Written by Akeem Adebayo Wednesday, 17 February 2010 11:22
Nigerians would do well to pay a closer attention to the sudden interest of Human Rights Watch in the murderous conflict in Jos. However, far from being an impartial observer, the American organisation has taken sides in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch or specifically, its so-called “senior West Africa researcher” Corinne Dufka has taken sides with the Hausa-Fulani forces in the Jos murderous impasse. This white American woman, who is based in Dakar, Senegal, has used her influence in the international media to becloud the issues at stake in the murderous conflict.
During the crisis of 28-29 November 2008, Human Rights Watch issued a press release accusing the police of using excessive force on mainly “Muslim youths”. The release came after reports of the Yoruba National Youth Corps (NYSC) who were bludgeoned to death with machetes by Hausa/Fulani gangs and other gory stories of violence perpetrated against Southerners had enraged the whole South. Out of the blues came the release – a way to create the impression that both Muslims and Christians were victims alike.
In January this year, as the outcry against Hausa/Fulani violence in Jos was assuming almost universal dimension in the country, Human Rights Watch again released another report on Kuru Karama, where it alleged that 150 “Muslim” (Hausa/Fulani) villagers were killed and their corpses stuffed into wells. Again, the organisation portrayed Hausa/Fulani as victims of mass murder in which they were actually the chief perpetrators.
Until today, there is no credible independent confirmation of the two incidents that the so-called human rights organization cited to very powerful media effect.
How come that it's the group that got wind of the information of the corpses in wells in Kuru Karama when the author of the report, Corinne Dufka, is based in Dakar and not Nigerian journalists who were present in Jos in large numbers at a time no one could even venture out into the streets because of the rumours that Hausa/Fulani soldiers were killing civilians indiscriminately?
And our uncritical press just adopted the story without much of a thought about its authenticity. Before you know it, opinion articles started appearing in our newspapers on Kuru Karama not to mention the wide international media coverage given to the phony discoveries.
All through the recent crisis in Jos, it was Corinne Dufka who appeared almost daily on Al Jazeera to explain the Jos crisis to their international viewers and she was extensively quoted by BBC, Reuters, AP and other international media organisations. And repeatedly, she said the frustration of the “Muslims” (Hausa/Fulani) over their discrimination through the settler/indigene dichotomy that was responsible for the violence. Yet, the white woman was in Dakar, Senegal – she was nowhere near the scene of the violence and she was speaking with full confidence to the world about the conflict in Jos.
Let me make a point about the wells.
The Hausa-Fulani have been accused since 2008 of using mass graves to hide the true identity of the victims of the Jos killings. Reports have been circulating that the Hausa/Fulani killers take the bodies of their victims to the mosques and declare them as the remains of “Muslim” victims for the purpose of propaganda.
That is why they needed armoured vehicles to escort the trucks carrying the corpses to the mass graves in January. And that is the reason why the remains of many of the Southern and Christian victims have not been found till today by their loved ones. So if there were indeed corpses in wells, they might have been the victims of the Hausa/Fulani killers.
The obviously partisan intervention of Human Rights Watch or better said its Corinne Dufka has inadvertently laid the grounds for the next round of genocidal violence in Jos. I will explain.
The Kuru Karama report is the one being quoted these days in the Northern Nigerian media and on the Internet relentlessly to show how “Muslims” suffered in Jos – to create an impression that it was “Governor Jang and his people” who killed “Muslim Northerners”.
“This is genocide in my own opinion, because the amount of massacre that took place was not witnessed during the Boko Haram crisis in Maiduguri in particular, and the Kala Kato crisis in Bauchi of recent,” Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, said at meeting of Northern traditional rulers, which took place in Kaduna on 26 January 2010.
In newspapers such as the highly influential Daily Trust (owned by the Fulani journalist Kabiru Yusuf and which is the chief propaganda press outlet of the Hausa/Fulani on Jos), whenever the Jos conflict is discussed these days, reference is always made to the Human Rights Watch report.
At the heat of the crisis, when news of the “corpses in the well” started spreading, if not for the gallant efforts of the Governor of Kaduna State, there would have been an outbreak of violence between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna State with the possibilities of spreading to other states.
All these show how dangerous the intervention of this so-called human rights organization in the Jos conflict is.
This is despite overwhelming evidence that the Hausa/Fulani, with the support of high-ranking officers in the security forces, planned and carried out the killings of other Nigerians during the latest crisis. That much has been testified to by Yoruba, Igbo, Benue State and South South indigenes who fled the city.
In fact, the accounts that the Benue indigenes narrated on getting home so infuriated the people of the state that policemen were deployed all over the state capital, Makurdi, to prevent the youths from attacking the Hausa/Fulani community and from burning down mosques in the city.
Some days ago, Corinne Dufka again wrote to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, calling on him to investigate her phony Kuru Karama tale and the alleged excessive use of police force in 2008 and the extra-judicial killing of Boko Haram members last year.
Curiously, Ms Dufka did not mention the widespread allegations that Hausa/Fulani soldiers killed other Nigerians during the last crisis in her letter. Neither did the letter mention the need to protect the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life, of other Nigerians resident in Hausa/Fulani land who live in perpetual trepidation of genocidal violence. Since 2000, millions of Southern Nigerians and Christian Northerners have been moving southwards.
Human Rights Watch is obviously part of a grand conspiracy to stand the truth on its head. Alleging police high-handedness against Hausa/Fulani in a conflict in which they are obviously the aggressor is to cause confusion and prevent an understanding of the core issues at stake in Jos and in the North as a whole.
On the issue of police partiality, actually, it’s Hausa/Fulani members of the security forces who have a history of taking sides in times of crisis. It’s an established historical fact that Hausa/Fulani soldiers and policemen participated in the massacre of Igbos in the North in 1966, a fact that particularly enraged Emeka Ojukwu and one of the reasons why he declared a republic where in his words Igbos could live in safety.
