CAIRO – An international human rights group has accused Nigerian authorities of largely ignoring mass killings in the nation's religiously mixed central region, cataloguing horrific sectarian violence which left more than 3000 people dead since 2010.
“Witnesses came forward to tell their stories, compiled lists of the dead, and identified the attackers, but in most cases nothing was done,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a press release obtained by OnIslam.net on Thursday, December 12.
“The authorities may have forgotten these killings, but communities haven’t. In the absence of justice, residents have resorted to violence to avenge their losses.”
Many victims of the communal violence – including women and children – were hacked to death, burned alive, or shot simply based on their ethnic or religious identity.
The 146-page report, “‘Leave Everything to God’: Accountability for Inter-Communal Violence in Plateau and Kaduna States, Nigeria,” examines the government’s failure to hold perpetrators accountable, even though many of their identities are well-known in the affected communities.
The report was based on interviews with 180 witnesses and victims in Kaduna and Plateau states, which lie in Nigeria's volatile “Middle Belt”, where the largely Christian south meets the mostly Muslim north.
One of the witnesses is a man who witnessed the murder of his father in January 2010 in a rural community in Plateau State.
After the death of his father, the man went to the police and reported the crime, but he still sees the people who killed his father moving freely about the community.
“If this happens again, I wouldn’t go to the police – it is a waste of time,” he told HRW.
“They will take no action.”
Plateau State has suffered more than a decade of recurring bloody episodes of communal violence, which have left thousands of Christians and Muslims dead.
However, the Nigerian authorities have taken no meaningful steps to address underlying grievances or, until recently, bring to justice those responsible for the bloodshed.
Now, the most common reason cited for not reporting the crimes was summarized by a resident in rural Kaduna State: “The police won’t do anything.”
Jos lies in the Middle Belt region between the predominately Christian south and mainly Muslim north of Africa's most populous nation.
Sectarian clashes in Jos in 2010, for example, sparked the massacre of Muslims, including rural Fulani, and counter massacres of Christians, mostly from the Berom ethnic group. The violence that year left more than 1,000 people dead, Human Rights Watch said.
Last year, incoming Police Inspector General Mohammed Abubakar said Nigeria's force had fallen to its lowest level with officers perverting justice, locking up innocent people and carrying out torture and extra-judicial killings.
President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an overhaul of the police in February 2012 when appointing Abubakar and the police chief has claimed improvements have since been made.
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