Partial List of Church Bombings in Central and Northern Nigeria

Yesterday, AFP reports,

A suicide attacker drove a car bomb into a Nigerian church [in Kaduna], sparking fierce reprisals that saw a Christian mob burn a man alive in a day of violence that killed at least 10 people and wounded 145.

The church attack left at least seven people dead in addition to the bomber, while at least three people were killed in reprisal violence, a rescue official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to provide figures.

[...]

Christian youths took to the streets of the northern city of Kaduna with machetes and sticks after the blast, targeting those they believed to be Muslims as anger again boiled over due to repeated church bombings in recent months.

Attackers beat a motorcycle taxi driver near the church, then put his bike on top of him before dousing him with petrol and setting him on fire, an AFP correspondent who saw the violence said. Two other bloodied bodies apparently killed by the mob were seen near the church.

Such attacks are part of a pattern of church bombings in northern and central Nigeria since 2010, many of which have been claimed by the rebel sect Boko Haram. Christian reprisal violence is sometimes part of the pattern as well.  The bombings have elevated the political temperature in Nigeria, especially in communities such as Kaduna that have been repeatedly affected. The bombings intersect with inter-communal tensions that date back, in one sense, to the early days of the Fourth Republic that Nigeria inaugurated in 1999 and, in another sense, to incidents of interreligious violence that affected places like Kaduna State in the 1980s, such as the Kafanchan riots of 1987. Some people trace these cycles of religious violence back into the colonial or pre-colonial periods; however one dates it, the point is that today’s conflicts have historical roots and that past grievances fan the flames of present violence. But the present violence also has its own structural features, notably the frequent use of suicide bombings and the role of Boko Haram as a regional force that works to make local conflicts escalate.

The attacks share some common features, especially the use of suicide bombers and/or car bombs. Bombings target both Catholic and Protestant churches. Attacks often occur on Sundays. Attackers often coordinate strikes in multiple locations. And – in what strongly suggests a deliberate goal on Boko Haram’s part of goading central and northern Nigerian communities into interreligious war – bombings often target areas with high levels of interreligious tension, notably Jos and Kaduna. On a final note, however, it is also important to note that Boko Haram may only be behind some of these bombings; others, particularly in Jos, may be the work of local provocateurs.

Here is a partial list of church bombings:

  • On December 24, 2010, bombs exploded around Jos (Plateau State) as groups of fighters attacked two churches in Maiduguri (Borno State).
  • On July 10, 2011, a bomb exploded at All Christian Church in Suleja (Niger State).
  • On December 25, 2011, bombs exploded at churches in, respectively, Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State), Damaturu (Yobe State), and Gadaka (Yobe State).
  • On February 26, 2012, Boko Haram carried out a suicide car bombing at the Church of Christ in Jos.
  • On March 11, 2012, a bomb struck St. Finbar’s Catholic Church in Jos.
  • On April 8, 2012 (Easter), a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb near the All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church in Kaduna.
  • On April 29, 2012, three bombs exploded at the old campus church of Bayero University Kano (Kano State), and gunmen shot at worshipers fleeing the building.
  • On June 4, 2012, a suicide car bombing occurred at Living Faith Church in Bauchi (Bauchi State).
  • On June 10, 2012, a car bomb exploded at Christ Chosen Church of God in Jos.
  • On June 17, 2012, suicide bombers from Boko Haram attacked ECWA Goodnews Church and Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria and Kaduna. I wrote about the aftermath of those bombings here.
  • On September 23, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Church in Bauchi.

The list of tragedies is growing long.

Africa News Roundup: Protests in Nigeria and Sudan, New PM in Ethiopia, Senate Scrapped in Senegal, and More

Following protests in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere this week, Muslims protested yesterday in Jos, Nigeria and Khartoum, Sudan against an inflammatory anti-Islamic video. The Chief Imam of Jos Central Mosque called for restraint and discouraged the turn to street protests.

Ethiopia is expected to name a new prime minister this weekend, to replace the late Meles Zenawi.

IRIN: “Kenya’s Deadly Mix of Frustration, Politics and Impunity”

Senegal’s National Assembly voted Thursday to disband the country’s Senate as a means of freeing up funds for flood relief.

Also in Senegal, a Gambian opposition group sets up shop.

Burkina Faso will hold legislative elections on December 2. The opposition (French) has written to President Blaise Compaore complaining that only 55% of voting-age citizens are registered to vote, and calling for a delay of the elections until 2013.

