Case Study on the Management of Identity
Can Nigeria Achieve Unity in Diversity?
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Report Written by Dr. Pauline H. Baker Nate Haken Will Ferroggiaro The Fund for Peace Publication FFP : CPGPR1210 (Version 1210A) Circulation: PUBLIC
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Unity in Nigeria
Foreword & Contents This report—Can Nigeria Achieve Unity in Diversity?—is the first in a series of papers examining how different countries manage ethnic, racial, religious, or other identities in order to prevent conflict leading to mass atrocities and genocide. The paper examines Nigeria’s political institutions, legal structures, and policy initiatives to address the issues arising from its complex society. Several measures were adopted to encourage broad political inclusion and reduce the potential for conflict. First, Nigeria has created additional states from its original four regionally-based states in order to decentralize power to avoid secessionist movements and respond to demands for statehood from minorities. Second, a constitutional provision was established requiring “the federal character” to be reflected through state representation at the center through the “federal character” principle, which requires the national cabinet to include at least one minister from each of the 36 states. At the local level, the constitution provided for a preference for “indigenes” (by custom, this refers to those whose ancestors were original inhabitants of the community) over “non-indigenes” (those who migrated, or whose ancestors migrated, to the area). These designations affect the allocation of land, jobs, education, and political appointments. Third, an informal “power shifting” practice (sometimes referred to as the “zoning” or “rotational” rule) was adopted for the presidential nomination process of the dominant political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It requires presidential nominees to rotate between Southerners and Northerners at least once every two terms (or eight years). Fourth, the electoral system was amended to discourage ethnic voting and secessionist
tendencies. It requires, in addition to the popular vote, that a presidential candidate has to receive one-quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of the states plus the federal capital to be declared a winner. On the surface, this provision appears to establish a government based on a broad mandate; in practice, it encourages political parties to pressure local agents to record winning votes in their areas at any cost. This requirement has had the effect of incentivizing fraud in elections, undermining political legitimacy, and generating public cynicism about elections generally. Finally, the positive effects that might have emerged from these efforts to foster political inclusion were undermined by a steady trend toward political centralization that emerged during approximately three decades of military rule. In sum, the Nigerian experience shows the weakness of stressing form over function in managing diversity. Nigeria’s challenges in integrating ethnic, regional and religious identities into a framework based on national unity remain. Indeed, Nigeria could fragment again, and particular groups could again become targets of mass atrocities. This paper and subsequent papers are produced by The Fund for Peace working with the cooperation of the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser of the SecretaryGeneral on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG) in order to assist the Special Adviser in his early warning and prevention efforts. The mandate of the Special Adviser is to make recommendations to the SecretaryGeneral and through him, the United Nations Security Council, to prevent genocide, and to inform and educate opinion leaders and policy makers on how to recognize and prevent potential genocides. In support of
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Application of the Genocide Framework Inter-Group Relations
Capacity of the State
Presence of Illegal Arms and Armed Elements
Motivation of Leading Actors
Circumstances that Facilitate Genocide
Evidence of Intent to Destroy
Conclusion and Recommendations
Appendix: UN Genocide Analysis Framework
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the Office, the FfP is producing this series of objective case studies that identify the factors for identity conflict as well as government actions that either exacerbate or mitigate identity-related conflict. The primary goal of the papers is to identify best practices in how countries addressed identity and fostered inclusion so as to avoid such conflict. The concept and modalities for the series of papers, as well as the countries to be examined, were jointly agreed between FfP
and OSAPG. The papers employ the OSAPG Analysis Framework as a central lens on the issues. Drafts of the papers are peer reviewed by an independent expert reviewer chosen by FfP, a senior UN official, and OSAPG. The Fund for Peace finalizes the papers for dissemination within the UN system and to a broader public audience. This initiative has been generously supported by Humanity United, while the series of dialogues on the papers is supported by The Stanley Foundation.
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The principal author of this paper is Dr. Pauline H. Baker, President Emeritus of The Fund for Peace. Senior Associates Will Ferroggiaro and Nate Haken contributed drafting, editing, and research, and FfP Intern Shane Hensinger assisted in production of the report. It was reviewed by John Campbell (U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria 2004-2007); a senior UN Department of Political Affairs official; and the Special Adviser and his staff. However, the views contained herein are solely those of The Fund for Peace.
Unity in Nigeria
1. Nigeria was widely expected to be a “showcase of democracy” and a “giant of Africa” at the time of independence in 1960. It had an agricultural economy, an educated middle class, a large number of professionals (judges, lawyers, civil servants, and entrepreneurs), a free press, and a parliamentary system based on a federal constitution that was peacefully negotiated with Britain, its former colonial ruler. It was widely believed that when Nigeria celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2010, it would have a diversified economy, a robust democracy, and a leading role in international diplomacy. 2. Boasting an estimated population of 158 million, Nigeria’s cultural diversity is a major feature that has been one of the country’s proudest characteristics. 1 The most heterogeneous country in Sub-Saharan Africa, it contains at least 250 ethno-linguistic groups, approximately half of whom are Muslim, 40% Christian, and the remainder adhering to traditional beliefs, although there is often a blending of religious practices. The country is more than twice the size of California, with a variety of topographical zones stretching from the arid southern rim of the Sahara Desert in the north to the dense
tropical mangrove swamps of the Gulf of Guinea in the south. Since independence, the population has become increasingly young (forty-two percent are under the age of fourteen), urban (forty-eight percent live in cities and towns), and unequal (billionaires proliferate while 70% of the country is classified as poor, with 35% living in absolute poverty). 2 The average life expectancy is only forty-seven years and average school retention is eight years. The Harvard School of Public Health stated in a recent study that “Nigeria stands ready to collect a substantial demographic dividend if it continues with recent positive economic growth, improves health standards, and harnesses a growing workforce.” However, it warned that because of the “lost decade” of the 1990s, when per capital GDP fell below 1980 levels, if Nigeria fails to take the necessary steps soon, its prospects will be bleak and could be catastrophic … Demographic factors are steadily elevating Nigeria’s risk of conflict.”3 3. Nigeria contains more historic pre-colonial kingdoms than any other country in Africa, some dating back to the fifth century. Its sixty
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years of British colonial rule saw frequent administrative reclassifications to unify the ethnic and religious mosaic into a single state. Post-independence leaders continued to experiment with various methods of political inclusion, many of which were highly creative. Yet decades of military rule, enormous oil profits, and a one party dominant political system fostered political centralization that strained national unity and fostered unaccountability. While Nigeria has exerted an influential voice in diplomatic circles, its internal weaknesses have prevented it from fulfilling its early promise. Nigeria remains highly fragile, having experienced a brutal civil war, military coups, an armed insurgency, communal atrocities, religious conflict, and the rise of fundamentalist sects. The country is largely governed by ex-generals and business tycoons who operate as political “godfathers” making back-room deals to wield power and accumulate personal w ealth. State institutions remain weak, inter-group relations are tense, the economy is suffering from “the resource curse,” and national unity is far from assured.
Unity in Nigeria
4. While there were ethnic tensions within the federation dating back to colonial rule, the first appearance of violent ethnicbased conflict in the country occurred in 1966, when a military coup d’état was mounted following a rigged election in the then Western Region. A group of mostly Igbo army officers overthrew the northern Hausa Fulani-dominated government, ostensibly to eliminate political corruption. The murder and mutilation of top government and Muslim leaders was seen as an Igbo plot to install an anti-northern government in power. Following a pro-north counter-coup six months later, fighting broke out nationwide with pogroms targeting Igbos. Most were driven back to their area of origin in the then Eastern Region. A Middle Belt Christian general, Yakubu Gowan, was selected as a compromise candidate to run the military government following the coup, but it was too late to contain the forces of fragmentation. In 1967, rebel Igbo leaders declared the independence of the breakaway state of Biafra (comprising the entire former Eastern Region), a territory that was populated not only by Igbos, but by minorities who historically feared Igbo domination—Ijaw, Itsekiri, Ogoni, Calabari, Rivers and others in the oil-rich Niger Delta. One million people were estimated to have died in the ensuing Nigerian Civil War (19671970). 5. When the Nigerian military overran the Biafran territory in 1970, there were widespread fears of genocidal revenge against the Igbos. Instead, the federal government declared a “no victors, no van quis h ed” polic y to promot e reconciliation. Rebel leaders who had fled the country were invited back; they were neither put on trial nor punished. Forty years after the end of the Biafran War,4 many
believe that there is still a bias against Igbos occupying high offices. Yet Goodluck Jonathan appointed an Igbo as Chief of Army Staff, a key post, in September 2010 as part of a general military shake-up, an action applauded by Igbo civil groups. Whether an Igbo could be nominated for president by a major party remains an open question. Windfall profits that the country received just at the end of the civil war from the dramatic rise in oil prices allowed the government to soothe lingering ethnic grievances at the end of the civil war. The distribution of oil money and the policy of reconciliation eased the reunion, and Nigeria turned its attention toward becoming one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, as the country’s economy transitioned to one based largely on the extractive industry. 6. While Nigeria rebounded quickly from the civil war and there was no policy of recrimination, the war and the subsequent restructuring of the economy set the stage for another source of unrest that erupted in the 1980s—an armed insurgency by ethnic minorities in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, the minority areas of the former breakaway Biafran region. Both the Biafran War and the Niger Delta rebellion have shaped the way Nigeria managed political diversity. Several measures were adopted to encourage broad political inclusion, of which four are especially notable. It is important to understand these efforts in order to grasp the context in which inter-group relations exist within the country. 7. First, there was a proliferation of states. In the beginning, this was done to divide the political opposition, but after the civil war it was intended to decentralize power to avoid more secessionist movements and respond to demands for statehood from minorities. Out
