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the September 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48,
(VOL. 48, No. 12)Overline Overline Overline
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Africa-watchers, the news had a depressingly familiar sound. It
told of killing sprees by machete-wielding mobs and of a panic-stricken
mass exodusbringing up painful reminders of Rwanda.
of a Hausa militia, armed with guns and knives, patrol Adubi
Village looking for Tivs. (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP)
This time, it was the Hausa-Fulani of Nasawara state, in central
Nigeria, against their tribal rivals the Tivs. Though the Tivs and
Hausas both have power bases in Nasawara, neither group is indigenous
to the state. In recent years, both groups have jockeyed for influence
in the state government.
The violence was triggered on June 12 by the assassination of Alhaji
Musa Ibrahim, a traditional Hausa ruler who had become a special
adviser to state Gov. Abdullahi Adamu. In April, Tivs had erupted
in violence, accusing Ibrahim of using his influence to encroach
on their land. When Ibrahim was murdered, Hausas had little doubt
that Tivs were to blame.
Alhaji Musa Ibrahim was always a marked man, wrote Goodluck
Ebelo in Lagos independent weekly Tempo (July 5). [He]
had come to represent, in the eyes of the Tivs, the very cause of
some of their long-standing and immediate problems.
But the brutality of the murderin which Ibrahim was decapitated
and evisceratedshocked the country and inflamed Ibrahims
followers. Hausas embarked on a systematic campaign of retaliation,
first targeting Tivs in public office and then going on house-to-house
killing sprees in Nasawara and the state capital, Lafia. Children
were reportedly either smashed against the walls, macheted, or shot
dead, wrote Isa Abdusalami Jos in Lagos independent
The Guardian (June 28).
By July 3, 200 people were estimated killed and more than 50,000
had been displaced. Though horrifying in its scope, the violence
was not unprecedented in Nasawara state, where the overriding issue
is competition for land and 25 ethnic groups vie for seniority in
13 local government councils. Rural Nasawara...has been one
unending take of suspicion and bloodletting, wrote Ebelo in
Tempo (July 5).
State officials moved quickly to stem the crisis. On June 18, Gov.
Adamu of Nasawara and Gov. George Akume from neighboring Benue state
(where Tivs are in the majority) met to discuss preventive measures.
They called for a cease-fire, urging warring parties to surrender
their weapons. They encouraged the return of those who had fled,
promising extra security, and announced that they would establish
an inter-state peace and reconciliation committee.
We cannot as true leaders of our people sit back and watch
things get out of hand, Adamu was quoted as saying by Lagos
independent newsmagazine Newswatch (July 2). But Adamu and
Akumes measures did not stop the violence from spreading beyond
the immediate region. On July 7, the United Nations Integrated
Regional Information Network reported that ethnic violence had spread
from Nasawara to nearby Taraba state, where members of the Fulani
and Jukun tribes had attacked their Tiv neighbors.