Leaders from the northern branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement were in Washington, DC this week, meeting with officials at the State Department.

What else is happening?

Nigeria: Kaduna Bombings and Their Aftermath

On Sunday, a church was bombed in the city of Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, and two others were bombed in Zaria (another city in Kaduna State). The rebel group Boko Haram, which has struck Kaduna several times before, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Bombings followed on Monday in the city of Damaturu, Yobe State. View a map of Nigeria here.

The bombing in Kaduna has activated a broader conflict in the city. On Sunday, “as news of the church attack filtered through the city…young Christians took to the streets in violent protest. An AP reporter saw billows of smoke over a mosque in a predominantly Christian part of the city. People had mounted illegal roadblocks and were seen harassing motorists.” Today, “Muslims took to the streets…firing AK-47s, burning tires and destroying at least one church.” Another bomb went off in a market in Kaduna. Authorities have placed both Kaduna and Damaturu under curfew. The violence has disrupted business, academic, and other activity in Kaduna.

Kaduna has seen periodic interreligious violence over the course of the last decade (further back, there have been clashes in Kaduna State for decades, such as an infamous episode in the town of Kafanchan in 1987). Riots occurred in Kaduna, along with other major Northern cities, in 2011 after the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. This week’s violence, in other words, could awaken memories of past conflicts and grievances.

I have seen several estimates of the dead in Kaduna, ranging from around twenty in the blasts to over sixty for all victims.

Three immediate implications of the attacks are:

  1. Heightened fears of reprisal killings elsewhere. For example, Muslims in Onitsha, Anambra State, in the Southeast, have reportedly sought police protection. These fears are not new – some Christian leaders’ rhetoric has hinted at the possibility of reprisal killings over Boko Haram’s violence before – but the violence in Kaduna represents one of the most serious incidents in which an attack by Boko Haram has immediately sparked interreligious clashes.* Hopefully the calls from various Muslim and Christian organizations for youth to avoid violence will resonate.
  2. Further loss of faith in the authorities among ordinary people. Much of the reprisal violence in Kaduna originated in protests by Christians and Muslims, protests that partly voiced anger at the government over its failure to protect them. The more people feel they are on their own, the greater their temptation to take up weapons.
  3. The aftermath of the bombings is an apparent benefit to Boko Haram, if one of their aims is greater chaos. Reuters writes, “The church bombings seem calculated to trigger wider sectarian strife. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said, in al Qaeda-style Internet videos, that the attacks on Christians were revenge for the killing of Muslims.” Boko Haram also benefits if the point above holds, namely if people continue to lose faith in government.

The situation in Kaduna (as well as in Damaturu and elsewhere) continues to evolve. I recommend following the BBC’s Will Ross for updates.

*Jos, a site of recurring Muslim-Christian clashes, is perhaps another place where Boko Haram attacks have fed interreligious violence, though the drivers of violence in that city have much to do with local history, law, and politics. Nevertheless, Jos appears to be one of the movement’s targets: Boko Haram claimed responsibility for bombings in Jos on Sunday June 10.

Two Church Attacks in Nigeria

Jos:

Nigeria’s Islamist sect Boko Haram said it was behind a suicide bomb attack Sunday that killed at least three outside a church in the central city of Jos, and warned of more such assaults.

Witnesses said a car packed with explosives rammed the gate of a perimeter fence and exploded a few metres (yards) from the wall of an 800-seat church hall in the volatile city.

Three people including a toddler were killed in the attack, igniting brief riots by Christian youths that left another three people, believed to be Muslims, dead on the streets of the capital of Plateau State.

Bauchi:

Bauchi State Police Command Sunday arrested eight persons in connection with an alleged attempt to bomb COCIN LCC Church in Miya Barkatai village in Toro Local Government Area of the state.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba, said in a statement in Bauchi, that the timely intervention of the police prevented the occurrence of an ugly incident in the state.

Aduba said the act was to be carried out by members of a rival group in the COCIN church in the village due to some misunderstanding among them.

The incident in Jos marks, I believe, the first suicide bombing in that city as well as another attempt by Boko Haram to incorporate Jos into its zone of regular attacks. The resulting killings by Christians demonstrate the secondary effects that Boko Haram’s violence can have. And the plot in Bauchi reminds us that not all violence now in the North is coming from Boko Haram; perhaps the plotters even hoped that the larger wave of violence would cover up their own involvement and direct suspicion away from them.

