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Rejoinder to Human Rights Watch on Jos

Source: huhuonline.com

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 or specifically, its so-called “senior West Africa

researcher” Corinne Dufka has taken sides with the Hausa-Fulani forces in the Jos killings. 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 corpers 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 organization portrayed Hausa/Fulani as victims of mass murder in a conflict in which elements from their community 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?

Our uncritical press just adopted the story without much of a thought about its authenticity.And during the recent killings in Jos, it was Corinne Dufka who appeared almost daily on Al Jazeera to explain the conflict to their international viewers and she was extensively quoted by BBC, Reuters, AP and other international media organizations. Yet, the white American 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.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 obviously helps the trouble-makers in the city to mobilize support from the entire Muslim North and even from international terror organizations for their next murderous campaign.At the heat of the crisis in January, 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 it spreading to other states. All these show how dangerous the intervention of this so-called human rights organization in the Jos conflict 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.Last week, 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. 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 Hausa/Fulani elements 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.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.

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 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. 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've obviously taken sides.

By Akeem Adebayo
Dublin, Ireland