For some time now, the status of the tin rich city of Jos has changed from a city of peoples dreams to one of the troubled spots in Nigeria. Countless people have been killed in while thousands have been displaced in orgies of violence. Unfortunately, the problem of Jos seems to defy solution. Not even the deployment of military personnel has stopped the killings.
In a United States Embassy diplomatic cable dated 5th December, 2008, and marked “SECRET”, the American Ambassador to Nigeria notified her home government of a meeting with Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang. In the said meeting, the Governor told the Ambassador that the Jos crisis of that year was not really a Local Government Election issue as it was widely thought. Rather, the Governor said it was a matter of a certain part of the city’s population wanting the installation of an Emir, a move the Governor said would be like “creating a second Queen of England”.
The Ambassador also noted back then in 2008 that “until the indigene (Christian) vs. believed-to-be settler (Hausa) issue is addressed and resolved, violence between Muslims and Christians in Jos can erupt over any issue and anything can become the spark”.
The cable reads inter alia:
C. ABUJA 2358 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Ambassador Robin R. Sanders for reasons 1.4. (b & d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador (with Poloff and USAIDoff as notetakers) met with Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), his Chief Economic Advisor JG Buba, and Chief Security Advisor Nuhu Musa at her residence on December 4 to discuss the recent violence in Jos as well as humanitarian issues surrounding internally displaced persons (IDPs). Jang maintained that the violence did not begin as an election issue, but rather purely as a religious conflict based on historical root causes of Hausas wanting an Emir-ship in Jos (where there is none). Jang had just come from a meeting with President Yar’Adua. He said they agreed to establish an inquiry into the root causes of the religious violence and ensure that those who perpetrated the violence be prosecuted. Jang and his entourage maintain that 30-40 Chadians and 16 Nigeriens who are being held by the security service, are not and have not been residents of Jos prior to this incident. We note that the religious Emir issue and the elections are very much intertwined. Local Government Chairmen have the authority to determine who is an indigene (or originally from Jos) which in turn can determine whether Jos ends up with an Emir-ship or not. Ambassador has asked RAO to look into troubling issue of whether outside Chadians or Nigeriens were involved. Right now we are leaning toward discounting Jang’s claim, but need to rule out first the unexpected. RAO will report back.
2. (C) SUMMARY CON’T: Unable to provide concrete answers to Ambassador’s inquiries about the humanitarian situation, Jang promised to contact the Ambassador within the next week with more accurate and specific information, especially concerning the actual number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Ambassador also asked AID if it could plus-up existing support to NGO partners to assist with sheeting for shelter and some food. END SUMMARY.
3. (C) Ambassador met with Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, his Chief Economic Advisor JG Buba, and Chief Security Advisor Nuhu Musa at her residence on December 4. In response to Ambassador’s question about what instigated the recent conflict in Jos, Jang commented the November 27 violence was an “Al Qaeda-like” attack perpetrated by foreigners from Chad and Niger as well as from other Nigerian states, brought into Jos by the Muslim Hausa community.
(Comment: We consider Jang’s use of the term “Al Qaeda” hyperbole on his part. We do not believe the recent events are linked to Al Qaeda type extremists, but see comment section on Ambassador’s request for RAO action on fleshing this issue with its contacts so it can be fully discounted.
End Comment.) When Ambassador suggested that numerous Chadians and Nigeriens had resided in Jos for many years, Jang replied that he was told by the State Security Service (SSS) that the approximately 40 Chadians and 16 Nigeriens arrested by SSS confessed to traveling to Jos for the purpose of causing violence during the elections. (Note: We also note that SSS here have the means to make anyone confess to anything. End Note.) Jang also alleged that the Chadians and Nigeriens who were arrested were wearing Nigerian police and/or military uniforms and carrying “sophisticated guns.”
Ambassador questioned how security forces identified them as Chadians and Nigeriens in the midst of rioting if they were in fact wearing Nigerian military uniforms. Jang responded that people saw them killing before the military was officially deployed. Jang added that he received reports in the weeks leading up to the elections about an “influx” of foreigners into Jos. Apparently people reported “okada” (motorcycle taxi) drivers who were not able to find landmark locations in Jos, such as hotels and main streets, creating suspicion according to Jang as to who they were and why they were in Jos. Jang told Ambassador he repeatedly had his security services investigate, but they never found any evidence or proof of the allegations. Jang said that, as a result, the security services would also be investigated as he felt that they had let him down. (Note: Jang is being highly criticized for the poor handling of the security situation, particularly if the reports of Chadians and Nigeriens are true. End Note)
4. (C) Jang repeatedly insisted that the elections could not have caused the violence because they were free and fair, adding that observers agreed. Ambassador queried which organizations observed the elections, to which Jang replied he was uncertain. Jang also suggested that since the violence started long before the results were announced at 6pm on November 28, it could not have been the cause of the violence. (Note: Most observers and participants, including the main opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), agree that the actual election was well conducted. The violence allegedly started during the vote count on the night of November 27 due to reports of the PDP trying to manipulate the results against the Muslim ANPP candidates. When the results were announced in favor of the PDP candidate, amidst the already ensuing violence on November 28, this only added fuel to the fire. End Note.) Jang said that the PDP won all 17 LGA elections because the ANPP was non-existent in the rest of the state, except for a small area of Jos North where the fighting broke out.