I don’t think I’ve posted the recent New York Times piece on Boko Haram in Kano, so here it is. It gives some insight into the group’s presence there, and how people are reacting to it.

Nigeria: Fresh Violence in Plateau State

AP:

Nigerian officials said attackers on Monday stabbed eight people to death in a central region beset by religious and ethnic tensions, while police in the restive northeast said members of a Muslim sect attempted to drive a car loaded with explosives into a busy police station.

[...]

Captain Charles Ekeocha said the stabbings happened Sunday night in the volatile city of Jos. He said soldiers dispersed rioters who gathered in a predominantly Christian neighborhood Monday morning to protest the killings.

Sporadic violence recently resumed after months of relative calm in Jos and surrounding areas, which are heavily policed. A clash there left five dead in July after a Muslim locksmith was found dead in a Christian neighborhood.

Boko Haram is not the only security challenge Nigeria faces. The cumulative effects of micro-level violence in places like Jos add to up to a major problem for state and federal authorities.

For more on the violence in Jos, see the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ recent report, “Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Violence.”

Reports Roundup: Nigeria, South Sudan, Counterterrorism, Africa and Oil

A few recent reports and publications that readers may find useful:

  • Africa Center for Strategic Studies: “Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict.” On causes of and potential solutions for the recurring violence in Jos.
  • Human Rights Watch: “South Sudan: A Human Rights Agenda.”
  • The White House: “National Strategy for Counterterrorism, June 2011.” Discusses al Shabab on page 14, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on page 16.
  • The World Bank: “Is Africa More Vulnerable to Oil Price Increases?”

If you read any of these publications, stop back and tell us your impressions.

Ethiopian Drought and the Future of African Pastoralism

With drought devastating parts of southern Ethiopia, Ethiopia’s government and the UN recently called on international donors to help provide $227 million in aid that will go to feeding 2.8 million people. As VOA writes, there is good news and bad in this announcement – good news in that “the number of Ethiopians in danger has dropped from 5.2 million a year ago,” bad news in that the drought may put more people in need of food relief as 2011 wears on. In the long term, Ethiopia’s problems intersect with wider concerns about the future of African pastoralism. As recurring droughts put pressure on African herders from Mauritania to Somalia, urbanization, conflict, and poverty will bring social change to many African societies. What happens in the physical landscape, in other words, affects the political landscape.

Oromiya Region, Ethiopia by Andrew Heavens

IRIN reports that the areas in Ethiopia that need aid are pastoralist regions where rains have failed. Because pastoralists are nomadic, political and ecological problems in the region intersect, making Ethiopia’s problems Kenya’s and Somalia’s, and vice versa:

In [the] Somali, Oromiya and Southern regions [of Ethiopia], the near complete failure of the October-December rains, has depleted about 80 percent of traditional water sources, which normally cover 80 percent of water needs in pastoral areas, said the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

In many of these areas, pasture availability has become limited, triggering early migration of livestock to the dry season pasture reserve areas. “The continued influx of pastoral communities from central Somalia, and northeastern and northern Kenya into neighboring zones of… Somali… and… Oromiya regions has been reported,” the network noted.

Ethiopia’s domestic politics also come into play with regard to pastoralist communities.

The government report indicates almost 40 percent of those nutritionally at risk are in the Somali region, home to less than six percent of the country’s population. Ethiopian troops are engaged in a counter-insurgency operation there against indigenous rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Force.

The group, in e-mail messages, has accused the government of ethnic cleansing and blocking food aid deliveries to rebel-held areas.  The government strongly denies the claims and says the rebel movement is dying, but restricts access to donor groups trying to monitor aid distribution.

State Minister Mitiku says the area of restricted movement includes only a few districts, known as woredas.

[...]

But aid community representatives are pushing for greater access to the insurgency zone.  U.N. aid coordinator Owusu says local officials often block access to humanitarian workers even in a usually quiet woreda.

Ethiopia’s situation is unique in some respects, but other countries will face equally intense political struggles involving pastoralists as droughts and desertification send nomads across borders or into new regions. Pieter Tesch predicted last year that the new border between North and South Sudan “will be as meaningless to the cattle pastoralists and other nomadic ethnic groups as the other borders created during the imperial conquest of Africa and the subsequent decolonisation decades later.” Problems in Sudan’s Abyei region – which may end up joining the South or remaining with the North – are largely related to the conflicting political demands of pastoralists and farmers. In Nigeria, meanwhile, desertification is pushing Muslim Fulani herdsmen southward into areas like Plateau State, a site of repeated clashes between nomads and farmers. The policy challenges arising from pastoralists’ suffering are serious and growing.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, background materials are available here, here, and here.