Now to Jos. In 2001, the then commissioner of police in Plataeu State, A. Abubakar, was found to have abused his office by arming Hausa/Fulani youths and sending an all Hausa/Fulani patrol squad to shoot Jos indigenes and other Nigerians during the conflict. And that was the reason he was removed from his post. Although he was never charged to court.
In 2008, Hausa/Fulani soldiers were also said to have killed many inhabitants of the city. A fact attested to by the President-General of the Yoruba Community Council in the state, Chief Toye Ogushuyi, in his submission to the Bola Ajibola Panel. He said, with tears in his eyes, that many Yorubas were actually killed by Hausa/Fulani soldiers whom the victims thought were coming to offer them protection.
This year, in addition to the frightening accounts of Jos residents who allege that soldiers were going from house-house to shoot people in non- Hausa/Fulani areas, Assistant Commissioner of Police Dagogo was also found to have led Hausa/Fulani policemen in plain clothes to carry out killings in addition to arming Hausa-Fulani youths. That was why he was being suspended.
The accusation of bias against the now redeployed Plateau State Commissioner of Police, Mr Greg Ayating, who said, “The latest crisis in Jos, was started when armed Muslim Hausa youths attacked churches during Sunday prayers without provocation on 20 January, is unjustified.
It’s an open secret that the attacks in Jos were always planned well in advance and with military precision. And that they are orchestrated from outside the state by Jihadists bent on conquering the city. In fact, since November last year, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Plateau State branch, has been crying out against what it described as a plot to burn down churches in Jos, but nobody believed them.
The trigger of an Hausaman “who was not allowed to rebuild his house in a Christian-dominated neighbourhood” was a set up. This is typical of the conflicts in the past. It must always be a small altercation between a Christian and Muslim; and within one hour of that encounter, shops, residential buildings and churches are already in flames with the streets strewn with corpses. For example, the September 2001 riots were supposedly sparked by a girl who crossed a road that had been closed while Muslim prayers were going on.
In several press statements issued by Corinne Dufka on the Jos impasse, Human Rights Watch called on the Nigerian government to “take concrete steps to end the discriminatory policies that treat certain groups as second-class citizens” which it says “lie at the root of much of the inter-communal violence in Nigeria.” “In Jos, members of the largely Muslim Hausa ethnic group are classified as non-indigenes though many have resided there for several generations.” In effect, Dufka is saying that there is discrimination against the Hausa/Fulani in Jos which she holds responsible for the perennial bloodletting in the city. But this is not true.
Let’s explain the settler/indigene dichotomy in Nigeria to Human Rights Watch.
Since independence, there is a general agreement albeit an unwritten one that certain ethnic groups are considered indigenous to different parts of the country for the sake of peace and stability.
What this means is that the chieftaincy (traditional political) institutions in these parts are exclusively reserved for these groups. However, there is no law that prevents a resident non-indigene from becoming the Governor of a State or the Chairperson of a Local Government in the state. In fact, there’re currently two commissioners of Igbo origin in the cabinet of Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola of Lagos.
In the case of Jos, the recognised indigenous peoples are the Berom, Anaguta and Afizere. In fact, these ethnics are not found in any other part of the country.
The Hausa/Fulani and other large communities in Jos, such as the Yorubas, Uhrobos and Igbos, came to the area in the wake of the tin mining activities of the British about 120 years ago. In fact, the first Church in Jos, a Baptist Church, was built by the Yorubas in 1910.
Out of all the ethnic groups, only the Hausa-Fulani contest the indigeneship of Jos with the Berom, Anaguta and Afizere. The purpose is to enable them to coronate their own traditional ruler, an Emir, which will conflict with and eventually lead to the abolition of the institution of the Gbong Gwon, the nationally recognised traditional ruler of Jos, who is a Berom.
The present troubles in Jos are therefore a continuation of the historic battle to incorporate Jos into the Hausa/Fulani cultural sphere through violence. This would however amount to the indigenous peoples losing their cultural sovereignty – with eventual curtailments to the exercise of their religious freedom. In the latter part of the colonial era and until the coup that brought Yakubu Gowon into power in 1966, the Hausa/Fulani-dominated regional government of Northern Nigeria mounted pressure on the then Gbong Gwom and the Berom elite to convert to Islam.
In Plateau State, there is a commissioner of Hausa-Fulani origin in the cabinet of Governor Jonah Jang while the legislator representing the federal constituency to which Jos belongs in the Federal House of Representatives in Abuja is a Hausa-Fulani. His name is Samaila Ibrahim and he was freely elected by an electorate that was not mainly Hausa/Fulani.
The claim that the Hausa/Fulani are being discriminated against in state employment is only propaganda. Which state in Nigeria employs on any appreciable scale today? Most of them actually have difficulties coping with their monthly wage bills hence there have been retrenchment by the governments of many states in the country in the last 10 years.
In truth, the Hausa/Fulani have no legitimate grievances in Jos.
The strategy of the Hausa-Fulani Jihadists in the battle of Jos in beclouding the issues at stake is to falsely portray themselves as victims and thereby occupy the moral high ground, and make the conflict intractable.
And during the organised killing campaigns, the murderous rioters are instructed to target all non-Hausa/Fulani inhabitants of the city irrespective of their ethnicity or religion, and their economic assets – a strategy aimed at driving away as many people as possible from the city until such a time that those remaining will willingly succumb to whatever demand of the Hausa-Fulani in the city, which is an Emirate.
President Jonathan should probe the role of Human Rights Watch in the Jos crisis. Human Rights Watch should also check the background of Corinne Dufka and its workers in Nigeria, as they’re obviously partial.