Nigerian city torn by post-election religious violence
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Violent riots broke out in northern Nigeria the day after President Goodluck Jonathan was re-elected on Saturday, April 16, and went on for several days. Although police say the clashes were based on political divides rather than ethnic or religious tensions, our Observers in the violence-ridden city of Kaduna tell a very different story.
Young Christians armed with iron rods and sticks head toward the Muslim part in the north of the city on Tuesday, April 19. Photo taken by our Observer Ify.
Violent riots broke out in northern Nigeria after President Goodluck Jonathan was re-elected on Saturday, April 16. Although police say the clashes were based on political divides rather than ethnic or religious tensions, our Observers in the violence-ridden city of Kaduna tell a very different story.
The Nigerian population is deeply divided between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian candidate from the south, won the presidential poll with 57% of the vote. His main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, took 31%. Buhari has not spoken publicly of the results, but his party has rejected them and filed a complaint with the electoral commission.
Violence erupted sporadically over the weekend over allegations of vote rigging and quickly spread to some 14 states on Monday. An estimated 15,000 people have been displaced due to the unrest. According to the Nigerian Red Cross, an unknown number of people were killed overnight across several northern cities, in particular Kaduna, the north’s main political hub. The group added that it could not establish an exact toll because it had not been able to access several districts on the outskirts of Kaduna, where unrest remains rife.
Like a miniature replica of the country, the city of Kaduna, a major trade centre in north-central Nigeria, is also divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south. Simmering religious tensions came to a head after the vote, unleashing a wave of killings and destruction.
"Men from the neighbourhood of Narayi killed and burned a Muslim salesman, out of revenge"
Ify is a Nigerian Christian who lives in Kaduna. He filmed the following video on Monday, April 18.
I live near Narayi market, in southern Kaduna. On Monday, when I went to the market, I witnessed a Muslim salesman who came from the north of the city with his truck being attacked by a group of men from the neighbourhood.
Video filmed by Ify on Monday, April 18. Posted on YouTube.
This salesman would regularly come to Nayari to sell rechargeable lamps, flashlights, batteries and other hardware goods. His attackers cut him with machetes then set fire to his body, using the flammable liquids the man had for sale in his own truck. They claimed they were acting in revenge for Muslim attacks on Christians in the north of the city. The burning ash I later filmed is all that was left of his body and the goods he was selling. (This crime has not been reported by other media sources and FRANCE 24 was unable to independently verify this account.)
On Tuesday morning, young Christians from the south headed to the border of Kaduna north armed with sticks, machetes and truncheons, because they had heard that Muslims were descending on the south of the city. Clashes took place all day along the border despite the curfew. The military have the centre under control, but not the outskirts of the city.”
"In the weeks leading up to the elections, most Muslims living in Kaduna's south moved back north, and most Christians moved south"
Paul is a computer science graduate living in the Christian part of Kaduna. He filmed the following video from his car.
I drove out on Monday and shot this video of three mosques that were burnt down in southern Kaduna, where I live. Those who burned them were Christians acting in retaliation to rumours that Muslims in the north of the city, angered by Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election, burnt down churches and killed priests in their area.
Video filmed by Paul on Monday, April 18 and posted on YouTube.
No one has been able to cross the border safely since Saturday. In the south of Kaduna, groups of Christian youths set up checkpoints Sunday and Monday and stopped every car entering the district to make sure that it carried no arms, explosives or ammunition.
The situation was very tense on Monday, but now the army has taken over the city [in central Kaduna, but not in the suburbs] and is keeping the peace. An all-day curfew has been declared: no one is allowed to leave home; those who do know it’s at their own risk. People can’t go to work, and the city is completely paralysed: all the shops are closed, the banks are closed, the streets are nearly empty. I think the curfew was necessary after yesterday’s violence, but it should be reduced to nighttime, from 10 pm to 6 am. Otherwise the city will choke."
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalists Lorena Galliot and Peggy Bruguière.