Saturday, March 19, 2011

NIGERIA: THOUSANDS DISPLACED IN BAUCHI STATE AS ATTACKS ON VILLAGES CONTINUE

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports on 18 March 2011

Over 4000 people are now reported to have been displaced in a series of night attacks by heavily-armed Fulani tribesmen on the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area (LGA) in Bauchi State that began in the early hours of 10 March.

These attacks have continued despite the deployment of security personnel to the area. During the latest attack on 16 March, Sama Ila, Barau and Lukka Sabo, Zakka Y. Maidawa, and Pastor Markus Kele of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) were murdered in Lim Village.

According to church sources, so far around 463 homes, 11 shops and 13 churches have been torched in the villages of Tafare, Gwashe, Gumel, Gongo, Malanchi, Mingil and Malanci Zwal in Tafawa Balewa LGA. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also reported on 17 March that it was currently caring for approximately 4500 internally displaced people (IDP’s) in makeshift camps set up in primary schools in eight localities.

Local sources attribute the attacks to a group of around 2,000 militants from Niger, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto and other northern Nigerian states. The men allegedly wear army and mobile police uniforms, and are reportedly encamped in the Bununu area of Tafawa Balewa LGA. According to information received by the Bauchi Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the group allegedly plans to “storm the area for fourteen days”.

Tafawa Balewa is predominantly inhabited by non-Muslims from the Tsayawa tribe. The area has experienced numerous sectarian attacks since 1991, when a disagreement between a Fulani man and a Tsayawa meat seller escalated into violence in which close to 1000 villages were burnt, 173 churches were destroyed, and 400 people lost their lives.

In a comment to a local newspaper after the initial outbreak of violence, Bukuta Zhadi, Secretary of the Tsawaya Council of Elders in Bogoro and Tafawa Balewa, blamed the outbreak of violence on a statement allegedly made by Bauchi State Governor Isa Yaguda, where he reportedly threatened to “demolish the area and hand it over to the Fulani men for grazing, should there ever be any disturbance again by the people… So the governor has actually succeeded in destroying the area”.

CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said: “It is unacceptable that lives are being lost and such large-scale destruction is occurring despite the presence of additional security personnel in Tafawa Balewa. Moreover, given the area’s history of sectarian tension and violence, it would be profoundly disappointing if the Governor of Bauchi did indeed make the remarks attributed to him, as they would not only be deeply irresponsible, but are also unworthy of the premier public servant of any state. If these allegations prove to be true, then, clearly, the people of Tafawa Balewa can only be protected by urgent and effective security measures taken at federal level.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Matthew Jones, Public Affairs Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 7826 938360, email matthewjones@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

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