The five days of bloodshed in September 2001 have left the inhabitants of Jos in a state of shock. A woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch said: "This madness started here on Friday, then on Tuesday we heard about the attacks in the United States and saw it on the television. We thought the world was coming to an end." Since September, Jos has been calm but the memories of the violence are still fresh and kept alive by the continuing fighting between communities in several neighboring states.
After interviewing many Christians and Muslims in and around Jos, Human Rights Watch concluded that both communities suffered massive human and material losses during the crisis but could not assert that one side could be held responsible for a significantly greater number of abuses than the other. Nor were we able to substantiate the more dramatic claims made by some Muslim groups that the crisis had been engineered by Christians in a bid to wipe them out, or vice-versa.71 Unfortunately, the crisis served to reinforce these extreme positions among some members of both communities, resulting in serious accusations being traded backwards and forwards and often biased reporting of events in the media and in other documents. Nevertheless, it was clear to Human Rights Watch that the majority of inhabitants of Jos, whether Christian or Muslim, were less interested in this propaganda than in restoring peace and normality and resuming harmonious relationships with their neighbors.
One of the many sad consequences of the violence in Jos is that in addition to the hundreds of lives needlessly lost, seeds of distrust have been sown between communities. For the first time, people are eyeing each other not only with suspicion and jealousy, but also with fear. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the violence, messages of peace from community leaders in Angwan Rogo, who tried to reassure students that they would not be attacked if they returned to their homes in the area, were mistrusted or dismissed.72 It will take some time to undo this damage and to restore confidence. However, there have also been many testimonies to the courage and integrity of both Christians and Muslims who saved others from the onslaught of members of their own faith during the crisis. There were also examples of successful appeals by religious and other community leaders to calm people down and prevent them from engaging in pointless destruction. In areas such as Dadinkowa (a majority Christian area), concerted efforts and cooperation by Christian and Muslim leaders succeeded in averting more widespread violence.73 Since the crisis, a number of nongovernmental organizations have also tried to overcome the polarization caused by the crisis and bring communities back together.
It is now the primary responsibility of the authorities to ensure that such a crisis can never occur again. In the immediate future, the two commissions of inquiry offer an opportunity for both the state and federal governments to demonstrate their commitment to restoring enduring peace in Jos. However, the commissions must be more than a token exercise to appease government critics. They must make every effort to establish the truth regarding the events of September 2001 and their causes and make this information public. At the same time, police and judicial authorities should investigate events leading up to and during the crisis in Jos and ensure the prosecution of those found responsible for the violence. While impunity continues to protect those who organized and perpetrated these abuses, the chances of violence recurring remain high. The authorities should also work closely with local communities to try to restore trust between different ethnic and religious groups in Jos and rebuild the social fabric that was temporarily destroyed in September.
Most importantly, if serious attempts are to be made to avoid further inter-communal violence in Jos and elsewhere, the government must address the roots of the problem, in particular the grievances that have been created by the concept of "indigeneity." It should embark without delay on legal and constitutional reforms that will end discrimination in practice and guarantee equal rights and protection to those currently labeled "indigenes" and "non-indigenes." These reforms and their practical implementation are urgent. The period leading up to elections in 2003 will be especially tense. Unless grievances are addressed in good time, competition for political positions is likely to lead to a renewal of violence in Jos and in other parts of Nigeria. There is a clear and urgent need for the government to initiate a democratic and legitimate process to resolve this and other constitutional issues, with the full involvement of all communities.
71 For example, in a letter responding to the Plateau State governor's speech of September 25, entitled "Reply to the Governor Dariye's diatribes against Muslims", the Jos North Local Government Branch of Jama'atul Nasril Islam wrote: "It is becoming clearer that Muslims have been singled out for total annihilation."
72 Human Rights Watch interview in Angwan Rogo, October 3, 2001. See statement by Angwan Rogo community leader, September 29, 2001: "[...] I Teacher Usman Ibrahim duly nominated by the community wish to express the stand of the community regarding the relationship existing between it and the University of Jos community, particularly the students, whom we have been staying together for many years. We are ever ready to stay together and interact as we used to do. I am also on behalf of the entire community of Angwan Rogo dispelling the rumors that the community wouldn't want to see any students of the University of Jos in the area [...]"