Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nigeria Violence: Muslim-Christian Clashes Kill Hundreds

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nigeria Violence: Muslim-Christian Clashes Kill Hundreds

Article excerpt

As many as 500 people were killed Sunday in Nigeria violence that pitted Muslim herders against Christian farmers near the volatile city of Jos.

The central city of Jos is on high alert after Sunday's violence in Nigeria in which a late-night attack by herdsmen killed up to 500 people from nearby farming villages. The attack has been seen as a reprisal for attacks in January, in which about 300 herdsmen were killed by youths from the farming community.

The town of Jos is all too often a focal point for competition over the use of arable land in central and northern Nigeria, where climate change has dried up pasture lands and forced animal herders closer and closer to farming communities, where their herds can destroy crops.

Jos is also right on the de facto fault line separating Nigeria's mainly Muslim north from its mainly Christian south. The farming community in Jos is primarily Christian of the Berom ethnic group, while the herders are ethnic Fulanis who practice Islam.

COVER STORY: How land disputes are Africa's 'continental divide'

"Land is central to the conflict in Jos," says Ugar Ukandi Odey, a Jos-based news reporter for the Nigerian newspaper NEXT. Mr. Odey has been covering the attacks and the tense aftermath. "The Beroms are the original people of Jos, and the Fulanis are nomads moving around with cattle who have settled in amongst the Berom people. But it becomes ethnic and religious, because there are Christians on one side, and the Fulanis are Muslims on the other side."

Clash of cultures

Local disputes are common all along the cultural and ethnic dividing line between Nigeria's north and south. There are no signs that the crisis in Jos will have ripples beyond the immediate environs of Plateau State, where Jos is located, but Nigerian authorities aren't taking any chances. After all, Nigeria has just emerged from a national crisis of succession, in which a hospital- ridden northern Muslim president, Umaru YarAdua, has passed down power to a southern Christian, acting President Goodluck Jonathan, and where many northern politicians were signaling their willingness to put up a fight, at the polls at least, to pass the presidency to another northerner rather than to YarAdua's second-in-command. …

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