Religious Violence Heats Up In Nigeria

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In what appears to be a vengeance attack, hundreds of Christian villagers in Nigeria were slaughtered by a group of Muslims on Sunday. The villages were outside the city of Jos, which sits in the center of the country, along the divide between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Mannir Dan-Ali, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Trust newspaper in the Nigerian capital Abuja, talks to Renee Montagne up the renewed attacks.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

In Nigeria today, people are taking the measure of the carnage. In what appears to be a vengeance attack, hundreds of Christian villagers were slaughtered on Sunday by a group of Muslims. The attackers killed their victims with machetes and knives, many of them women and children.

The villages are outside the city of Jos, which sits in the center of the country, along the divide between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Joining us for more is Mannir Dan-Ali, Editor-in-Chief of the�Daily Trust�newspaper in Nigeria's capital Abuja.

Welcome to the program.

Mr. MANNIR DAN-ALI (Editor-in-Chief, Daily Trust newspaper): Hello, good morning.

MONTAGNE: What set off this latest outbreak of violence in what has been something of a cycle of violence?

Mr. DAN-ALI: Many see it as a reprisal attack. That is what the Nigeria police in Jos are calling it. That is it refers to what happened last January this year when there are similar attacks against the house of Fulani Muslims who live in some villages on the outskirts of Jos.

Almost a similar number of people were slaughtered, they were macheted or gunned down and their properties were similarly burned. So for the security agencies should have known that this kind of thing may occur again.

MONTAGNE: You know, break down, though, for an American audience who doesn't know all the details. Why has there been this violence in the past few years, between Muslims, who mostly are in the north, and Christians in the south? Why this violence and why exactly in this area?

Mr. DAN-ALI: Well, there are several reasons. The specific ones to do with Jos have to do with largely economic reasons. There is this large number of settlers because the area is very good for farming activity and, of course, it's a major commercial center. There are a lot of opportunities for people who want to do business there.

So because of that and the fact that some of them have been when (unintelligible) in some cases when the indigenous people have this (unintelligible), this feeling that why would somebody who is not originally from that area be doing so well.

MONTAGNE: So just to simplify, you're saying that there were people who were there before, the indigenous people, in the area who are not doing so well, economically. There are other newer people coming in who are doing better. Can you break that down by religion or is that separate altogether?

Mr. DAN-ALI: The indigenous people who see that they are not doing as well are Christians. And then you have these Muslims who are settlers, some of whom are being (inaudible) the indigenous people. So you have this division. And you find that there are people who are keen to exploit these differences and set the place on fire.

MONTAGNE: And all of this is happening as the president is out of the picture. He's apparently ill. He has not been seen in public for several months. There is an interim president. Has that affected what action the central Nigerian government has done to stop this violence?

Mr. DAN-ALI: I will say not much. I think part of the reason why the incidents keep recurring is that you will find that whenever these crises happen the people behind it, people who may have participated in the killing, get away, so it takes too long before justice is done.

So that is why a lot of people don't have a lot of confidence in what the authorities will do. That is why people would rather take the law into their hands and revenge. That is why even our newspaper, the editorial is saying that the authorities have to really reelect their responsibility and take charge of the situation, first to bring an end this tit-for-tat madness.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. DAN-ALI: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Mannir DAN-ALI is the editor of Nigeria's newspaper, the Daily Trust.

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