100,000 Women March, Dogo-Nahawa, Never Again!
On June 29, 2010, Pastor Esther Ibanga of the Jos Christian Mission International visited AfrobeatRadio where we recorded a conversation between her and Dr. Bola Omoniyi, a consultant with Global Health and International Development. In that conversation, Pastor Ibanga Spoke about the Jos massacres of 2010 and her experience organizing women who marched to protest the killing of children and women, and the displacement of the entire community.
In a scenario reminiscent of women’s protests during colonial times, and perhaps the only time since Nigeria’s independence that so many women came together in one place to act together on one overriding issue, Pastor Ibanga (and her co-organizers) like women leaders before them – women like Mrs. Funmilayo Kuti, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Hajiya Sawaba Gambo and others – co-organized and led ‘The Jos Women for Peace March’ which brought out a hundred thousand women to downtown Jos, Nigeria to march, protest and mourn the children and women killed in the most gruesome manner in the March 2010 reprisal attacks in Dogo-Nahawa village.
Violence between Christians and Muslims in neighboring Plateau State earlier this year left a trail of dead bodies in its wake. The so-called 2010 Jos riots were said to be motivated by multiple factors. Although the clashes have been dubbed ‘religious violence’ by many international and local News sources, many informed commentators including people living in and around Jos cite ethnic differences and economic competition as the root causes of the violence. The violence that first erupted in and around Jos on 17 January, 2010, lasted over four days. At the end of the riots, over 200 people were killed. Tens of Houses, businesses, churches, mosques and vehicles burned to the ground.
On March 7, 2010, Less than 2 months later, Jos was to wake up to gruesome reprisal attacks in which hundreds of people died in Dogo-Nahawa village; the victims mostly Christians, women and children. These attacks were allegedly perpetrated by groups of Muslim Hausa-Fulani herdsmen. The death toll was put at over 500.
“What seems to be a recurring decimal is that over time, those who have in the past used violence to settle political issues, economic issues, social matters, inter-tribal disagreements, or any issue for that matter, now continue to use that same path of violence and cover it up with religion.”- Benjamin A. Kwashi, Anglican Archbishop of Jos
Northern Nigeria has had a long history of religion based crisis, the Jos riot of 1945 and in 1953 are examples of such disturbances. “In the late 1960s violence against Christian Igbo immigrants in the Muslim north, was a key factor in the attempt of Biafra, the Igbo south east of Nigeria, to secede and the cause of the civil war.”
In early 1980s, an armed quasi-Muslim fringe group sparked religious riots in Kano, Kaduna, and Maiduguri. An attempt by the Nigerian Army to contain them triggered riots which led to the deaths of over 5000 people between December 18 and 29, 1980. The riots were called Maitatsine or Yan Tatsine, meaning followers of the Maitatsine in the local Hausa language. Churches and mosques were destroyed, whole communities were killed and displaced. In the Maitatsine riots, it took the then Federal military government over three years to restore order. The Maitatsine riots shook the Nigerian nation to its very core and remains one of the key reference points for political and social disturbances in post – civil war Nigeria till date, and the 20th Century precursor to unfolding saga of ‘internationalized political Islam’.
“There were always two drivers of this violence – the genuine religious differences in values that led to disagreements over education, crime and punishment, alcohol and other issues. And the political manipulation of those differences.”
In 1990 Muslim and Christian rioting began in Bauchi State. Again in 1991 rioting exploded in Kano after a German fundamentalist Christian announced a campaign to bring his Good News Revival campaign to Kano. The decision to hold the Miss World beauty pageant in Nigeria led to rioting between Christians and Muslims in the northern city of Kaduna. Six days of rioting left at least 215 dead, several thousand injured after and an estimated 12,000 people displaced.
This Day, a Nigerian daily, published an article written by one of its staff writers in which she wrote that the Prophet Mohamed PBUH would not have objected to the event and would have chosen a wife from among the contestants. Islamic leaders were quick to condemned the article as blasphemous. Muslim youths attacked the paper’s offices, setting fire to them and to churches in Kaduna City. Christian youth retaliated by burning mosques, Muslim owned businesses and houses. Ms Isioma Daniel, the journalist who wrote the article fled into exile after a fatwa was issues on her.
“But sudden battles between Christians and Muslims were not as spontaneous as they were portrayed. When military rule ended in 1999, democratic politics provided a perfect platform for corrupt and cynical politicians to play on religious fears to gain votes. So in the lead up to the second election in 2003 governors of northern states declared Sharia law in defiance of the constitution.”
The religious violence continues in Nigeria. On July 14, 2010, violence between Christians and Muslims erupted again. This time in Taraba State, also in central Nigeria. At least five people were reported dead by the Nigerian Police, many more were left bloodied. Taraba State Police Commissioner, Aliyu Musa said the killings started on Tuesday July 13, in the community of Bukari after Christian youth became angry over the location of a mosque and burned down the mosque, resulting in counter attack by Muslim youth. Security agents were said to have intervened, eventually restoring calm to the community.
Pastor Ibanga is a Senior Pastor at the Jos Christian Mission International. She was in the US on the invitation of the Cecilia Attais Foundation for a conference on conflict resolution. Bola Omoniyi lives and works in the US.
Nigeria: Death toll from inter-communal violence mounts
Religious conflict in Nigeria – spontaneous or synthetic?
Nigeria: Death toll from inter-communal violence mounts
2010 Jos riots