The Federal Republic of Nigeria is one of the main economic powers in West Africa. Nigeria is also the most populous country in the continent, with the largest population of youth in the world and a large ethnic and cultural diversity. This diversity is not without its consequences, as seen in the province of Kaduna State, where tensions between Muslims and Christians have frequently caused conflicts.
Since the 1980s, religious tension is the main cause of society disintegration and destruction of private or public properties in Kaduna State. In 2000, the conflict began to spread due to the enactment of sharia law there. Christians protested that the enactment of Sharia law restricted their freedom, while the Muslims protested that Sharia law could not be enacted fully due to the Christians’ protests. Both Muslims and Christians are still at odds until today, with riots, bombings, and murders among the threats.
On February 2018, violence had recently re-erupted in Kaduna State, which was caused by a quarrel between several Muslim and Christian youths. The most recent violence was ignited by opinions against inter-religious relationships after two Christian girls decided to convert to Islam following their partners. Majority of violent incidents happening in Kaduna State are thought to be driven by religious tensions. Due to internalized enmity between religious groups, religious conflicts are difficult to avoid in the state, which have significantly disrupted civilian safety and harmony in the communities.
The government of Kaduna State has realized that conflicts remain largely affected by existing religious tensions. A day after the conflict, Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has reportedly ordered an arrest and prosecution for the culprits.
The governor said the government had gone through the acts directed by the State Emergency Management Agency to contain the situation, take inventory of the damages and provide relief immediately to prevent any further disorder. The Governor has also acknowledged that the magnitude of the conflict was massive compared to its initial cause.
The government has publicly condemned the violent acts and expressed sympathy towards the victims and their families. However, the government failed to provide the compensation to the victims who were mostly indigenous Christian farmers. The government has also yet taken actions regarding the development of youth society, such as providing counseling and assistance for traumatized victims, including women and children.
Jusuf Kalla’s Peacemaking Approach
The approach used in resolving similar conflicts in Indonesia could be examined and applied for the Kaduna Religious Crisis. One unique approach comes from JK, who during his stint as the Coordinating Minister of Welfare (2001-2004) helped pacify religious conflicts in Poso and Maluku.
The first two conflicts involved the tension between Christian and Muslim communities in the region, as a result of perceived injustices in political, economic, and social standings. Not only that, but incitement also came from external parties who benefitted from the conflict, such as military forces in Ambon or extremist organizations in Poso.
Through that, JK observes that peacemaking requires a thorough contextual understanding of the conflict, from history, local culture, to the economic and social issues present, to address the root causes appropriately.
In Poso, for example, JK sent a team to assess the situation before stepping in. Based on the situation, he also emphasized the needs to establish a good economy, uphold law enforcement, and promote religious tolerance and understanding between communities, which are the main issues aggravating the horizontal tension.
JK’s approach also greatly emphasizes the importance of negotiation and compromise in resolving conflicts. He argues that an impartial negotiator, neutral from any interest, is crucial in facilitating peace negotiations and dialogs.
JK himself was a major facilitator of the peace agreements in Poso and Maluku, namely the Malino I Declaration and the Malino II Agreement, which led to ceasefires. In peace negotiations, the government must also engage with local leaders and the community.
For his works in Poso, JK presented three options to Muslim and Christian representatives he met in Makassar: to continue the conflict, let security forces take action, or have the government facilitate a peace agreement. The last option was chosen, and the signing of the Malino Declaration helped pave the way to reconciliation. Similarly, in Maluku, JK engaged with Muslim and Christian representatives in drafting and signing the Malino II Agreement. With JK’s role as a neutral mediator in the two conflicts, meetings and dialogs between both parties significantly advanced efforts towards a peace agreement.
Since the 1940s, Kaduna State has attracted lots of conflicts due to its position as an administrative center. In 1980, land ownership dispute happened between traders in Kaduna. Another incident occurred where Muslim Students Society attacked College of Education, leading to church burnings, killings, and riots. In 1988 in Zaria, Muslim students attacked Christians because of opposition’s victory in student union elections.