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of the original three regions at independence, Nigeria was re-divided into four “regions” in 1963, then into 12 “states” in 1967, 19 in 1977, 21 in 1987, 30 in 1991, and 36 in 1996. The proliferation of states led to a proliferation of bureaucracies and patronage. It also prompted a new process of disbursing federal revenue, particularly after the civil war, when allocations began to be distributed directly from the central government to state governors who, in turn, reallocated sums to local government chairmen. This was the beginning of a new revenue-allocation process which created more opportunities for corruption as well as a new class of power brokers—state governors who continue to wield extensive influence. Revenue distribution focused on which persons received funds in the hierarchy of power rather than which authorities, such as the state legislatures or treasuries. Political competition for holding office, even at the local level, then intensified dramatically because the winners had direct access to revenue from oil allocations. 8. Second, a constitutional provision was established requiring state representation to be reflected at the center through the “federal character” principle, which requires the national cabinet to include at least one minister from each of the 36 states. At the local level, the constitution provided for a preference for “indigenes” (by custom, this refers to those whose ancestors were original inhabitants of the community) over “nonindigenes” (those who migrated, or whose ancestors migrated, to the area). The designation affects the allocation of land, jobs, education, and political appointments. However, the definition of “indigene” versus “non-indigene” is unclear in the constitution. The principle has had the negative effect of establishing two classes of citizens, with
different rights in different areas of the country. This has led to inter-group clashes, particularly in mixed communities in the North, including cities with substantial clusters of Nigerians who migrate to towns for economic opportunity. They are often regarded as “foreigners” by the locals, even if their families have lived there for generations. 9. Third, an informal “power shifting” practice (sometimes referred to as the “zoning” or “rotational” rule) was adopted for the presidential nomination process of the dominant political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Unwritten and untested in court, this principle has become accepted as standard practice by most political parties. It requires presidential nominees to rotate between Christian Southerners and Muslim Northerners at least once every two terms (or eight years). Over time, it has created constitutional crises, as happened with the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim northerner, in June 2010, before the expiration of his first term. His death meant that there was an automatic power shift from the North to the South. This set off an intense controversy over whether Yar’Adua’s successor, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw from the SouthSouth region, was entitled to run for political office in the 2011 election under the zoning rule. Leaders from the North claimed he could not, as Yar’Adua had not served his full term.5 Others, especially from the SouthSouth, argued that Jonathan should be allowed to run for office, and that the powershifting rule should be dropped. 10. Fourth, the electoral system was amended to discourage ethnic voting and secessionist tendencies. It requires, in addition to the popular vote, that a
presidential candidate has to receive onequarter of the votes cast in each of two-thirds of the states plus the federal capital to be declared a winner. On the surface, this provision appears to establish a government based on a broad mandate; in practice, it encourages political parties to pressure local agents to record winning votes in their areas at any cost, including rigging, to meet the necessary electoral quotas. This requirement has had the effect of incentivizing fraud in elections, undermining the political legitimacy of several presidencies, and generating public cynicism about elections generally. 11. At the time they were adopted, these four measures to broaden political representation were thought to be the political glue that would bring diverse elements of the country together. However, they had unintended consequences that often produced the opposite effect. Institutionalizing ethnoreligious identity as the centerpiece of political representation downgraded merit and performance as qualifications for office and reinforced political competition along ethno-religious lines. In addition, ambiguities about the rights of indigenes and nonindigenes eroded the concept of citizenship with equal rights under the law throughout the country. 12. The power-shifting or zoning principle caused other political difficulties, in particular, tensions regarding presidential succession. The debate over the nomination process following Yar’Adua’s death threatened key policy initiatives, including the amnesty and cease fire for the Niger Delta. It also deepened splits within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and sharpened the north-south/Muslim-Christian rivalries.
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13. Moreover, these measures intensified the gap between minorities, on the one hand, which represent roughly 40% of the population, and the big three ethnic groups— the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo— on the other hand, which together represent 60% of the population. Historically, the big three have had more access to government jobs, contracts, education, and political patronage. Minority grievances have been expressed in many ways in different parts of the country. In the Niger Delta, they exploded in the 1990s into an armed insurgency in the core oil-producing states in the southeast part of the country. In the Middle Belt and mixed cities in the north with many minorities, communal clashes have been common for decades, breaking out most frequently when land and water became scarce. The conflict in the Niger Delta with several minorities did not involve religious disputes (its population is predominantly Christian); the causes of friction there were rooted in grievances from environmental degradation and competition for resources.6 14. Finally, the positive effects that might have emerged from these efforts to foster political inclusion were undermined by a steady trend toward political centralization that emerged during approximately three decades of military rule. From 1970 to 1999, power and wealth was concentrated in the hands of unaccountable military elites and their business associates, even as steps were being taken to devolve formal power to the states. When civilian rule returned in 1999, there was little change in this trend, as the system benefited civilian politicians as well as generals. Since most government revenue came from oil profits rather than taxes, and since the PDP had become the dominant political party, the ruling elites had ample
resources for using patronage to maintain control. Opposition parties were represented in the national assembly and at the state level. In this respect, the creation of more states and the distribution of revenue allowed state governors to become formidable political actors in their own right. Nonetheless, even if they belonged to opposition parties, they, too, assimilated into the political system that is widely known in Nigeria as being based on political “godfathers” or informal power brokers, consisting of former office-holders, exgenerals, business leaders, state governors, powerful local government chairmen, and current federal officials, who use patronage and oil revenues for self-aggrandizement and political survival.
marriage, divorce, and land issues.
15. As a result, the cultivation of democratic institutions, the elimination of poverty, and the building of critical infrastructure have all been neglected. With that neglect, federalism weakened, corruption soared, economic development stalled, the integrity of state institutions eroded, inequality worsened, and the North/South rivalry intensified. As the quality and capacity of governance declined, many groups felt marginalized and alienated, as the state failed to provide basic services, including security and justice. The erosion of the judicial system, in particular, prompted twelve northern states, or one-third of the country, to adopt Sharia law in 2000, to achieve some form of dispute resolution and to instill a moral code that secular courts lacked. While the Islamic code had been practiced in civil cases in Nigeria for centuries, this was the first time it was applied to criminal violations, with harsh punishments from the Islamic code that are offensive to human rights advocates. In 2002, Islamic law was also adopted in a southern state, Oyo, for civil law cases only, such as
17. In this atmosphere, inter-group friction has grown. Some estimates put the number of civilians who have died from intercommunal violence since 1999 as high as 13,000 (thirteen thousand), a figure which others have challenged as being too low. There is no authoritative figure, and while commissions have been established, there has been no official investigation.7 Most perpetrators have gone unpunished, especially those who incited communal violence in the Northern and Middle Belt regions. Rebels in the Niger Delta have also widened their range of operations, with the Ijaws in the forefront of armed resistance. Some militants accepted the Yar’Adua amnesty offer made in June 2009, but holdouts have resumed scattered attacks due to disappointment over unfulfilled promises of training and employment, the lack of a political process that addresses the root issues behind the rebellion, and the absence of a robust reintegration program. Most of the amnesty program is based simply on “buy -outs” of individuals, a practice that is not
16. Though formally exempting Christians, Sharia law created fear among Christians living in states that adopted it. Violent riots erupted, particular in northern cities with Christian populations. Nigeria’s Islamic elites have traditionally been moderate, so the more radical versions of Sharia law are also a threat to the Muslim establishment, particularly the emirs and imams who have managed Islamic practices in the past. However, Islamic radicalism appears to be attractive in areas with poor governance and low economic development, such as the impoverished North, where agricultural and manufacturing sectors have withered as the country’s oil industry prospered.
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sustainable. Once payments to the exmilitants stop, they could go back to militancy or crime due to economic desperation. Criminality in the Niger Delta has increased, including armed robbery, k i d na p p i n g f or r a n s o m, p o li ti c a l assassinations, and violence against journalists. 18. In sum, although the resolution of the Nigerian civil war succeeded in preserving the territorial integrity of the country, it did not resolve the fundamental problem of integrating ethnic, regional and religious identities into a framework based on national unity. Nigeria could fragment again, and particular groups could again become targets of mass atrocities. 19. The Nigerian experience shows the weakness of stressing form over function in managing diversity. There were political motives behind some of the measures adopted to institutionalize diversity, but there was also a sincere desire to avert break -away movements that could split the country apart. Because these measures were not well thought-out or implemented, however, they had unintended consequences that undermined national unity and created or deepened group grievances. As Nigeria enters a new political era, it is an open question whether sufficient reforms will be made to reverse these trends. Communal groups cannot be adequately protected until there is good governance, the rule of law, equal citizenship rights, fiscal transparency, equitable economic development, and an end to impunity for violators of human rights—all of which will require committed leadership backed by an inter-ethnic and inter-religious elite coalition dedicated to achieving these goals.
