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Cablegate: Violent Clashes in Plateau State

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

261353Z Feb 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000337

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NI
SUBJECT: VIOLENT CLASHES IN PLATEAU STATE


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR PUBLICATION ON THE
INTERNET OR INTRANET.

1. (U) Summary. February 26 newspapers reported at least 12
people were killed on February 24, and 49 more have been
reported killed over the past two weeks in ethnic/religious
clashes in the southern part of Plateau State in northern
Nigeria. Some press reports have claimed as many as 117
people have died. Plateau has been the site of violent
land-use disputes since 2001 between Jukuns, Fulanis, Taroks
and Bogoms, and all of them are willing to take on any police
or soldiers who get in their way. The militias say the
ruling PDP state government has stoked the violence as an
excuse to cancel next month's Local Government Area (LGA)
elections, which the opposition ANPP would likely win. A
state official said the elections in four LGAs would likely
soon be suspended indefinitely, prompting fears of additional
unrest. End Summary.

LONGSTANDING ETHNIC LAND FEUDS NOW RELIGIOUS AND DEADLY

2. (U) Pastoralist Muslim Jukuns and Fulani have been
battling farm-based Christian Taroks without letup for more
than a year, in a rivalry for land rights going back at least
two centuries. Tarok farmers claim the area's
government-sanctioned "traditional leaders," the Muslim
Emirate Council, ignores their claimed rights to the land as
the original inhabitants, and the Jukuns and Fulani feel they
are not given enough access to land for their cattle because
Taroks have stronger influence in the state government.
Religion has been used to rally each tribe's zealots, and the
cycle of violence has pushed many Christians out of the Wase
Local Government Area (LGA) and many Muslims out of Langtang
LGA, in southeast Plateau State.

3. (U) The attacks have grown steadily more deadly after a
Muslim Jukun was killed by an unidentified assailant February
10 near Mavo village, according to the Plateau State
Governor's assistant, Gabriel Makan. Mobile police went to
the scene but returned within two days without finding any
suspects. Christian Taroks allegedly responded by massacring
11 people in Mavo February 13, predominantly Muslim Jukuns,
although Plateau State officials said only four people died
and one of them was a Muslim school principal from the Bogom
tribe. About 30 Wase-based mobile police and about 30
soldiers went to Mavo afterwards. Fulani militias swept
through Tarok villages in Langtang South and Shendam Local
Government Areas February 23 killing at least 33 civilians
and four police officers, Makan told Poloff, although Makan
noted that the Muslim Jukuns and Muslim Fulani do not usually
coordinate.

4. (U) The violence spilled over to Shendam LGA February 24,
where conflicting press reports say 48 or 12 persons were
killed in a church. Former Federal Capital Territory
Minister Jeremiah Useni issued a public call on the Arewa
Consultative Forum, an umbrella advocacy group for Nigeria's
northern states, to mediate an end to the fighting. General
Useni, himself a Tarok from Langtang, said he had been
consulting with the Emir of Wase until he had discovered a
militia training center in Wase last week.

5. (SBU) The Plateau State government said it has been trying
this month to reconcile the groups and prevent revenge
attacks. Governor Dariye visited Wase last week, where
Mavo residents complained that Tarok raiders go unpunished
because of their influential political contacts. The
Governor's assistant, Makan, acknowledged to Poloff that the
police have no suspects. Despite what Makan said was the
state government's best efforts at reconciliation, Tarok and
Jukun leaders all claim the state government is using the
fighting for political gain.

SIDE EFFECTS ON POLIO AND ELECTIONS

6. (SBU) World Health Organization (WHO) security officials
working on the oral polio vaccination campaign confirmed the
reports of violence on February 22. They also reported that
the violence has spread to the Kanam and Quanpaan LGAs.
Displaced people are congesting the main towns in the region
as they move away from outlying villages, and one Fulani
village reportedly refused the oral polio vaccine "as a
reaction to what is happening to their people" throughout the
state, the WHO reported February 25. The Plateau State
government reportedly stopped the vaccination campaign
February 25 in response to the controversy elsewhere in
northern Nigeria over safety of the vaccine, but the stoppage
seems more related to the fighting at home.

7. (SBU) The warring tribes seem to agree that the state
government is using their violence to forestall LGA elections
scheduled for March 27. Governor Dariye is unpopular among
all ethnic groups in the southern parts of Plateau State, and
they accuse him of seeking to maintain his handpicked and
unpopular caretaker officials now running the LGAs. Both
Tarok and Jukun leaders agree that Dariye's PDP would lose to
the ANPP in free and fair LGA elections. The PDP lost to the
ANPP and UNPP in the four LGAs during last year's
violence-affected state and national elections. Governor's
aide Makan told Poloff that elections in the four LGAs are
"likely" to be soon postponed indefinitely. Under these
security conditions, Makan said, "it does not seem morally
right to tell them to go out and vote."
ROBERTS

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