After that, in 1999, war broke between Muslim-dominated Southern Kaduna against Christian-dominated Northern Kaduna. Perhaps, the most influential cause was the implementation of Sharia law in 2000, which increased religious tension in Kaduna. For example, the conflict which occurred in 2002 was due to Muslim protests on the Miss World Pageant.
In 2011, the presidential election ended with unrest between Christians and Muslims. Nearly every problem is connected to religious reasons, despite the root causes ranging from political, social, to economic interests. The 60 ethnicities and cultural diversity present in Kaduna were not the problem. However the implementation of Sharia law in 2000 was believed to have caused longstanding divides between Christian and Muslims ever since.
Indeed, inter-religious suspicion and hostility are prevalent in Kaduna State’s social landscape. Both Christian and Muslim groups continue to shift blame towards one another and have remarked on the state government’s perceived reluctance to prosecute perpetrators and protect victims of discrimination.
Law enforcement is also low, with both groups reporting discriminatory acts such as denying permits for minority religious sites and preferential treatment. Muslims are discriminated in majorly Christian areas, and vice versa.
Despite Kaduna State’s growing importance as Nigeria’s education hub, poverty and high levels of illiteracy is believed to also motivate religious extremism within the state, especially among the youths. Religious leaders have also been split in this issue, with the government acknowledging and condemning dissemination of hate speech, and other religious leaders calling for peace.
Economy problems in Nigeria also contribute to exacerbating the conflict. Nigeria has low ranks in poverty reduction, primary education enrolment, healthcare, and capacity building, which is also further hindered by corruption in all state levels. The economic backwardness, coupled with the existing religious distrust, makes Kaduna State vulnerable to conflicts.
In 2016, religious-driven attacks and killings occurred between Christian farmers and Fulani Muslim herdsmen, in which NGOs believed that scarcity of farm resources and migration also contributed in the conflict.
On the other hand, the ongoing violence also disrupts economic activities, as citizens under attack have to seek refuge in camps and cannot return to their jobs until the situation stabilizes.
With the complex economic, social, and political factors, Nigeria needs a robust and influential mediator figure in Kaduna, akin to that of JK in the Poso and Maluku conflicts. JK’s involvement in Poso and Maluku was a ‘bridging’ role, where he helped bring together the opposing parties and urge discussions towards a peace agreement. His impartiality as a government representative also ensures that ceasefire comes with mutually beneficial terms.
As biased state forces disadvantage both Christians and Muslims, having a neutral negotiator ensures conflicting parties that peace will benefit both sides. A powerful mediator similar to JK, who was a Minister, also would prompt stronger commitments from both sides in creating peace in Kaduna.
The myriad of triggering causes also indicates a need for closer engagement between the government and both religious groups. Based on JK’s approach, this engagement must be geared towards negotiating terms and achieve mutual development.
Solving situations where Muslims and Christians often clash, such as interfaith relationships, welfare, resource allocations, and distribution of political roles, must involve negotiation with both sides.
Focusing on negotiating peace and its supporting environment would not only help both sides to work towards peace and fix development problems which triggered conflicts, but also increase public faith on government’s ability to pacify the crisis and stabilize Kaduna State, and encourage civilians to work towards peace with support from the government.
The complexity of the Kaduna State religious crisis would be suited to JK’s approach, which emphasizes on addressing underlying socio-economic problems, the presence of a strong, impartial negotiator, and close engagement with both Muslim and Christian parties.
JK’s approach would help the government solve socio-economic and political inequalities that incite conflicts through negotiations and understanding, push mutually beneficial peace agreements from both parties through an influential mediator, and promote public faith in peace through stronger government engagements in the conflict. JK’s approach in Poso and Maluku conflicts can surely help Kaduna State, and other regions resolve their conflicts.
Ricky Antonius Margareta
21 years old, 4th year student of Parahyangan Catholic University, now active as Student Ambassador of the campus
20 years old, 3rd year student of Parahyangan Catholic university, now active in this intra campus organization managing website and an intern of Public Relations Communications Office of the campus.
20 years old, 3rd year student of Parahyangan Catholic University, now active in the organization of student council as staff of research and development division
This essay has been edited and modified for digital publication and reading easiness reasons.
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