Unity in Nigeria
Application of the Genocide Framework Inter-Group Relations 20. Violence among identity groups has occurred several times in different locations over the course of fifty years of Nigerian independence. Historically, targeted acts of genocide on a large scale were committed only once—in the period preceding the outbreak of the Biafran War when the more prosperous, educated and Christian Igbo people were blamed for the first military coup d’état that overthrew the central government, then dominated by the Muslim northern region. Pogroms were launched against Igbos shortly afterward, driving them back to their homeland in the East. Thousands were killed. However, the Biafran War (1967-1970) itself was not a genocidal war, despite a perception fueled by press accounts of alleged deliberate starvation. Nor was it primarily a war over control of oil, which was not being produced in large quantities at the time. Rather, it was a war to repress secession, or, as the government described it—to “Keep Nigeria One.” The reality was summed up by John de St. Jorre, an independent journalist: First, there was no ‘genocide’, massacres or gratuitous killings; in the history of warfare there can rarely have been such a bloodless end and such a merciful aftermath. Secondly, the expectations (and some of the reports) of mass starvation were not fulfilled…But there was mass hunger and there were concentrations of starving, sick and exhausted people, usually refugees caught a long way from home, some of whom died because aid was too slow in reaching them. There is no accurate figure for this category and probably never will be, though it ran into thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands.…Apart from the patchy handling of the relief situation the most
outstanding feature of the end of the war was the remarkable atmosphere of reconciliation…It was marvelous to see officers and men who had been facing each other over the barrel of a gun for two and a half years embrace and weep tears of joy.8 21. Since the end of the war, Igbos have been divided into seven states, two of which are inhabited largely by other minority groups. Fostering state identities and creating more local governments would make it harder for groups to secede, it was thought. Igbos reported that they faced discrimination in the immediate post-war period, particularly by being purged from the upper ranks of the military, but they gradually prospered in private enterprise, thrived in the informal economy, and acquired high positions in the political parties and government, including eventually the armed forces. Nonetheless, some Igbos continue to express feelings of psychological and economic marginalization, even though they remain one of the largest and most influential groups in the country. While they are not usually the primary targets, Igbos have been victimized by riots in the North aimed generally at Southerners. In July 2007, the former Biafran leader, General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, renewed his call for secession of Igbo states. This call has not been widely supported. Indeed, some Igbos argue that, having shed their blood, they have earned the right to be part of Nigeria. An intra-ethnic debate such as this is not an uncommon legacy of civil war, but it shows that Igbos have not fully reconciled their dual role in the country’s history—a group responsible for the break-up of the country and a targeted victim of ethnic cleansing. In seeming contradiction to this revived call for secession, Ojukwu and others have also
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called for Igbos to have “their turn” at the Nigerian presidency. 22. Another crisis in Nigeria’s attempts to deal with identity occurred with the Yoruba people, who became the central focus of concern when the country’s freest and fairest election was annulled depriving them of power in 1993 by the then president, MajorGeneral Ibrahim Babamasi Babangida, known as IBB. The Yoruba form the majority population in six states in the southwest, and they represent substantial proportions of the population in three additional states.9 Their moment appeared to have arrived when Nigerians went to the polls on June 12, 1993 to end military rule and select a civilian government. Early results showed that Moshood Abiola, a wealthy and popular Muslim Yoruba businessman, was winning a landslide victory. However, Babangida, a Nupe from Niger State, abruptly annulled the election before results were released, setting off massive demonstrations that paralyzed several Nigerian cities and led to threats of Yoruba secession. Due to riots, strikes, and protests from a strong Yoruba-led prodemocracy movement, Babangida was forced to step down and turn over power to an interim government. That government lasted only three months before Defense Minister Gen. Sani Abacha, a Muslim from Kano State, led a coup d’état in November. Abacha dissolved all civilian institutions, including the national legislature and state governments. His regime was the most authoritarian military government in Nigeria’s history and it was responsible for many human rights violations, including executing activists from the Niger Delta, arresting political opponents, and intimidating the press. The Abacha government jailed Abiola for sedition in 1994. In a bizarre twist,
Application of the Genocide Framework
Abacha died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in June 1998, and within a month, so did Abiola.10 He collapsed during a meeting with high-level U.S. officials who were trying to arrange a diplomatic solution to the political impasse. The Yoruba were outraged that not only had the election been stolen from them and their leader imprisoned, but now, as he was going to be released, it was rumored that he had been poisoned to prevent his installation in office.11 This crisis brought Nigeria closer to a break-up than at any other time since the end of the civil war. 23. In the 1999 election that followed the death of Abiola, a Yoruba was voted into office—retired Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo, partly in deference to the aggrieved feelings of marginalization by the Yoruba population. A Christian, Obasanjo was a former head of state who had also been imprisoned by Abacha. As the military leader in charge of the incursion that ended the Biafra war, his disciplined forces had been credited with avoiding a genocidal aftermath. Although it was a flawed election, the 1999 poll was widely seen by Nigerians as a means to send the soldiers back to their barracks and return the country to civilian rule. That blood, they have earned the right to be part of Nigeria. An intra-ethnic debate such as this is not an uncommon legacy of civil war, but it shows that Igbos have not fully reconciled their dual role in the country’s history—a group responsible for the break-up of the country and a targeted victim of ethnic cleansing. In seeming contradiction to this revived call for secession, Ojukwu and others have also called for Igbos to have “their turn” at the Nigerian presidency. 22. Another crisis in Nigeria’s attempts to deal with identity occurred with the Yoruba
people, who became the central focus of concern when the country’s freest and fairest election was annulled depriving them of power in 1993 by the then president, MajorGeneral Ibrahim Babamasi Babangida, known as IBB. The Yoruba form the majority population in six states in the southwest, and they represent substantial proportions of the population in three additional states.9 Their moment appeared to have arrived when Nigerians went to the polls on June 12, 1993 to end military rule and select a civilian government. Early results showed that Moshood Abiola, a wealthy and popular Muslim Yoruba businessman, was winning a landslide victory. However, Babangida, a Nupe from Niger State, abruptly annulled the election before results were released, setting off massive demonstrations that paralyzed several Nigerian cities and led to threats of Yoruba secession. Due to riots, strikes, and protests from a strong Yoruba-led prodemocracy movement, Babangida was forced to step down and turn over power to an interim government. That government lasted only three months before Defense Minister Gen. Sani Abacha, a Muslim from Kano State, led a coup d’état in November. Abacha dissolved all civilian institutions, including the national legislature and state governments. His regime was the most authoritarian military government in Nigeria’s history and it was responsible for many human rights violations, including executing activists from the Niger Delta, arresting political opponents, and intimidating the press. The Abacha government jailed Abiola for sedition in 1994. In a bizarre twist, Abacha died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in June 1998, and within a month, so did Abiola.10 He collapsed during a meeting with high-level U.S. officials who were trying to arrange a diplomatic solution to the
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political impasse. The Yoruba were outraged that not only had the election been stolen from them and their leader imprisoned, but now, as he was going to be released, it was rumored that he had been poisoned to prevent his installation in office.11 This crisis brought Nigeria closer to a break-up than at any other time since the end of the civil war. 23. In the 1999 election that followed the death of Abiola, a Yoruba was voted into office—retired Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo, partly in deference to the aggrieved feelings of marginalization by the Yoruba population. A Christian, Obasanjo was a former head of state who had also been imprisoned by Abacha. As the military leader in charge of the incursion that ended the Biafra war, his disciplined forces had been credited with avoiding a genocidal aftermath. Although it was a flawed election, the 1999 poll was widely seen by Nigerians as a means to send the soldiers back to their barracks and return the country to civilian rule. That Obasanjo was a Yoruba helped ease the transition. Northern political “godfathers” reluctantly acquiesced to Obasanjo as a way to get beyond the crisis and preserve the union. In addition, the PDP adopted the principle of power-shifting in order to assure the Yorubas that they and other groups could get more than one chance at the political helm. Obasanjo benefited most from this new principle. He won a second term in 2003 (although that election was also regarded as rigged), and he tried, but ultimately failed, to change the constitution to run for a third term in 2007. 24. When thwarted in his quest for a third term by a legislative vote prompted by a massive outcry from the public, Obasanjo, as party leader, hand-picked his successor,
Application of the Genocide Framework
Umaru Yar’Adua, a little-known Muslim governor from Katsina State. Thus, power passed power back to the North per the zoning principle. When Yar’Adua died in 2010 before he could complete his first full term in office, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian Southerner, succeeded him. This not only shifted power back again to the South, it opened up the contest for the presidency in 2011. In August 2010, the PDP, after considerable controversy, decided to waive the zoning principle which would have prevented the PDP nomination of Jonathan, but it also reaffirmed the principle, creating confusion. After much speculation and just four months before the election, Goodluck Jonathan announced that he would run for the presidency in January 2011. 25. In addition to deaths from the civil war and the disturbances surrounding the 1993 election controversy, tens of thousands of other people have been killed in sectarian violence over the years. However, no single group stands out as being at risk of genocide. Rather, identity-based violence—some thought to be planned, some spontaneous— often erupts from local causes, such as access to jobs, land, education, economic opportunity, damage to the environment, and control of local government. These disputes can easily spiral into identity-related conflicts that have wider national significance, instigated by leaders who want to advance their own agendas. There have also been rebellions by fundamentalist Muslim sects, such as the Maitatsine riots in the 1980s and Boko Haram unrest in the 2000s, both of which triggered massive responses from the federal government. Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Benue, and Taraba states have all had bloody clashes in the 1990s and the 2000s, often involving
religious disputes between Christians and Muslims, intra-religious rivalry among Muslim sects, or competition over resources.
is an exception in that it is largely Christian, never having been conquered by the 19th century Muslim Sokoto caliphate.
26. Since the return to civilian rule in 1999, inter-group conflict has been concentrated in the Middle Belt states, an area sometimes called a “mini-Nigeria” because it is the most heterogeneous part of the country. Plateau State and the area around its regional capital, Jos, have some 50-100 ethnic groups, none of which are dominant. Until the last ten years, these groups lived in peace.12 Formerly the center of the tin-mining industry, its main economic activities today are cattle-raising by Hausa Fulani nomads and agriculture by local residents or “indigenes.” As agriculture has expanded, both land and access to water for cattle have been in limited supply, inducing friction between the two communities.13 Droughts, population growth, and expanded settlement have sharpened the differences between Muslims and Christians. In 2001, 1,000 persons were killed and mosques and churches burned in intergroup riots that were sparked when a nonindigenous Muslim received a local government job that indigenous Christians believed belong to them. In 2004, more than 500 people were murdered in cycles of religious revenge. In 2008, disputes over local council polls erupted in violence with 900 killed, and another 300 were later killed in a dispute over a plot of land. In January 2010, an estimated 500 Muslims were killed over land-use disputes between Muslim Hausa-Fulani herders and Christian farmers from local ethnic groups. Two months later, there was a retaliatory attack by Muslims for the Christian attack in January, resulting in another 500 dead. Sporadic killings continued months later. Whereas most of the states in the North are Muslim, Plateau State
27. Another source of friction is the vague definition of an “indigene.”14 By custom, the term refers to people whose ancestors originally inhabited the area. Preference for indigenes, or “sons of the soil,” is common throughout the country. In effect, it has created two classes of citizens: preferredstatus indigenes and secondary-status nonindigenes, even if the latter may have resided in, owned property, or used land in the area for generations. Preference for indigenes is a widely-accepted discriminatory practice that has been institutionalized in the law. A co ns ti t uti on al re m e d y eli mi na ti n g preferences would help reduce the tension, but it would not suffice unless the cultural practice of discrimination based on area of origin was outlawed altogether.