5. (C) When Ambassador pressed Jang for an explanation of the violence if not due to the elections, Jang insisted it was purely religious “just like 2001.” Economic Advisor Buba explained that it was an “indigene” issue that repeatedly transformed into a religious conflict due to differing views on royal lineage and control over traditional practices between Muslims and Christians in the Jos area. Economic Advisor Buba said that the Hausa community in Jos wanted to establish an Emir in Jos to “gain control” of Jos Town. He said the Hausa community submitted a request to establish the Emir-ship, but did not meet the criteria, which included documentation of indigene status dating back centuries. Jang noted that Jos already had a Christian traditional leader called the “Gbong Gwom” (literally “Biggest Chief”) and there could not be two traditional religious leaders governing the same city. Jang compared it to creating a second Queen of England. Ambassador noted that since, based on their explanation, it would be difficult for the Hausa community to be able to claim indigene status in Jos, their dissatisfaction would continue, making it a no win situation.
Buba recounted that Yar’Adua and Jang at their meeting agreed to establish a council of inquiry to look into the traditional lineage question once and for all when the violence had died down. (Note: Contrary to Jang’s “historical” explanation, there are research books that demonstrate previous Hausa and Fulani Emirs in Jos prior to 1947 (as noted in 2004 ref D) when colonial authorities appointed a “Gbong Gwom of Birom” (Chief of Birom) which was later changed to “Gbong Gwom of Jos.” Although the Birom have indeed lived in the Jos area for hundreds of years, the traditional Christian institution of chiefs referred to by Jang was an arbitrary invention by the colonial authorities. End Note.)
6. (C) Jang also added that he and the President agreed to set up an official inquiry to determine who the true culprits were. Jang said the President noted that this was a recurring problem because no results came from previous investigations into similar outbreaks. Jang said that the Attorney General of the Federation Michael Aondoakaa and the Plateau State Attorney General would head the inquiry and select members to participate. Jang could not give a timeline of when this inquiry would start or conclude.
7. (C) Jang told Ambassador that during his meeting with President Yar’Adua, he requested federal assistance to help resettle the IDPs. When Ambassador inquired about existing state and federal government efforts to assist the IDPs, Jang replied that both were supplying food and medicine through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Nigerian Red Cross (NRC). When Ambassador asked for an estimated number of IDPs and what partner NGOs/civil society were assisting, Jang said he was not certain because his security services had not allowed him to travel within the city of Jos for several days for safety reasons. Jang offered, however, a guess of 4,000 IDPs at the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) facility, but stressed that it was purely an estimate. Ambassador requested more accurate figures from the Governor, questioning how it would be possible to determine the amount of resources needed if the number of people in need was unknown. Making no promises, she also asked him to provide a list of the NGOs/civil society groups working with NEMA and NRC so that we could determine if we could assist. (Note: Ambassador gave many opportunities for the Governor to request USG assistance, but he did not. He did promise to contact Ambassador within the next week with a more accurate description of the situations and needs. End Note.)
8. (C) After the Governor’s departure, Ambassador asked USAIDoff to look into the possibility of reallocating some existing AID funds for the possible purchase of plastic sheeting and other items that were currently on the needs list to plus-up our current partners working in the area. USAID will prepare the standard disaster cable for informational purposes, but we do not yet recommend calling forward an emergency response as things might get a lot worse before they get better and we may need to use this at a later date if things further deteriorate. However, if we get a better fix on the number of current IDPs and their needs, we will revisit the issue of calling on the emergency authority. Ambassador has asked AID to call together our NGO/civil society partners in order to get a better fix on the IDP numbers and on ground situation, particularly given that Jang is being fed all his information from the SSS and police.
9. (S) COMMENT: We agree with Economic Advisor Buba that the recurring violence in Jos is an indigene (Christian) vs. believed-to-be settler (Hausa) issue that continues to manifest as either political, ethnic or religious conflict. Ambassador has asked RAO to follow-up on the issue of Chadians and Nigeriens through their contacts and channels. There have been past intel reports on Chadians and Nigeriens recently being in Borno connected to radical cleric Yusuf Mohammed. Whether there is a connection or not to the Jos reports is not yet clear. We also note that there may not be a connection or a credible story regarding their presence, but the relevant Mission section will seek to clarify.
Political party leaders, including the ruling PDP, repeatedly draw upon religious or ethnic cards for their personal political gain, and this seems to also be one of those situations. On top of that, until the indigene (Christian) vs. believed-to-be settler (Hausa) issue is addressed and resolved, violence between Muslims and Christians in Jos can erupt over any issue and anything can become the spark. In this case, it was the LGA elections. We will continue to monitor the events closely, and will report RAO follow up on Chadian and Nigerien issue. END COMMENT.