Nigeria’s latest spate of violence — which began with attacks on police stations in four northern states — is not what it seems. Superficially, the story looks similar to (though it was not connected with) outbreaks of Islamist fanaticism elsewhere in the world: An Islamist sect run amok, threatening a town’s security, demanding an end to Western institutions, and seeking to impose a strict religious code. But instead, the clashes are a northern Nigerian version of what is happening in another (mostly Christian) region of the country, the Niger Delta. Both are violent reactions to the flagrant lack of concern on the part of those who govern for the welfare of the governed.
Ten years of supposed democracy have yielded mounting poverty and deprivation of every kind in Nigeria. Young people, undereducated by a collapsed educational system, may “graduate,” but only into joblessness. Lives decline, frustration grows, and angry young men are too easily persuaded to pick up readily accessible guns in protest when something sparks their rage. Meanwhile, those in power at all levels ignore the business of governing and instead enrich themselves. Law and order deteriorate. The Nigerian police, which are federal, are called on, but they have grievances of their own. Ill-trained, ill-paid, and housed in squalid barracks, they are feared for their indiscriminate use of force. The military, though more professional, is not prepared for dealing with unrest — and unrest has proliferated more and more. [continued…]
At least 780 people were killed in last week’s military operation to quell an uprising by an Islamist sect in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the Red Cross said Monday.
“So far a total of 780 dead bodies were picked from the streets of Maiduguri and given a mass burial at three sites in the city,” Nigeria Red Cross official Muhammad Zanna Barma told AFP.
Fighting erupted between security forces and members of an extremist Islamist sect after an attack on a police station in nearby Bauchi state, and later spread to Kano, Yobe and Borno states.
Officials had last week put the death toll in violence in Yobe and Bauchi states at 98, bringing the overall total to 878, using the Red Cross figure for Maiduguri.
Suggesting on Sunday that the vast majority of the dead were sect members, officials said the bodies were swept into mass graves as their families were unwilling to claim them, for fear of being associated with the notorious sect — styled on Afghanistan’s Taliban. [continued…]