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28. Besides the North, another area of unrest is the Niger Delta which formally consists of nine states in the south-eastern part of the country, where the jugular vein of the economy, the oil industry, is located.15 Over 40 ethnic groups speaking some 250 dialects live in this area, including Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Oron, Ogoni, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Igbo, Urhobo, Yoruba, and Kalabari. Commercial oil production has existed in Nigeria since the 1950s, but the industry did not take off until the 1970s, when international prices soared and major reserves of the highly desirable “sweet crude” were d i sc o v e r e d . Environmental degradation has increased in the producing areas of the Niger Delta since that time. The government has neglected to compensate the local population or protect the environment from leakages, gas flaring, and other abuses that have polluted the air,
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soil and water, damaging arable land and fishing stocks. A report in The New York Times comparing the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill in the U.S. to the Nigerian experience, estimated that an average of 11 million gallons of oil (more than the Exxon Valdez) a year has spilled into the Niger Delta for the past 50
Wiwa, a popular spokesperson for the Ogoni people, creating an international outcry. From that time onward, the region has been a hotbed of ethnic violence, with attacks concentrated on multi nati onal oi l installations and government targets. However, the rebellion is not unified in its
29. Antagonism had been building in the area for years, but the tipping point in the Niger Delta came in November 1995, when the Abacha military government executed nine ethnic Ogoni activists, including Ken Saro-
Percent Incidence of Poverty versus Self-Assessment by Nigerian Region and State Incidence of Poverty
Self-Assessment: Very Poor
Zones North Central
Incidence of Poverty
Self-Assessment: Very Poor
Zones South East
These statistics are broken down according to the six economic zones of the country, with the zonal averages in bold. Source: Federal Republic of Nigeria, National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria, 2005, available at http://www.nigeriastat.gov.ng/, accessed April 8, 2010.
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goals. Some militants have kidnapped civilians for ransom, and there have been infighting as well. In 1997, for example, the Urhobo, Itsekiri, and Ijaw fought over the relocation of a local gov ernment headquarters, a move that would determine the distribution of oil revenues among the three groups. The offer of a ceasefire and amnesty by the late president Yar’Adua divided the militants deeply as well. 30. Leading the insurgency are the Ijaws, the fourth largest ethnic group in the country and the largest in the Niger Delta, spread over six states,17 but—unlike the Igbos, Yoruba, and Hausa-Fulani—they do not constitute the majority in any one of them. Anti-government protests over the environment originated with the Ogoni, but the Ijaws have effectively been in the forefront in armed protest which succeeded, at its height in 2009, in reducing oil production by as much as 25%. The Ijaws also use the language of ethnic nationalism to mobilize many of the diverse peoples of the region around the cause of greater justice for the peoples of the Niger Delta. 31. According to government reports, President Yar’Adua’s amnesty program reportedly had lured about 20,000 fighters into the rehabilitation program,18 but some recalcitrant remnants of MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta) did not respond positively and threatened to resume the insurgency. Lack of development in the region drives much of the popular support enjoyed by the militants, even though they are divided by internal splits, have corrupt leaders, and indulge in criminal acts, including kidnapping, bombings
and “bunkering”—the illegal theft of oil.19 Since petroleum represents 95% of the country’s export earnings and 80% of government revenues, resolving the insurrection in the Niger Delta is vital to the country’s economic survival. Even a small group of hold-outs could wreak havoc on the industry.
to the amount of revenue being generated by the region. This may explain why more people in the South-South tend to assess themselves as “very poor” compared to other Nigerians, despite the fact that the percentage of poor people (i.e., those living below the poverty line) in the North is much higher.
32. Another source of communal conflict in Nigeria is the wider tension between the North and South. This is based both on historical and cultural differences as well as on a growing disparity between rich and poor, which have led to perceptions of groupbased inequality generally. For example, rebels in the Niger Delta believe that a greater share of the oil money will resolve their development problems. They argue that this will ensure that they will not be politically repressed or economically marginalized. However, Nigeria’s oilproducing states already receive huge revenue allocations, but due to corruption and the system of revenue distribution, the funds have not reached the grass-roots level. This is not likely to change simply by throwing more money at the problem. Moreov er, contrary to wi despread impression, overall poverty rates are actually more severe in the North than in the South. When the average of number of people living above the poverty line in each region is divided by the average Gross Domestic Product of that region, the South-South, where the Ijaw live, has the smallest proportion of impoverished inhabitants, as seen in the chart on page opposite. The issue is not the total number of people living in poverty, but rather the poverty rate relative
33. In real terms, the North is worse off than most other parts of the country. Deindustrialization has hit many cities hard in the region, especially Kano and Kaduna, which have faced high unemployment, the emergence of fundamentalist sects, and growing frustration among youth. The adoption of Sharia law in the 12 northern states has also sharpened Northern identity. Historically, even though there have been cultural differences, religion has not been a cause for violence in the country. Since the 1990s, tensions have flared over resources, revenue allocation, and local government control. As a result, inter-communal violence between Muslims and Christians has worsened. Religious tolerance is weakening not only because of resource issues, but also because of cultural sensitivities, such as disputes over Muslim prayer in public places, the ability of Christian women to ride motorbikes in Muslim areas, and the holding of beauty contests. For example, in 2002, the Miss World beauty contest had to be moved from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to London following violent attacks by Muslim youths who were angered by what they believed were inflammatory, anti-Islam news commentaries surrounding the pageant.20
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Capacity of the State to Prevent Genocide 34. The National Assembly of Nigeria is moderately strong, and has demonstrated independence of the executive, notably by denying former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s bid to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in 2007. The Parliamentary Powers’ Index places Nigeria at about the 50th percentile globally with a score of 0.47.21 Thus, there is a significant degree of potential legislative independence when the issue is sufficiently salient to generate a popular outcry. The legislature is backed by a 1999 constitution that could legally protect citizens from being victims of genocide should warning signs be recognized and acted upon, though it is uncertain whether the security apparatus could act quickly in that capacity. 35. The political party system is less developed, as it has drifted from a multiparty system at the time of independence toward a one party-dominant system since the return to civilian rule in 1999. The PDP has won every presidential election since then. It dominates both houses of the national legislature, and controls three-quarters of the state governorships. In the aftermath of the transition to power of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, however, and the resulting controversy over power-shifting, party infighting broke out. The PDP leadership suspended 19 prominent dissident members for criticizing the lack of transparency in selecting candidates for political office. Power struggles centered on the role of the Southern president, who is resented by Northerners who feel his succession violates the zoning principle. Reformers are calling for revamping the system, maintaining that the state governors have become too powerful and are overtaking the party machinery in the nomination process. Each
state governor has his own patronage system, his own party machinery, and very often his own militia or team of mercenaries who can be mobilized during elections to manipulate polling outcomes. If the PDP splits, two outcomes are possible: more open competition in a two party or multiparty system, or further fragmentation, such that no clear majority is possible to attain. 36. Other state institutions are weak, given the history of military rule and the dominant role of “godfathers.” The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the once proud justice system is a shadow of its former self, susceptible to political pressure and corruption, except for justices on the Supreme Court who have dem onstrat ed so me i nd ep en denc e. According to the World Bank’s World Governance Indicators, Nigeria is the weakest of the world’s 20 most populous countries concerning the Rule of Law. According to the Bank’s evaluation, people do not “have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, in particular the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.” The erosion of the system of justice was a major factor in driving the adoption of Sharia law in the North, as well as permitting impunity whenever violence breaks out. 37. The security forces also present challenges. The military has good capacity regarding peacekeeping missions, having served with distinction after some unfortunate initial assignments in West Africa. No one has produced an authoritative study on ethnic representation in the armed forces. Prior to Obasanjo’s presidential terms, the military’s officer ranks were primarily staffed by Northerners, with the rank and file
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soldiers recruited predominantly from the Middle Belt states. Obasanjo diversified the upper ranks, but the rank and file is still thought to be primarily from the Middle Belt. In September 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan replaced the top brass of the security establishment, appointing new service chiefs, a new Director of the State Security Services (SSS), and a new acting Inspector General of Police. Military and police leadership shake-ups are common with new administrations. This new shake-up involves people from several regions of the country. The military is used by the government to impose domestic order and it exercises its firepower freely, often indiscriminately, killing many noncombatants. The security forces are often accused of abuse and political favoritism. After the 2010 violence in Jos, for example, Christians alleged bias on the part of the military against them, and called for MajorGeneral Saleh Maina, the commanding officer in Jos, to be held accountable for alleged abuses by security forces that were sent in to quell the Jos disturbances. In the past, the security forces had been accused of taking the side of Christians in similar clashes. The then Chief of the Army Staff, Lt-General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, denied these allegations. One issue that has not been seriously debated is the structure of the police force, a national institution.22 Local populations often feel that national police do not know the culture, speak the language, or are familiar with the terrain of the areas over which they have jurisdiction. The federal government, however, is reluctant to have locally-controlled and locally-recruited police for fear that they may support breakaway movements or become more ethnicallyoriented, rather than nationally oriented in their loyalties. However, initiatives to
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decentralize power in order to strengthen security might consider establishing local police, with civilian review boards to oversee disputes concerning abusive behavior, resource allocation, and policies concerning training, promotions, and codes of conduct. That might also be a way of building public confidence in the police. 38. A serious problem in the security forces is impunity and lack of accountability. This issue is especially severe among the police, w ho are underpai d, undertrai ned, overstretched, and not held accountable for undisciplined behavior, such as extra-judicial killings. They have been accused of routinely torturing and killing suspects, particularly those who cannot afford to bribe them. Human Rights Watch stated in its 2008 report on Nigeria that some 10,000 Nigerians have been shot and killed by the Nigerian national police force since 2000 during the course of police operations. Amnesty International accused the police of killing at will and conducting their own executions. 39. In the Niger Delta, vulnerable groups lack institutional protections against extensive criminality, as well as political unrest. The Ijaws, who represent the majority of organized militants in the Niger Delta, could be the most likely targets of extra-judicial killings or excessive use of force by the military. Should the Niger Delta conflict not be settled, the potential exists for an escalation along ethnic lines, especially if the amnesty program collapses. 40. While the security forces have been accused of exercising a heavy hand when operating in the Niger Delta, they are frequently absent when conflict initially
breaks out; especially in the communal conflicts that erupt in the North. When rioting occurs and an emergency erupts, police and military set up roadblocks, establish curfews, and bring order. When the violence subsides, they typically withdraw, leaving the drivers of conflict and often the perpetrators of violence untouched. Shamaki Gad Peter, the Director of the Nigerian League for Human Rights, has argued that those responsible for violence in the North typically go free. “Most of those arrested are usually minors who cannot be legally subjected to such criminal prosecutions. Many of the suspects arrested say they have sponsors, but at the end of the day, the sponsors are neither prosecuted nor their names disclosed to the public.”23 According to legal experts and human rights groups, “perpetrators of mass killings in Nigeria have largely gone unpunished over the past decade.”24 Investigations by Human Rights Watch into inter-communal violence that has killed more than 13,000 people in the North since 1999 showed that commissions are often set up and recommendations made, but no effective action taken.25 In addition, the military, including the Joint Task Force, the special unit created to combat the rebellion in the Niger Delta, and the Nigerian Navy, have been implicated in oil bunkering, a highly lucrative criminal activity. However, there have been no investigations into such allegations. 41. The media is very active, independent, and outspoken, providing probably the best voice internally against the perpetration of organized violence and an end to impunity. There are over 100 national and local publications, many of which are privatelyowned and critical of the government, as well as hundreds of broadcast outlets licensed by
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the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. However, Freedom House has asserted that there have been cases in which security agencies used arbitrary detention and extrajudicial measures to muffle political activism and restrict press coverage. Journalists have also been kidnapped and intimidated. Such thuggery is a constant threat to media freedom and casts a menacing shadow over the ability of journalists to pursue i ndependent investigations or expose wrong-doing in high circles. 42. Along with the relative media freedom, the non-governmental sector—including national human rights organizations, democracy activists, trade unions, and women’s organizations—are permitted to function freely. The non-governmental community has had fewer restrictions on their activities since the advent of civilian rule. Civil society has played a significant role in monitoring elections, organizing group interests, and being a watchdog of democracy. With the support of foreign assistance programs, some organizations are training to provide a conflict early-warning system and monitor violence in areas of high tension, such as the Niger Delta, or in advance of elections. As witnesses to outbreaks of violence, they could play a role in preventing genocide or mass atrocities by sounding the alarm, activating an international response, insisting on accountability, and working to end impunity. However, the nongovernmental sector is weakened by a lack of resources, and many are not institutionally sustainable without international support. In addition, the bulk of civil society activity occurs in the South. There is far less such activity in the North.
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Presence of Illegal Arms and Armed Elements 43. Small arms proliferation is a major problem in West Africa, and Nigeria is a major importer of arms due to the high demand during elections and communal conflicts. Shamaki Gad Peter, the League for Human Rights Director, has noted that in the inter-communal violence in the northern conflict zones, “the accused are poor people who struggle to feed themselves, but [yet they] have access to AK-47 rifles which sell at around US $2,000 [on] the black market. Where do these poor people get these guns? They must have sponsors.”26 One group that has managed to smuggle small arms into the country that presents a threat is Boko Haram (whose name in Hausa means “Western Education is Forbidden”), a radical Islamic sect that launched an uprising in the northeastern state of Borno last year. The revolt was brutally repressed by the military and police in an assault mounted in July 2009 that left 800 dead. The sect’s leader was captured and died (or was killed) in police custody. More killings have occurred since then in Bornu’s capital, Maiduguri, the headquarters of Boko Haram, in incidents committed both by the security forces and unknown motorcycle drive-by assassins. Boko Haram is known locally as Nigeria’s “Taliban,” because it stands for the same strict religious
principles and practices. However, no direct links have been discovered between Boko Haram and any Islamic organizations in Asia or the Middle East. One year after the crackdown on the group, they successfully staged a jail break in September 2010, in which more than 721 inmates, including members of the sect, were freed from a prison in the northern town of Bauchi, showing that the sect was still capable of inflicting serious attacks.27 Just a month before the jailbreak, security services reported that they had intercepted a large arms cache being smuggled into the country from Chad.28 Intercommunal violence based on resource competition in the North could be exploited by extremist groups, such as Boko Haram, who want to set up an Islamic community that applies fundamentalist Islamic laws and practices in the country’s Muslim areas. 44. In the Niger Delta, militant coalitions and groups, such as the Joint Revolutionary Council, an umbrella organization which includes the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Reformed Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and the Martyrs' Brigade, are heavily armed. Their purchases are usually funded
through oil theft and protection money paid by oil companies.29 These groups often have an ethnic basis to their mobilization, especially among the Ijaw.30 Militants frequently have linkages to elected officials, such as the alliance between then Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, and an Igbo governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili. Asari apparently intimidated Odili’s political opposition in exchange for access to oil bunkering routes. When the two of them had a falling out, Odili supported another Ijaw militant, Ateke Tom, against his former ally.31 Odili is no longer governor. 45. Relationships between sponsors or political “godfathers” and militant groups occur throughout Nigeria. The “godfathers” provide access to arms, financing, and recruits, depending on the political pressures at the time, and this facilitates politicians having a ready militia at their disposal, often during elections. Typically, security forces turn a blind eye to the activities of these factions. When conflict between groups escalates to a level of mass violence, the military typically is sent in to quell the disturbances.
Motivation of Leading Actors 46. There is no evidence of any strategic campaigns, official or otherwise, to eliminate in whole or part any particular group in Nigeria. However, there is distrust and stereotyping among groups, especially when resources become scarce, elections are looming, or there is a change in leadership. There is not yet any “hate speech” as such,
but polarizing language of indigene versus non-indigene (or “settler”) is often used to drive a wedge between communities and justify acts of violence. Such practices are also common during election campaigns when ethno-religious divisions are exploited to win votes, control economic resources, acquire land, or receive favoritism in
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contracts, licensing, and jobs. While exclusionary practices have been given prominent attention in the North, it is a national phenomenon that has affected other states, including:
Modakeke (settlers) and Ife (indigenes) in Osun State
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Sabon Gari (or migrant) settlements and
the local Hausa indigenes in Kano State
in Ogun state Politicians and security forces play groups against each other, in much the way that Odili split the Ijaw opposition by playing Ateke Tom against Mujahid Dokubo-Asari. 47. In recent years, however, new actors are becoming involved in perpetrating violence. Churches and mosques have financed and rallied mobs to commit acts of violence in the defense of their religion or community, or in response to a perceived offense, such as disrespecting the Prophet Mohammed or desecrating holy sites or sacred ground.
Sabo Gari settlements and the local Yoruba population in Oyo State
Hausa (settlers) and the Kataf (indigenes) in Kaduna State
Urhobo (settlers) and the Itsekiri (indigenes) in Delta State
Urhobo (settlers) and the Tiv (indigenes) in Taraba state
Jukun-Chamba (settlers) and the Kuteb (indigenes) in Taraba state
Hausa (settlers) and the Yoruba (indigenes)
Politicians have appealed to communal nationalism and religious identities to win votes, and corrupt officials have looked the other way when violence has occurred. While there appears to be no planning or intention for genocide to occur, there are also no effective mechanisms on the ground to prevent or stop spontaneous or planned local violence against groups to settle old scores and get revenge for past atrocities. When and if such violence occurs, Nigeria’s vulnerability is that it may fulfill Edmund Burke’s warning that the only thing that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Circumstances that Facilitate Genocide 48. The uncertainties and instability that prevailed in the period leading up to the Nigerian Civil War are by no means as intense in 2010 as they were in 1966-1967, when the country began to fragment. However, there are new circumstances that could facilitate genocide or mass atrocities as the country transitions into a new administration. Four scenarios of widespread identity-based violence in the future are plausible. The first scenario would be a resurgence of unrest that spirals out of control in the Niger Delta. A tenuous ceasefire is being resisted by the Joint Revolutionary Council, a recently formed group which has clai med responsibility for an attack on a Royal Dutch Shell facility since the amnesty offer of June 2009, and many militants who have accepted the amnesty have complained of false or unfulfilled promises of jobs and training. If the ceasefire and amnesty should break down, or if the payments by the government to militants end and full-scale armed resistance resumes, a security crackdown by
the government could occur under a newly e l e c t e d a d m i n i s t r ati o n . I n th e s e circumstances, the Ijaw people, who constitute the heart of the militancy, would likely be most affected. 49. A second scenario would be expanded identity-based violence breaking out from intercommunal fighting in the mixed communities in the North between indigenes and non-indigenes. This could result in several possible outcomes: a North-South split, a religious war between Christians and Muslims, or an intra-Islamic struggle that pits Nigeria’s moderate Islamic establishment of respected emirs32 and other Islamic associations against extremist groups and Islamic sects which have begun to infiltrate Nigeria, such as the Boko Haram. 50. Third, electoral campaigns could spark a serious identity-based conflict. In 2007, all the principal presidential contenders were Muslims from the North and there are
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substantial pressures to ensure that the North again recaptures the presidency in 2011. If President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian Southerner, is nominated by a major party, his opponent is almost certainly going to be a Muslim Northerner. This will be the first time that the Muslim/Christian rivalry will be played directly out at the national level. If the election is perceived to have been rigged, violence could erupt on a massive scale with demonstrations breaking out in Nigerian cities across the country, instilling fears of religious retribution and rage. 51. The fourth scenario would be another violent change of government at the top. There are a number of permissive circumstances that would facilitate such an event: a history of military coup d’états; the prominent role that ex-generals continue to play in politics; the enormous wealth accumulated by former leaders who deploy their own militias for political purposes; a history of assassinations against political
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opponents, many of which have not been prosecuted; accumulated group grievances from political turmoil and economic mismanagement; a huge number of unemployed youth; and deep public dissatisfaction with the direction in which the country is going. If violence were used to forcefully change the government or remove a leader, it could plunge Nigeria into another round of retributive violence against the group perceived to be behind the action, reminiscent of the country’s first coup d’état in 1966, which set off pogroms against the
Igbos and a civil war. This time around, Nigeria may not have the wherewithal to survive another round of ethnic fighting and civil conflict. State institutions, such as the civil service and the judiciary, which had held the country together in the past, have eroded considerably. 52. Each of these scenarios carries different risks for different groups, and in many cases, several groups may be at risk simultaneously. Ijaws would be the likely group to suffer most in the Niger Delta, but would not be the only
community in danger. Christians appear to be most vulnerable in the North because they are the minority, but Muslims have also been victims of planned attacks by Christians and would likely be again, if they lived or worked in the South under times of major distress. In the event of a forceful overthrow of the government, any identity group perceived to be behind an assassination or a coup d’état could be the target of revenge attacks by angry mobs.