Death Toll Rises in Central Nigeria

The BBC reports on the latest incident of violence in central Nigeria. The escalation of this dispute shows how tense the region has become, with reprisals drawing both Christians and Muslims into a cycle of violence:

Sectarian clashes in Nigeria sparked by a dispute over a game of billiards have left four people dead and dozens of buildings on fire, police say.

The trouble broke out in Tafawa Balewa in central Nigeria, a region that has seen an upsurge in violence between Christians and Muslims.

Five mosques and about 50 homes were set alight as Christian and Muslim youths fought each other.

Police eventually restored order, using roadblocks to contain the violence.

Police commissioner Abdulkadir Mohammed Indabawa said the dispute began on Wednesday night with a disagreement over money between the Christian owner of the billiards table and a Muslim player.

Although the row was settled through mediation by local elders, the table was later burned.

“The Christian youths accused Muslims of the act, which prompted them to go about burning houses and mosques,” said Mr Indabawa.

“Clashes followed between Muslim and Christian groups and four people were killed as a result.”

Tafawa Balewa lies close to Jos (see map below, with both cities marked), which has been a flashpoint for violence in the past decade. Reuters gives some further context:

There have been almost daily clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in villages around Jos, the capital of Plateau state, since a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations a month ago, killing scores of people.

At least 12 people were killed in the latest attack on mostly Christian villages near Barkin Ladi, just outside Jos, late on Wednesday.

For further background, see these pieces by Human Rights Watch and the BBC.

Jos is the point further west, Tafawa Balewa the point further east:

Africa Blog Roundup: Ouattara Teleconference, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somali Soccer, and More

I have restrained myself from rounding up links on Tunisia because that’s pretty far out of the geographical zone of this blog’s coverage. Many of the sites on the blogroll, however, such as The Moor Next Door and Foreign Policy’s Passport (and its Middle East Channel), provide excellent writing on Tunisia and the broader North African context.

With that said, here’s my roundup of Africa blog posts for the week:

Cote d’Ivoire: The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a live teleconference with Alassane Ouattara on Friday. Video and audio available at the link.

Nigeria: Elizabeth Dickinson comments on the outcome of Nigeria’s People’s Democracy Party (PDP)’s primary this week:

Many a pundit has rehashed the point of contention going into yesterday’s primary: The party’s gentleman’s agreement to rotate the office between north and south every eight years should have shoehorned a northerner into the candidacy this year — but Jonathan is from the south. So not surprisingly, Jonathan was up against a popular northern politician for the nomination, a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. That Jonathan won is no small testament to the political lobbying he has done in recent weeks (but also likely to the fact that the man in power controls the party machinery). The numbers look pretty convincing — 2,736 delegates voted for Jonathan while just 807 voted for Abubakar.

Dig down at the state level, however, and you’ll see the rift — particularly in the country’s middle belt, where north and south meet (and where intercommunal violence has erupted in recent months). A good example is Bauchi state, where Jonathan won by a margin of 2 votes — 46 to 44. In northern Zamfara state, Jonathan won just one-tenth of Abubakar’s share.

Ambassador John Campbell writes on the violence in Jos, and Loomnie excerpts two further articles on the subject.

Sudan: Baobab looks at ongoing economic changes in Juba. Roving Bandit asks what comes next for South Sudan.

Somalia: At his new blog, James Dorsey writes about al Shabab’s decision to ban soccer.

AQIM: Jihadology has a statement from AQIM on the recent kidnapping of two French citizens in Niger.

And finally, check out zunguzungu‘s “Invented Communities in Africa and America.”

What are you reading today?

Fresh Violence in Jos, Nigeria

On Friday, bombings in Jos, Nigeria claimed over thirty lives. More violence followed over the weekend, as VOA reports:

News agencies quoted witnesses as reporting that buildings were set on fire in Jos. Security forces were patrolling the area to contain the violence and disperse crowds.

[...]

Clashes between religious and ethnic groups have killed hundreds of people in and around Jos in recent years.

Plateau state governor Jonah David Jang said the attacks were aimed at sparking violence between Christians and Muslims that would interfere with preparations for April’s presidential poll.

Euronews has a video report: