FaithWorld

Nigerian president appeals to Muslim leaders before vote

()

(Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at a campaign rally in Kano, northern Nigeria, March 16, 2011S/Joe Penney)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to Muslim leaders to help ensure that elections next month, which risk stoking regional rivalries, pass off peacefully. Africa’s most populous nation holds presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections spread over three weeks in April, all of which are set to be fiercely contested.

Jonathan met on Sunday with the Sultan of Sokoto, one of Nigeria’s most influential Islamic leaders, and other senior figures from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Muslim umbrella organisation Jamatul Nasir Islam in the northern city of Kaduna. Nigeria is home to the largest Muslim community in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for roughly half of the country’s 150 million people, as well as to more than 200 ethnicities, most of whom generally live peacefully side by side.

But ethnic and religious rivalries bubble under the surface and the candidacy of Jonathan, a Christian from the southern Niger Delta, has fuelled resentment from some in the north who believe the next president should be a northern Muslim. Jonathan is running for what would have been the second term of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner who died last year leaving Jonathan to inherit the country’s highest office.

His main rival in the presidential race is former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner whose reputation as a devout Muslim and a disciplinarian means he has strong grass roots support in large parts of the north.

Nigeria’s Muslim north risks growing sense of alienation

kano

(A motor rickshaw transporting Muslim women drives past a signboard promoting Islamic faith in Nigeria's northern city of Kano March 15, 2011/Joe Penny)

Standing on the dancefloor among shards of glass and splintered wood, Tony Baisie rues the day he agreed to help set up a nightclub in one of West Africa’s oldest Islamic cities. For more than 15 years this converted office on an industrial back street in Kano, northern Nigeria, was a thriving business. Customers — Christian and Muslim — would dance among its mirrored walls or shoot pool in the courtyard outside.

But three weeks ago, members of Hisbah — a uniformed Islamic squad set up by Kano’s state governor in 2003 to enforce sharia (Islamic law) — raided the club, smashing tables and chairs, and seizing its drinks stocks and sound systems. “They took me away and detained me overnight,” Baisie said. “Before they released me they made me sign an undertaking I would not sell alcohol or play music ever again in Kano.”

Nigeria’s Jonathan takes election campaign to Muslim north

jonathan

(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan speaks at the launch of his presidential campaign in the central city of Lafia, Nassarawa state February 7, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

From Islamic police enforcing a ban on beer and prostitution to its centuries-old market and mosques, Nigeria’s northern city of Kano feels like a different country to the pulsating southern sprawl of Lagos. Its low-rise buildings and dusty tree-lined streets have more in common with the sleepy Sahelian cities of Niger or Chad than with Nigeria’s commercial hub, a city built on hustle and home to some of Africa’s largest companies and richest tycoons.

Securing support in this ancient city — the second most populous after Lagos — and other parts of Nigeria’s Muslim north will be key if President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, is to clinch victory in the first round of elections next month.

Muslim-Christian sectarian divisions haunt central Nigerian city

jos 1

(A police check point in Nigeria's central city of Jos February 15, 2011/Afolabi Sotunde)

An outsider crossing the dried-up gulley between two neighbourhoods in this central Nigerian city might not notice he had stepped over one of its increasingly tense sectarian dividing lines. On both sides, stallholders sell freshly slaughtered meat and tropical fruit under umbrellas. Motorcycle taxis weave in and out of the traffic. Soldiers with AK-47s on the street corners are the only outward sign all is not well.

“No Christians come here because they are scared. We used to have Christians running stalls here but now there is no trust,” said Umar, a Muslim, from behind a pile of mangoes and pineapples.

Snooker row sparks deadly Christian-Muslim clashes in Nigeria

snookerClashes between Christian and Muslim youths in central Nigeria triggered by a game of snooker have killed four people and led to the burning of houses, churches and mosques, police said on Friday.

Residents said the dispute in Tafawa Balewa, in Bauchi state, started when a man from the Muslim Hausa ethnic group refused to pay for a snooker game on Wednesday evening.

The snooker club owners, from the mostly Christian Sayawa ethnic group, threw him out but he returned with a gang of friends and tried to set the building ablaze, witnesses said.

Christian-Muslim clashes flare in Nigeria after Christmas Eve bombings

jos (Photo: After an explosion in Nigeria’s central city of Jos on December 25, 2010 picture/Afolabi Sotunde)

Clashes broke out between armed Christian and Muslim groups near the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, a Reuters witness said, after Christmas Eve bombings in the region killed more than 30 people.

Buildings were set ablaze and people were seen running for cover as the police and military arrived on the scene in an effort to disperse crowds. This correspondent saw dozens of buildings on fire and injured people covered in blood being dragged by friends and family to hospital.

The unrest was triggered by explosions on Christmas Eve in villages near Jos, capital of Plateau state, that killed at least 32 people and left 74 critically injured. Pope Benedict condemned the attacks, which killed six people in two churches.

Nigerian air force joins bid to contain Islamist sect

nigeria 1Nigeria’s security services are beefing up efforts to contain the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in the remote north, launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters to help with patrols.

Army Chief of Staff Azubuike Ihejirika, appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan just over a month ago, said on Tuesday he had instructed the security forces to be at the ready after a string of attacks blamed on the  sect. (Photo: Bodies lay on the streets in Maiduguri after uprising by Boko Haram in Nothern Nigeria, July 31, 2009/Aminuo Abubacar)

The group, which wants sharia (Islamic law) more widely applied across Africa’s most populous nation, launched an uprising in the city of Maiduguri last year which led to days of gun battles with the security forces in which hundreds died.

Christian-Muslim identity tags in Nigerian struggle for land

nigeria 1

A funeral of victims in Dogo Nahawa village near Jos in central Nigeria, March 8, 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Bloody clashes between Christian and Muslim gangs in Nigeria have led to media headlines about “religious violence” that leave readers wondering just what role faith plays in this conflict. As our copy from Nigeria points out, the terms Christian, Muslim and animist are often used to identify the groups in this conflict, but they are not fighting over the divine nature of Jesus, prophethood of Mohammad or sacredness of a tree or rock. They are mostly struggling for land in the fertile central region of the country.

Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups and several different languages, but its population is divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.

North Africa Qaeda group offers to help Nigerian Muslims

nigeria violence

Farm truck attacked in Nigeria's central city of Jos as Muslim and Christian gangs clashed last month, 20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

An al Qaeda group in North Africa has offered to give Nigerian Muslims training and weapons to fight Christians in the West African country, where more than 460 people were killed in sectarian clashes last month.

“We are ready to train your people in weapons, and give you whatever support we can in men, arms and munitions to enable you to defend our people in Nigeria,” the statement by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said.

TIMELINE-Ethnic and religious unrest in Nigeria

jos 1

A man and his daughter outside a burned house in Jos,20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Four days of clashes this week between Christian and Muslim mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos and surrounding communities before the military was deployed to contain the violence. At least 460 people have been reported killed

The unrest around the capital of Plateau state, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, underscores the fragility of Africa’s most populous nation as it approaches the campaign period for 2011 elections with uncertainty over who is in charge.  President Umaru Yar’Adua has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for two months.