Genocidal Acts 53. As noted earlier, the most extreme conditions of genocidal acts in Nigeria’s history took place during the pogroms against the Igbos in 1966-67. Since then, there have been periodic ethnoreligious outbreaks of violence in the Middle Belt and in other parts of the country. The security forces have been alleged to be complicit in the violence in some cases, but there has been no evidence of any systematic national policy to target any identity group in particular. In the Niger Delta, militants and
criminal gangs have perpetrated killings and abductions for ransom. In most cases where militants have been involved, the kidnap victims have been released unharmed. There is no pattern of particular ethnic groups being singled out as kidnap victims or for targeted killings. When such abuses do occur, it is usually a product of factionalized elites settling old scores or criminal activity against foreigners working in the oil industry in order to collect ransom. Amnesty International reported that in the May 2009 military
offensive in the Niger Delta, civilians were sometimes caught in the crossfire with militants.33 Although civilian killings may not be genocidal in intent, the military and police have not taken adequate precautions to protect non-combatants. Further, the security forces often downplay the casualties, either denying that civilians were killed or dismissing the deaths as part of the uni ntended consequences of thei r operations. Rarely have they been brought to account for such abuses.
Evidence of Intent to Destroy in Whole or in Part…. 54. Thus far, there has been no evidence of the systematic use of inflammatory or dangerous speech that belittles, denigrates or demeans against any single group. Nor is there evidence of any intent at the national level to destroy in whole or in part any particular group. However, at the local level, identity-based
communal conflict has been recurrent. Riots in the Middle Belt and elsewhere have revealed some evidence of deliberate attacks against particular groups, with Christians targeting Muslims and vice versa. Attacks are not only focused on civilians, including women and children, some of whom have been mutilated, but have also targeted
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churches and mosques, and peoples’ homes and property. Muslims and Christians have both engaged in retaliatory attacks. Commissions appointed to investigate the causes of such attacks have sometimes reinforced the very conditions that spawned these attacks in the first place. For example, the Commission headed by Justice J. Aribiton
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Fiberesima that was established to delve into the causes of the 1994 riots in Jos concluded that there was evidence of intended destruction of one group by another, but reaffirmed the discriminatory distinction between indigenes and non-indigenes by
declaring that the “indigenes”—Berom, Anaguta and Jarawa ethnic groups—were rightfully claiming their status, while Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups were declared “settlers.” The Commission recommended the prosecution of Hausa/Fulani leaders
accused of fomenting violence. Such conclusions can be seen by local groups as grounds for justifiable preemptive violence against any group that does not qualify as “indigene.”
statements or other public behavior. A number of everyday occurrences have served, and could serve in the future, as flashpoints for communal conflict, especially if they involve indigene vs. settler rights. Another key triggering factor is the holding of elections. The Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission announced National Assembly elections for January 15, the Presidential election for January 22, and State Assembly and Governors elections on January 29. The date is in flux as INEC, the election commission, is requesting more time to put together a new voter registry, order computers, and overcome other logistical problems. Whenever it takes place, the month-long exercise could open up opportunities around the country for ethnoreligious conflict at many levels.
injustices. In addition, policies undertaken at the national level can be misinterpreted to favor one group over another. For example, President Goodluck Jonathan’s goal to resolve the rebellion in the Niger Delta is vulnerable to Northerners and others seeing it as favoritism toward his home region or his own Ijaw ethnic group. If that perception occurred, it would set back efforts to stabilize the region. Entrenched corruption also makes conflict and violence more likely, as the stakes have become so high. Billions are being made by people who are fortunate enough to have the right connections, exercise the right authority, issue the right contracts, and disperse the right patronage.
Triggering Factors 55. In 1967, the conditions that gave rise to the pogroms against the Igbos were deeply embedded in the social and political contradictions that existed between the more developed Southerners, who dominated the economy, and the less developed Northerners, who controlled the political system. The immediate triggering factors were an Igbo-led military coup and a countercoup by Northerners. That same economic/ political power split exists to the present time. The triggering factors that have ignited violence in the past could likewise spark violence in the future: another coup d’état, political assassinations, a rigged election, communal conflict, or a revived insurgency. Other types of triggers could be contested local elections; land disputes; religious rivalry; competition for jobs; and decisions on the location of public infrastructure, such as markets, hospitals, or schools, which may be seen to favor one group over another. With the rise of religious identities, fighting may also break out over control of mosques, the impact of Sharia law on non-Muslims, or perceived offenses to religious codes concerning provocative dress, media
56. The “godfather” syndrome has also intensified ethnic loyalties and heightened identity affiliations to the detriment of national unity. “Godfathers” have been known to resort to violence to win elections, change regimes, eliminate political opponents, and take revenge for perceived
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57. The premature death of the president would also be a potential triggering factor for violence, as it would exacerbate the contest for power at all levels—local, state, and national—although it is not clear how this would be played out. Leaders’ deaths have created political crisis before, as was apparent with the demise of Abacha, Abiola, and Yar’Adua.
Unity in Nigeria
Conclusion and Recommendations
58. Nigeria has pioneered some creative mechanisms to deal with ethnic and cultural diversity. Many of them might be appropriate in other heterogeneous societies in which there is an agreed upon political system, the rule of law, a sense of national identity, and leaders’ commitment to equity and justice. However, absent these conditions, such measures have the potential to backfire. While political considerations certainly played a role in Nigeria, most of these measures were designed to balance political and economic interests among the three major ethnic groups (Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo), provide more political inclusion to minority groups, and avert secessions after a brutal civil war. Some of these mechanisms are informal, such as the political party power -shifting or zoning practice that requires the political rotation of the presidency between Northern and Southern candidates. Others, such as ensuring the “federal character” of the government by requiring cabinet representation of each of the 36 states, and in local governments, are constitutionally required. In practice, however, these innovative mechanisms have not been sufficient to foster political inclusion or national unity and several have had the opposite impact. 59. Efforts to manage diversity have been undermined by several factors. First, decentralization, including the federal system itself, has been nullified by a steady trend toward the centralization of power through military rule and a one-party dominant political system, and the centralization of wealth through the federal dispersal of lucrative oil revenues to favored party politicians, state governors and local government elites. Second, corrosive influences from endemic corruption, tight
patronage networks, and rigged elections contributed to the de-legitimization of these measures. Many believed they were simply devices to “divide and rule.” Third, there has been an erosion of the integrity and professionalism of core national institutions, including the police, military, justice system, civil service, and political leadership. Nigeria held together during a 2 ½ year civil war—an important feat that should not be underestimated—as the national entity has retained intact, but Nigeria may not be as fortunate the second time around. 60. Nigeria has a reputation of “muddling through” its crises. But 50 years on, institutions have atrophied, corruption has soared, economic disparities have increased, political competition has intensified, and new pressures such as population growth and scarcity of resources, have created new fault lines. Promoting inclusiveness, without ensuring its genuine functionality, cannot build national unity. Should the “giant of Africa” continue to fail to manage its rich cultural diversity with justice, transparency and sensitivity, the consequences could result in genocidal violence that would be felt across the continent and beyond. 61. Nigeria teeters between two possible outcomes: either a break-through scenario in which the new administration that comes to power after the 2011 elections is regarded as legitimate and effective and begins tackling the country’s most critical problems, or a break-down scenario in which the new administration is not regarded as legitimate or effective, possibly leading to mass violence, a coup d’état, or disintegration.34 How the 2011 election is conducted will shape which of these scenarios comes to pass. The outcome might not be immediately
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evident. Nigeria is reaching a pivotal point and the fallout from the election could erupt right away or seep into the body politic to emerge months later. 62. What is to be done to tip the balance in favor of the more optimistic scenario? First and foremost, Nigeria needs to conduct reasonably free and fair elections. The past three elections have become progressively worse and it is not clear how many more rigged elections the population will tolerate. Though the timing and sequence of elections continue to be debated, the most troublesome issues are going to be logistical problems, such as the creation of a new registry of voters, training election workers for 120 precincts, setting up enumeration systems, printing ballots, and completing all the other various administrative tasks that are required for a free and fair process. The international community should do all it can to lessen these problems by providing voter education and guidance on what is necessary for the elections to be viewed as credible. 63. Second, Nigeria also needs to review the mechanisms of political inclusion to see if they are fulfilling their purpose. Identitybased quota systems, while useful for affirmative action to close socio-economic gaps in the short-term, need sunset provisions for constant review or they eventually create friction. Fixed systems of representation run up against demographic and democratic problems over time, becoming sources of grievance when growing communities have inadequate representation. Moreover, Nigeria’s quotas— in the form of the zoning principle, the federal character principle, and, most of all, indigene privileges—violate democratic standards and create artificial barriers to free
Conclusion and Recommendations
competition, economic opportunity, and merit-based political appointments. Most of all, such quotas, however well-intentioned, emphasize religion, ethnicity, and ancestry, fixed criteria that create a hierarchy of political privilege with at least two distinct classes: one based on preferential treatment of “indigenes”, the other based on discriminatory treatment of non-indigenes or “foreigners.” Nigeria needs to move away from such distinctions and build unity in diversity, based on a common definition of citizenship in which all Nigerians have equal rights anywhere in the country, including the right to own property, compete for jobs, and move freely, regardless of personal identity. 64. Third, Nigeria needs to strengthen state institutions, particularly the police, military, the system of justice, and the civil service. Vast training must be done to raise the level of performance, salaries must be paid on time and in full, and a code of conduct must be enforced under penalty of prosecution to curtail patronage and corruption. Nigeria can use its own ample resources to provide for this kind of state-building.
