NIGERIANS this week buried the victims of a massacre near the central city of Jos. Many of the preÂdominantly Christian villagers who were killed were women and children. Mechanical excavators were used to prepare mass graves for those who had been killed in three villages in the small hours of Sunday morning. Reported numbers of dead varied between 100 and 500. Residents of the village of Dogo Nahawa, about 15 km south of Jos, say that herders from hills near by had attacked their village, shooting into the air before using machetes to cut down those who came out of their homes, one report said. The Archbishop of Jos, the Most Revd Benjamin Kwashi, wrote in a pastoral letter that the attacks showed a new dimension, â€œrevealing a system of well-trained terror groups. . . God knows which comÂmunÂity will be next.
Their merciless precision and fearlessness should give any government serious conÂcern.â€ The BBC reported that Saidu Dogo, secretary of the northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said that he beÂlieved that mercenaries from neighbourÂing Chad and Niger had been involved. Many reports said that the attacks were in response to sectarian violence in January, in which between 350 and 550 people died. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that the villages should have been properly protected after the January killings. The violence in Plateau State, which erupted also in 2001 and 2008, has been blamed on the divisions in Jos not only between Muslims and Christians, but also between inÂdigenes and the settlers, who have fewer rights.
Acting President Goodluck JonÂathan sacked the countryâ€™s national security adviser, Sarki Mukhtar, in an apparent response to the killings. Nigerian troops were patrolling the villages this week, and police said that they had arrested more than 90 people suspected of inciting violence. The residents of nearby villages were reported to be preparing to flee, fearing a fresh wave of violence.
Archbishop Kwashi wrote in his letter that members of the Muslim Fulani group had attacked the villages from about 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. â€œSome of these communities may never again be recognised in history because generaÂtions have been wiped out. Hundreds of corpses of men, women, children, and grandchildren littered the burnt houses, roads, bush paths, farm areas, and hiding places. Tears and endless wailings until voices croaked and words are no more.â€ The attack took place despite a curfew designed to stop such attacks, he said. The failure of government to provide full security had left people with little option but to provide for their own kind of security.
But that led to vengeance, retaliation, bitterÂness, hatred, and malice, and â€œan almost endless cycle of senseless violence as can be seen in many nations of the world todayâ€. Archbishop Kwashi wanted to know why the government had not prevented the attacks either last Sunday or in January. â€œAre there no leaders who fear God, who will swallow their pride and choose to be humble before God for the sake of those faces of slaughtered children? â€œI know as of fact of many Christian religious, political, and community leaders who are willing and prepared peacefully to arrive at workable conditions for people to live with. I also know as of fact that there are Muslim religious, political, and community leaders who are willing to find solutions.â€