeria's government also exacerbates ethnic tensions, since local governments control enormous budgets in Africa's biggest oil producer, making the spoils of an election a coveted prize."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide sent a press release saying a corrective to international coverage of the violence was necessary: the timing of the attacks showed that they were not primarily because of election results. Of even greater concern, CSW says,
Are reports that appeared to suggest that Christians had killed 300 Muslims over the weekend, whose bodies were deposited at a central mosque. In reality, the men died while obeying orders from a mosque in the Dilimi area, which was using its loudspeakers to instruct all Muslims to defy the authorities, participate in the "jihad", loot properties for money and then burn them. Local security sources insist the rioters were shot while defying a night-time curfew and launching fresh attacks, including an unsuccessful large-scale assault on police barracks. Commenting on these deaths the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Engineer Salifu said: "It was not Christians who killed them; it was their own unfortunate attitude". He also articulated local concern that such inaccurate reporting could fuel further violence against Christians elsewhere.