65. Fourth, there needs to be an emphasis on development. Special attention needs to be given to the Middle Belt and Niger Delta regions, where inter-communal conflict and an armed insurgency have left these regions poorer and more conflicted than ever. In both cases, there must be development that is visible to the people. Inequality is a major source of conflict in Nigeria, and the gap between rich and poor must be narrowed. 66. Last but not least, security must be emphasized. Murders, assassinations, kidnappings, rebellions, riots, demonstrations, oil bunkering, arms smuggling, cults, religious sects, multiple militias and thuggery are becoming common features of Nigerian life, not only as criminal behavior, but as practices shaping the conduct of political discourse, the fierceness of electoral competition, and the quality of governance.35 Overcoming an anarchic undercurrent of violence, unrestricted by effective police work or judicial prosecution, will be a major challenge as Nigeria confronts struggles between North and South, Christians and Muslims, and communal
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disputes based on resource scarcity, environmental devastation, and economic inequality, any one of which could spiral into mass violence and atrocities. 67. Whatever the outcome of the 2011 election, Nigeria needs to address the fundamental issue of how its diverse population can live together if it is to avoid backsliding into another civil war. A new administration could turn the country around. To do so, however, it must take on the big issues and be steadfast in its commitment to fulfilling the promise that Nigeria has had ever since independence. It could be a “showcase of democracy,” but has not yet reached that goal. Genocide on a national scale is not likely, unless the country breaks up. What is more likely to erupt on a wider scale if the steps recommended here are not taken, are localized incidents of “genocidal acts” that appear from time to time, under stressful circumstances where the state is either unwilling or unable to act.
3. 4. 5.
Population figures are estimates, as a reliable census has not been conducted in Nigeria for decades because it is highly controversial. Population figures determine the distribution of funds, and the political representation of various ethnic and religious groups. The 158 million estimate comes from a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health sponsored by the British Council, entitled “Nigeria: The Next Generation Report” (2010). Currently, the eighth most populous country, Nigeria is projected by the study to have an additional 63 million people, making it the fifth most populous country in the world after India, China, the U.S., and Pakistan, by 2030. “Rural Poverty in Nigeria: Rural Poverty Portal Nigeria”, Global Action on Aging, February 28, 2008, available at http://www.globalaging.org/ ruralaging/world/2008/nigeria.htm, accessed September 21, 2010. The 2010 UNESCO report on poverty painted a more dire picture: a poverty level in which 92% of Nigerians live on less than $2 day, and 71% live on less than $1 a day. See “UNESCO on Poverty in Nigeria,” Daily Champion, Ja n u a r y 27, 2010, a va il a bl e at h ttp: / / all a fr ic a .c o m stories/201001280540.html, accessed September 21, 2010. Ibid., pp. 8-9. The official name of the war is the Nigerian Civil War. Colloquially, it frequently referred to as the Biafran War. However, party pressure was splitting the North. The forum of 19 Northern Governors met to take a common position on the issue of the zoning formula of the Peoples Democratic Party leading up to the 2011 elections. Reports indicated that they were sharply divided. Those who were themselves in office for only one term were said to be leaning toward suspending the zoning rule and backing Jonathan in order to favor their own re-election. However, Northern youth groups were organizing to protest abandoning the zoning rule. See “2011: Northern Governors Under Pressure to Dump Zoning: Northern Youths Converge, Insisting on Zoning,” African Examiner Online, July 26, 2010, available at http:// www.africanexaminer.com/north_zoning, accessed September 21, 2010. In a revealing survey, ethnicity and religious affiliation were the two highest-ranking identities for most Nigerians as opposed to state, national, ECOWAS, and African identities. Northerners were more inclined to identify by religious affiliation, while Southerners were more inclined to identify by ethnicity. Nationwide, identity preferences by rank order were: religion, ethnicity, state of origin, and national allegiance. See Kevin H. Ellsworth, “Reimagined Communities—Democracy and Ethnic Violence: The Social Reconstruction of Nigerian Identities and Communal Relations,” paper presented at the conference of the American Political Science Association, September 3, 1999. The so-called Middle Belt is the most diverse region of the country in terms of ethnicity and religion, and it has historically supplied a large proportion of recruits for the Nigerian armed forces. Stretching East to West through the central part of the country around the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers, it consists of seven states: Niger, Kwara (inhabited mostly by Yoruba), Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa, and Taraba. Legal experts and human rights groups documented the lack of investigations into mass atrocities as a pattern in Nigeria. See “Nigeria: Investigations of Mass Killings in Nigeria,” IRIN News, April 13, 2010,
11. 12. 13.
available at http://irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=88797 , accessed September 21, 2010. John de St. Jorre, The Nigerian Civil War (Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1972), pp. 404-407. The predominantly Yoruba states are Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo. Yoruba also make up large portions of the populations in Edo, Kwara, and Kogi states. The Yoruba population is about half Muslim and half Christian, with traditional beliefs integrated with both. The press speculated for months about Abacha’s mysterious death. He was buried the next day in accordance with Muslim tradition but without an autopsy. Rumors were rife that he was poisoned by military opponents. Abiola's cause of death was also reported to be heart failure, which occurred just as his release from four years of detention was being considered by Abacha’s military successor. Two autopsies, including one ordered by his family, showed that Abiola had not been poisoned. Indeed, with its cool climate, Plateau State proclaimed itself the “Home of Peace and Tourism”. Cattlemen had traditionally migrated to villages and traded cattle for agricultural goods and access to pasturage, acquiring, in their view, traditional rights to the land. Section 147 (3) of the 1999 Constitution states that “the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State” without defining who an indigene of a state is or how a Nigerian can become one. Some commentators have said that an indigene may prove his origins by getting a letter of identification from a traditional ruler or councilor, or a state could issue a certificate of indigene verification (not citizenship), but there are no established procedures for such verification and no section of the constitution resolves the contradiction between the rights of indigenes in the states and the rights of citizens nationally. The terms used to describe this turbulent region are somewhat confusing. The core states of the oil-producing Niger Delta, which consists of nine states, are Delta, Bayelsa (President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state), and Rivers States. In 2000, six more states were added: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo, and Ondo, as part of an attempt to identify six economic zones nationally for planning purposes, as shown in Figure 1. The Niger Delta and South-South zone, however, are not co-terminous, even though these terms are often used interchangeably. The South-South consists of only six states: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers States. The Exxon Valdez spilled an estimated 10.8 million gallons in Alaska in 1989. See Adam Nossiter, “Far from Gulf, a Spill Scourge 5 Decades Old”, The New York Times, June 17, 2010, p. A1. The Ijaws are concentrated in Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom States. Some observers believe that many criminal elements and unemployed persons are “turning themselves in” under the amnesty, and that the number of returnees is inflated. The bunkering problem is thought by many observers to be criminal behavior that involves more than the militants. Elements of the national government, particularly the armed forces and politicians, are widely
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24. 25. 26. 27. 28.
believed to be collaborating with the rebels, although there has been no official investigation or report proving such linkages. In 2002, the Miss World beauty contest had to be moved from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to London following violent attacks by Muslim youths. The riots were sparked by a fashion writer for a local newspaper who had commented that the Prophet Mohammed might have married one of the contestants in the beauty contest had he lived to see the pageant, a remark that offended some Muslims who thought the contest was an indecent spectacle. Youths attached the newspaper’s office in Kaduna, where two years earlier, 2,000 had been killed in religious riots. The fighting, which spread to Abuja, resulted in over 200 killed, hundreds more injured, and thousands displaced. M. Steven Fish and Matthew Kroenig, The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). There is only one national police force. States and localities do not have their own police. “Nigeria: Bringing perpetrators of mass violence to book - or not”, IRIN News, April 13, 2010, available at http://irinnews.org/Report.aspx? ReportId=88794, accessed July 21, 2010. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Adam Nossiter, “Prison Raid in Nigeria Releases Hundreds; Many Freed Inmates Tied to Islamic Sect,” The New York Times, September 9, 2010, A6. “Assault Rifles, Ammunition Intercepted in Nigeria,” The Associated Press, August 18, 2010, available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100818/ ap_on_re_af/af_nigeria_violence, accessed September 21, 2010. Police reported that they seized 52 Kalashnikov rifles, more than 1,700 rounds of ammunition, and $32,000 hidden underneath vegetables and dried fish in two cars. "Nigeria: Seizing the Moment in the Niger Delta", Africa Briefing N°60, Crisis Group, April 30, 2009, available at http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/ africa/west-africa/nigeria/B060-nigeria-seizing-the-moment-in-thenigerdelta.aspx, accessed September 21, 2010. Statement of Joint Revolutionary Council, undated, available at http:// www.ijawland.com/JOINT%20REVOLUTIONARY%20COUNCIL.pdf, accessed July 21, 2010. Ibid; also, "Nigeria's MEND: Odili, Asari, and the NDPVF", STRATFOR Global Intelligence, March 18, 2009, available at http://www.stratfor.com/ analysis/20090313_nigerias_mend_odili_asari_and_ndpvf, accessed July 21, 2010. Nigeria’s emirate system consists of 12 traditional Muslim leaders, many of whom are accomplished individuals who have had experience in business, government, the justice system or the military, and, by virtue of their traditional roles, have acquired considerable social status in their local areas as Islamic monarchs. The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of all Nigerian Muslims. One of the most powerful and richest Muslim leaders is the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, who escaped an assassination attempt by a 19-year-old Muslim on July 9th, 2010. (see Auwalu Umar and Lawan Danjuma Adamu, "Confusion at Juma'at prayer: Emir of Kano Escapes
Assassination - 19-year-old assailant says, 'I was sent'", Sunday Trust, July 11, 2010, available at http://www.sunday.dailytrust.com/index.php? option=com_content&view=article&id=4191:confusion-at-jummaatprayeremir-of-kano-escapes-assassination-19-year-old-assailant-says-i-wassent&catid=57:cover&Itemid=126, accessed September 21, 2010.) Established in the 1880s when Islam swept down from Sokoto during the jihad led by Usman dan Fodio, the emirs stopped providing social services to their people when Nigeria became independent. They have no formal power over secular institutions, such as the police, military or state courts, but they receive 5% of all funds given to local governments plus gifts from their constituents. Their powers stem from their religious authority to select imams in the main mosques, oversee the Sharia court system, and intervene in the resolution of local disputes, such as land or water. Politicians seek alliances with the emirs for legitimacy and access to their considerable resources and status. Emirs have publicly denounced Osama bin Laden and strongly oppose Islamic fundamentalism, whose followers tend to view emirs as part of the corrupt political establishment that does not sufficiently enforce Islamic law. On the other hand, democracy advocates deem the emirs as an unelected aristocracy whose influence should be curtailed. Nonetheless, emirs continue to exert influence in the North. "We fear that hundreds of bystanders, including women and children, have been killed and injured, and thousands of people remain trapped in the area – unable to return to their homes having fled the fighting.” Quoted in Xan Rice, “Niger Delta army offensive killing civilians, says Amnesty", The Guardian, May 21, 2009, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/ world/2009/may/21/hundreds-killed-niger-delta, accessed July 21, 2010. Some outside observers have warned of the possibility of the worst case scenario. See John Campbell, “SNAPSHOT: Nigeria on the Brink; What Happens If the 2011 Elections Fail?”, Foreign Affairs, September 9, 2010, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.com/print/66707, accessed September 21, 2010. For example, as electioneering heated up in September, within a single day it was reported that unidentified assassins murdered a member of the Kano State Security Service and four members of his family, the Head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s Forensic Unit who was a key witness in ongoing cases of corruption was killed by unknown gunmen in Kaduna, and the campaign manager for one of the leading presidential candidates alleged that telephone threats had been made to kidnap his son and take his life by unknown persons. See “SSS operative, wife, three children killed in Kano,” African Examiner Online, September 15, 2010, http://www.africanexaminer.com/sss_killed, accessed September 21, 2010; “Gunmen kill head of EFCC’s forensic unit,” African Examiner Online, September 15, 2010, available at http://www.africanexaminer.com/ efcc_forensic, accessed September 21, 2010; “Dokpesi fights back at Jonathan’s camp, alleges threat to his life, children, business interests,” African Examiner Online, undated, available at http:// www.africanexaminer.com/dokpesi_threat2011, accessed September 21, 2010.
