Nigeria: Range Wars Return


December 3,
Police and soldiers in Jos, the capital Plateau State, have stopped the
violence. But at least 400 were killed, and the death toll will rise as more
bodies are found. A curfew was imposed, and ringleaders of the mobs were being
tracked down and arrested.
The religious
violence in Plateau State goes back to ancient tribal conflicts between the
Fulani tribes from the north, who are largely herders and Moslem, and other
tribes from the south, who have come into contact with the Fulani, but are
farmers and largely Christian. Christians are also angry over the use of
Islamic law in northern, largely Moslem, states. This religious law is being
imposed on non-Moslems, despite protests from the federal government and the
non-Moslems involved.
government intervention four years ago halted three years of violence that left
over 50,000 dead (17,459 children, 17,397 women and 18,931 men). This sort of
conflict is common the world over. During the late 19th century, the United
States suffered several local outbreaks ("Range Wars") between groups
of farmers and ranchers. Religion (between Protestants and Christians) was sometimes
a minor factor, but it was mostly about land and water rights. Tribal and
religious animosities in Nigeria only make the Range Wars there more deadly.
December 2,
2008: A government commission recommended that the best way to deal with the
growing violence in the oil producing Niger Delta was to divert about a quarter
of the oil revenue to the region, and release the leader of the largest rebel
organization, MEND, from prison. In effect, the commission is saying, pay them
off. MEND and other gangs have grown rich from stealing oil. But if the Niger
Delta states got a lot more money (and most of it was not stolen by corrupt
politicians, and that's a big "if"), there would be more local
incentive to not steal oil, and to go after those that do. The rest of the
country may not be too enthusiastic about giving up 10-15 percent of their
current share of oil revenues. Meanwhile, the kidnappers of a British oil
worker in the Niger Delta, are demanding a $2.4 million ransom.
November 29,
2008: Religious violence has broken out in Jos, the capital Plateau State, in
the center of the country. It started as street battles over a disputed
election (the first local elections in a decade), but quickly escalated.
November 28,
2008: Nearly a thousand young men in the Niger Delta have accepted the amnesty
program, turned in their weapons, and will receive job training. Many will be
sent overseas (to South Africa, Norway and the United States for the training.
While most of the subjects taught will be directly applicable to getting a job
(welding, carpentry and the like), there will also be anger management classes.
November 27,
2008: A Nigerian firm that supplies ten percent of the worlds supply of LNG (liquefied
natural gas) has told its customers that it will have to shut down ones of its
largest liquefaction plants because thieves have tapped gas lines so often that
that major parts of the system have to be shut down for a month or more of
major repairs. The extensive gas and oil pipelines in the Niger River Delta are
under increasing attack by thieves, as stealing gas and oil are two of the
easiest (and most dangerous) ways to make money in the otherwise poor region.




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