Women of Jos protest in Abuja

Nigerian women dressed in Black marched in Abuja to protest the massacres taking place in Plateau State. The women demanded the removal of the military commander in charge of security, Maj-Gen. Saleh Maina. Once again the Nigerian military, who were supposed to be protecting the women and the villages, have instead become part of the violence as the women accused the Commander of being complicit in the violence. According to the Nigerian Red Cross there are some 20,000 mainly women and children who have been displaced and are living in make shift camps in Plateau and Bauchi States. Hundreds of children have also been murdered by men with machetes and knives – what kind of people can slaughter children like this. One mother lost all seven of her children.

These testimonies taken by Human Rights Watch speak to the horror of what has taken place this past week.

Dogo is a farming village several kilometers from Jos. They came at around 3 a.m. to attack our village. When they arrived, they immediately started shooting, so many of us ran outside to see what happened. Then others attacked us with machetes, killing so many. It was not easy for us to escape. I ran into the bushes and hid — from there I saw them killing. They killed about 150 children, 80 women, 50 men in Dogo Nahawa. There were about 200 of them armed with guns and cutlasses. After running away, I could see the burning of our houses and heard our women and children screaming as they were being killed. I recognized a few of [the attackers’] voices. I believe they were those who had lived here before. I heard them speaking in both Hausa and Fulani, saying, “The time has come, you will see.” There was no warning for this attack. I was very lucky to escape. I saw many people being cut down as I was running. The attack lasted until around 4:30 [a.m.] when the military showed up. When the attackers saw their lights they disappeared — the attackers were on foot…

The actions of the army are similar to those in the Niger Delta as far back as the early 1990s in Ogoniland up to the bombings of villages in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State last May where the army were responsible for the death and displacement of thousands of mainly women and children. The women of Jos have taken a bold and powerful step in marching on Abuja to protest against the violence in their communities. The question however remains is why the security forces failed to protect women and children from this latest slaughter. If military commanders cannot act impartially and responsibility then what can we expect from junior ranks? There is culture of indiscipline and a lack respect for ordinary people, particularly poor people and women, by the Nigerian security forces and by extension the Nigerian government. Never is there an investigation nor is anyone ever prosecuted even when it is blatantly clear that murder, rape and other violent acts have been committed. Just a couple of weeks ago Al Jazeera broadcast a video showing the murder of unarmed civilians by the Nigerian paramilitary police in Maiduguri. It is only because the video was broadcast on international television that the government has for once began an investigation into the murders. In December last year several hundred bodies were dumped at the mortuary in Enugu- the police claiming the men were criminals. Maybe they were, maybe they were not. Either way they are entitled to be charged and tried in a court of law. It is not the duty of the police to go around shooting people who they suspect to be militants or criminals. I hope the women continue to protest and that the Save Nigeria Movement and other pro democracy groups join the women in demanding an investigation into the army’s action, the violence itself and also demand to know the truth surrounding the disappeared President.

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