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Unity in Nigeria
Appendix: Genocide Analysis Framework Office of the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Legal definition of genocide Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." Elements of the framework The Analysis Framework comprises eight categories of factors that the OSAPG uses to determine whether there may be a risk of genocide in a given situation. The eight
categories of factors are not ranked, and the absence of information relating to one or more categories does not necessarily indicate the absence of a risk of genocide; what is significant is the cumulative effect of the factors. Where these factors are effectively addressed, no longer exist or are no longer relevant, the risk of genocide is assumed to decrease.
Framework Factors and Explanation
The issues to be analyzed here include:
1. Inter-group relations, including record of discrimination and/or other human rights violations committed against a Group
Relations between and among groups in terms of tensions, power and economic relations, including perceptions about the targeted group;
Existing and past conflicts over land, power, security and expressions of group identity, such as language, religion and culture;
Past and present patterns of discrimination against members of any group which could include:
Serious discriminatory practices, for instance, the compulsory identification of members of a particular group, imposition of taxes/fines, permission required for social activities such as marriage, compulsory birth-control, the systematic exclusion of groups from positions of power, employment in State institutions and/or key professions2
Significant disparities in socio-economic indicators showing a pattern of deliberate exclusion from economic resources and social and political life.
Overt justification for such discriminatory practices;
References to past human rights violations committed against a possible perpetrator group as a justification for genocidal acts against the targeted group in the future.
History of genocide or related serious and massive human rights violations against a particular group; denial by the perpetrators;
2. Circumstances that affect Structures that exist to protect the population and deter genocide include effective legislative protection; independthe capacity to prevent ent judiciary and effective national human rights institutions, presence of international actors such as UN operations Genocide capable of protecting vulnerable groups, neutral security forces and independent media. Issues to be analyzed here include:
• • • • •
Existing structures; The effectiveness of those structures; Whether vulnerable groups have genuine access to the protection afforded by the structures; Patterns of impunity and lack of accountability for past crimes committed against the targeted groups; Other options for obtaining protection against genocide, e.g. presence of peacekeepers in a position to defend the group, or seeking asylum in other countries.
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Appendix: UN Genocide Analysis Framework
3. Presence of illegal arms and armed Elements
4. Motivation of leading actors in the State/region; acts which serve to encourage divisions between national, racial, ethnic, and religious groups
5. Circumstances that facilitate perpetration of genocide (dynamic factors)
6. Genocidal acts
• • •
Whether there exists a capacity to perpetrate genocide - especially, but not exclusively, by killing;
Underlying political, economic, military or other motivation to target a group and to separate it from the rest of the population;
The use of exclusionary ideology and the construction of identities in terms of “us” and “them” to accentuate differences;
Depiction of a targeted group as dangerous, disloyal, a security or economic threat or as unworthy or inferior so as to justify action against the group;
Propaganda campaigns and fabrications about the targeted group used to justify acts against a targeted group by use of dominant, controlled media or “mirror politics”3;
Any relevant role, whether active or passive, of actors outside the country (e.g., other Governments, armed groups based in neighboring countries, refugee groups or diasporas) and respective political or economic motivations.
How armed groups are formed, who arms them and what links they have to state authorities, if any; In cases of armed rebellions or uprising, whether a state has justified targeting groups from which armed actors have drawn their membership.
Any development of events, whether gradual or sudden, that suggest a trajectory towards the perpetration of genocidal violence, or the existence of a longer term plan or policy to commit genocide. Examples:
Sudden or gradual strengthening of the military or security apparatus; creation of or increased support to militia groups (e.g., sudden increases in arms flow) in the absence of discernible legitimate threats;
• • • • •
Attempts to reduce or eradicate diversity within the security apparatus; Preparation of local population to use them to perpetrate acts; Introduction of legislation derogating the rights of a targeted group; Imposition of emergency or extraordinary security laws and facilities that erode civil rights and liberties; Sudden increase in inflammatory rhetoric or hate propaganda, especially by leaders, that sets a tone of impunity, even if it does not amount to incitement to genocidal violence in itself;
Permissive environment created by ongoing armed conflict that could facilitate access to weapons and commission of genocide.
Acts that could be obvious “elements” of the crime of genocide as defined in Article 6 of the Rome Statute,4 such as killings, abduction and disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence; ‘ethnic cleansing’ or pogroms;5
Less obvious methods of destruction, such as the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival and which are available to the rest of the population, such as clean water, food and medical services;6
Creation of circumstances that could lead to a slow death, such as lack of proper housing, clothing and hygiene or excessive work or physical exertion;
Programs intended to prevent procreation, including involuntary sterilization, forced abortion, prohibition of marriage and long-term separation of men and women;
Forcible transfer of children, imposed by direct force or through fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or other methods of coercion;
Death threats or ill treatment that causes disfigurement or injury; forced or coerced use of drugs or other treatment that damages health.
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Appendix: UN Genocide Analysis Framework
7. Evidence of intent “to destroy in whole or in part …”7
8. Triggering factors
Statements amounting to hate speech 8 by those involved in a genocidal campaign;
In a non-conflict situation, widespread and/or systematic discriminatory and targeted practices culminating in gross violations of human rights of protected groups, such as extrajudicial killings, torture and displacement;
The specific means used to achieve “ethnic cleansing” which may underscore that the perpetration of the acts is designed to reach the foundations of the group or what is considered as such by the perpetrator group;
The nature of the atrocities, e.g., dismemberment of those already killed that reveal a level of dehumanization of the group or euphoria at having total control over another human being, or the systematic rape of women which may be intended to transmit a new ethnic identity to the child or to cause humiliation and terror in order to fragment the group;
The destruction of or attacks on cultural and religious property and symbols of the targeted group that may be designed to annihilate the historic presence of the group or groups;
Targeted elimination of community leaders and/or men and/or women of a particular age group (the ‘future generation’ or a military-age group);
Other practices designed to complete the exclusion of targeted group from social/political life.
Future events or circumstances seemingly unrelated to genocide that might aggravate conditions or spark deterioration in the situation, pointing to the likely onset of a genocidal episode. These ‘triggers’ might include:
Upcoming elections (and associated activities such as voter registration or campaigning; revision of delimitation of electoral boundaries; a call for early elections or the postponement or cancellation of elections; disbanding of election commissions; imposition of new quotas/standards for political party or candidate eligibility);
• • • • •
Change of Government outside of an electoral or constitutionally sanctioned process;
In a large-scale armed conflict, widespread and systematic nature of acts; intensity and scale of acts and invariability of killing methods used against the same protected group; types of weapons employed (in particular weapons prohibited under international law) and the extent of bodily injury caused;
Instances where the military is deployed internally to act against civilians; Commencement of armed hostilities; Natural disasters that may stress state capacity and strengthen active opposition groups; Increases in opposition capacity, which may be perceived as a threat and prompt preemptive action, or rapidly declining opposition capacity which may invite rapid action to eliminate problem groups.9
1. It might be necessary to determine if all or only a part of the group at risk within a specific geographical location is being targeted. The aim of the Genocide Convention is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups, and the part targeted must be significant enough (substantial) to have an impact on the group as a whole. The substantiality requirement both captures genocide’s defining character as a crime of massive proportions (numbers) and reflects the Convention’s concern with the impact the destruction of the targeted part will have on the overall survival of the group (emblematic). 2. This could include security, law enforcement or oversight apparatus, such as police, army and judiciary. 3. “Mirror politics” is a common strategy to create divisions by fabricating events whereby a person accuses others of what he or she does or wants to do. 4. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 5. Efforts should be made to gather information on a sufficient number of incidents to determine whether the abuses were substantial, systematic and
widespread over a period of time. 6. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion to inhospitable environments. 7. Genocidal intent can develop gradually, e.g., in the course of conflict and not necessarily before, and genocide may be used as a “tool” or “strategy” to achieve military goals in an operation whose primary objective may be unrelated to the targeted group. Evidence of “intent to destroy” can be inferred from a set of existing facts which would suggest that what is unfolding or ongoing may be genocide. From a preventive perspective, there could be other indications of a plan or policy or an attempt to destroy a protected group before the occurrence of full-blown genocide. 8. The hate speech has to denigrate characteristics of a specific ethnic/racial/ religious/national group. 9. Critical moments can also represent moments of opportunity to improve a situation and to lessen the risk of genocide.
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