- Rights groups hold the Nigerian government responsible for a failure to adopt policies that could have hindered this weekend's massacre of 500 people around Jos City. Also the international community urges Nigeria to change its policies to prevent further slaughtering.
As many as 500 people in the area around the city of Jos may have been killed last weekend during the latest wave of clashes between Christians and Muslims, which followed similar attacks in January and in November 2009.
As these grim events happen more and more often in Nigeria, the question is raised whether government is doing enough to hinder these massacres. Human rights groups for a long time have claimed Nigeria's government fails to address the issue properly.
To start with, violence is too often met with impunity in Nigeria; in particular religious and ethnic violence. Therefore, Human Rights Watch started by demanding that Nigeria's acting President "should make sure" that the massacre in central Nigeria "is thoroughly and promptly investigated and that those responsible are prosecuted."
"This kind of terrible violence has left thousands dead in Plateau State in the past decade, but no one has been held accountable," said Corinne Dufka of the human rights group. Impunity could only lead to further massacres.
"The acting President should also ensure that the military and the police act swiftly to protect civilians of all ethnicities at risk of further attacks or reprisal killings, including by conducting regular patrols throughout the vulnerable region," the rights group further demanded. "It is time to draw a line in the sand. The authorities need to protect these communities, bring the perpetrators to book, and address the root causes of violence," Ms Dufka said.
The same concerns are raised by the international community. The UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay said today called for authorities to tackle the underlying causes of the tension in the region.
Too little had been done since the last massacre in January and in November 2009. "After the January killings, the villages should have been properly protected," Ms Pillay said.
She stressed that better security is clearly vital, but added that it would be a mistake to think of the situation as simply sectarian or ethnic violence, and to treat it solely as a security issue. "What is most needed is a concerted effort to tackle the underlying causes of the repeated outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence which Nigeria has witnessed in recent years, namely discrimination, poverty and disputes over land," she stated. "The government needs to address these issues head-on."
The same thoughts were presented in Washington today, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Nigeria not to tolerate further impunity. "The Nigerian government should make sure the perpetrators are brought to justice under the rule of law and that human rights are respected as order is restored," Ms Clinton said at a news conference.
Contrasting earlier Nigerian leaders, acting President Goodluck Jonathan in fact is indeed gathering some praise for his handling of the Jos massacre. Nigerian police already have reported the arrest of more than 90 persons suspected of inciting and carrying out the violence. This swift action has been seen as a positive development by groups like Human Rights Watch.
The rights group also praised acting President Jonathan's ordering of additional troops to the streets of Jos and surrounding communities and his promise to bring the perpetrators to justice as "a step in the right direction."
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