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Uneasy calm in Kaduna

Many in the restive north Nigerian state are hoping and praying that this Sunday will pass peacefully, after a string of deadly church bombings.
Last modified: 24 Jun 2012 02:52

The mood in Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria, looks calm, but inside many people here are tense and on edge. Every street is abandoned. Every business and school, closed.

No newspapers are on sale at traffic junctions, and no sign of the many people that make a living hawking cheap goods when it’s a red light, or selling mobile phone scratch card credit.

The only people visible are men in uniform, and they are virtually everywhere. The uniforms are those of the Nigerian military and police.

Their men have taken up positions on virtually every major road, and outside every important landmark in the State.

All this follows days of fighting between young Christian and Muslims, after three suicide bombers, believed to have been members of the Boko Haram sect, who want a strict from of Islamic law imposed throughout the country, struck churches last Sunday.

A strict 24-hour curfew is in place.

Shame and regret

There has been calm across the State since Wednesday. The people involved in the violence have had the time to cool off and probably reflect.

My Fixer, Abubakar, who helps me organise stories, says many in Kaduna feel ashamed and regret the violence that happened on Sunday.

After deadly religious violence in the 1990's and early 2000's the people, both Christians and Muslims in Kaduna, worked hard to find a way to live side by side in peace.

It's not a perfect settlement. The State is informally carved up into so-called Christian and Muslim areas - outsiders may find it uncomfortable, but it seems to work.

Last Sunday’s violence was haunting for many, because it was like going back in a time-machine.

Many are hoping last weekend's post-bomb violence between Christians and Muslims was a one off. But people are afraid that if any more churches are bombed, it may reverse things.

Some fear it could ignite a wider religious crisis that may spread beyond Kaduna. Many feel that is the plan those behind the attacks have in mind.

Today I met with some Christians in Kaduna. They say the church bombings have to stop. They say they do not want violent confrontation with their Muslim brothers and sisters.

But one can see quite vividly how poverty, unemployment, idleness, and exploitation can be a lethal cocktail around here.

Religious difference is an easy target or excuse that can lead Christians and Muslims communities to sometimes turn on each other.

Particularly when such attacks, like the suicide bombings of last weekend take place, or sometimes the slightest of things.

Many of the Christians I spoke to do not believe the church suicide bombers were even from Kaduna State. So reprisal attacks on Muslims in the community seem futile.

'Security chiefs failed'

Many believe the attackers came from Borno State, the birthplace of Boko Haram.

The Christians I spoke to lay blame for the violence last Sunday and in parts of northern Nigeria in general squarely on President Goodluck Jonathan. They say Jonathan is failing to understand just how serious the problem is.

On Friday Jonathan, under pressure to respond to the attacks and violence, sacked his National Security Adviser and Minister of Defence.

In place of the NSA he appointed a retired Colonel from Sokoto State, the home of the spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, and an experienced military leader in the northern region.

That decision may go some way to helping Nigeria's President, the government, and the security agencies, understand the root causes of Boko Haram violence and strife that on the face of it looks religious in nature, but which many believe are symptoms of Nigeria's socio-economic injustices and ills – like corruption.

But until there is a major drop in the frequency of Boko Haram attacks and violence in the parts of northern Nigeria that are being affected, some will deem the new security chiefs to have failed.

Many in Kaduna are hoping and praying that this Sunday will pass off peacefully. But some fear that there could be another bomb attack on a church.