US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2622

NIGERIA: VIOLENCE ERUPTS IN KANO, ELSWHERE CALM

Identifier: 01ABUJA2622
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2622 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-10-15 18:54:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: ASEC PREL PHUM NI
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002622 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2006 
TAGS: ASEC, PREL, PHUM, NI 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: VIOLENCE ERUPTS IN KANO, ELSWHERE CALM 
 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5 (b) & 
(d) 
 
 
1.  (C) Summary: Violence erupted in Kano over the October 
12-14 weekend for a 
multiplicity of reasons, chiefly criminal opportunism and 
internal political 
rivalries but also including anti-U.S. sentiment over air 
strikes against the 
Taliban and bin Laden.  Twenty-five people were killed, over 
200 were arrested 
and numerous buildings (mostly shops) were damaged and 
looted, according to a 
reliable GON source.  (Some other sources claim a death toll 
exceeding 100.) 
The source reports that Kano is quiet but tense.  The 
military remains in 
control of security.  This violent scrum is evidence of the 
febrile air 
hovering over parts of Northern Nigeria.  While the military 
may provide the 
short-term fix, the Obasanjo Administration will have to ply 
a sagacious poli 
tical strategy to minimize tension or this type of eruption 
will be a recurrent 
theme. Amcits are safe and none were reportedly caught up in 
any of the 
clashes. End summary. 
 
 
---------------------------------- 
PEACEFUL MARCH, VIOLENT AFTERMATH 
---------------------------------- 
 
 
2.  (C) After Juma'at prayers October 11, a planned 
demonstration of 500-600 
protestors, apparently affiliated with the Muslim 
Brotherhood, left the Central 
Mosque, reportedly chanting anti-U.S. and pro-Bin Laden 
slogans.  They burned 
U.S. flags as well as pictures of President Bush and Foreign 
Minister Lamido 
who, earlier this week, issued the official GON public 
statement supporting 
U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan.  The protestors attempted to 
march towards 
Sabon Gari, Kano's predominantly Christian section, but were 
thwarted by 
police.  By 6 PM, the group dispersed without serious 
incident.  (Comment: 
Sparks likely would have flown had the procession reached 
Sabon Gari. 
Demonstrators knew the potential repercussions of heading in 
that area - 
indicating they were not averse to confrontation.  End 
Comment.) 
 
 
3.  (U) Around midnight, roughly six hours after the march 
had ended, two small 
churches were burned on Kano's outskirts.  Around ten a.m. on 
Saturday, a large 
mob of Muslim "area boys," started toward Kano's largest 
market, which lies on 
the edge of Sabon Gari.  Both Christian and Muslim 
shopkeepers attempted to 
defend their shops, according to Rev. Zakka Nyam, the 
Anglican Archbishop if 
Kano.  Nyam stated that the thugs did not push into Sabon 
Gari even though two 
mosques in Sabon Gari were burned in retaliation for the 
earlier church arson. 
 
 
4.  (U) By 3 p.m., with the police unable to stifle the 
melee, the military 
arrived to restore order.  The military's use of live 
ammunition eventually 
dispersed the mob. 
 
 
5.  (U) After contacting several GON sources and eminent 
people in Kano, Rev. 
Obaje, Chaplain at the Presidential Villa and Chairman of 
Nigeria's 
Inter-Religious Council, told Ambassador Jeter October 14 
that Kano was quiet 
but tense.  By the time the unrest subsided, 25 people had 
died, many more were 
wounded, over 200 had been arrested and dozens of shops and 
cars had been 
damaged.  The VOA stringer in Kano, Ahmed Kuablar, confirmed 
the extensive 
property damage to Poloff, but estimated a death toll 
exceeding 100, far beyond 
the GON figure.  How many casualties resulted from the 
military intervention 
and the ethnic/religious proportions of the casualty count 
are currently 
unknown. 
 
 
--------------------- 
WHY DID IT HAPPEN? 
--------------------- 
 
 
6.  (C) There is no consensus as to what precipitated the 
rioting. Rev. Obaje 
informed us that many of the arrested were recently imported 
to Kano from 
Zamfara and Minna.  Some claimed their trips to Kano were 
subsidized. 
Rev. Obaje saw an evil scheme afoot and former Head-of-State 
Babangida as its 
author.  Babangida, he inveighed, would venture to extreme 
lengths to discredit 
Obasanjo in the North, and keep Obasanjo's Administration 
"off balance".  Rev. 
Obaje contended that the disruption was not directed against 
the United 
States.  He believed Babangida had shipped in ruffians from 
outside as well as 
funneled money to Kano's militant fundamentalists so they 
could incite the area 
boys. Obaje complained that Zamfara Governor Sani contributed 
to the tumult be 
cause of his political blood feud with NSA Aliyu Mohammed, a 
native of 
Zamfara.  Rev. Obaje said Mohammed had been trying to 
engineer Sani's 
impeachment by the Zamfara State Assembly.  Once Sani got 
wind of the NSA's 
intrigue, the governor has gone into full rebellion, 
believing Mohammed's antics bore Obasanjo's imprimatur.  Sani 
wanted to see Kano ignite, giving Mohammed and, by extension, 
the Federal Government a taste of their own machinations. 
 
 
7.  (U) Other observers saw the destruction as nothing but 
opportunism devoid 
of any religious or political content.  Rev. Nyam, Kano's 
Anglican Archbishop, 
stated the rioting was criminally motivated and not the 
product of ethnic or 
religious difference. 
 
 
----------- 
COMMENT 
----------- 
 
 
8.  (C) The truth probably lies somewhere between these two 
contending 
positions.  Not surprisingly, the President's Chaplain would 
demonize Babangida 
and Sani, two of his chief's most chronic political 
migraines.  Meanwhile, 
Nyan's verdict of pure criminality is too facile and 
simplistic. 
 
 
9.  (C) An Amcit in Kano reported that the days before the 
outbreak, Bin Laden 
posters had appeared throughout Kano.  Groups of young men 
could be seen 
huddled together on street corners praising Bin Laden. Others 
were passing out 
pro-Bin Laden literature or his picture.  One in every four 
vehicles plying 
Kano's streets had Bin Laden's picture in the rear window. 
Clearly there was 
significant sympathy for Bin Laden, probably born of long 
held resentment 
toward the United States and as a show of Islamic solidarity. 
As we have 
reported before, there is widespread perception in some areas 
of the North that 
predate September 11, that the United States is both 
anti-North and anti-Islamic 
 
 
10.  (C) Conditions in Kano are too complex to attribute the 
riot to a single 
cause.  Kano, a city of millions and Nigeria's largest 
predominantly Muslim 
one, has large swaths of people living in abject poverty. 
While their penury 
may be a socio-economic affliction, some view the world and 
their condition in 
it through a religious prism.  For them, their poverty is the 
product of an 
unholy, unjust system of which the United States sits at the 
pinnacle.  There 
are several militant clerics, many externally financed 
"cultural organizations" 
and some fundamentalist cells who feed this anti-U.S. gruel 
to the disaffected, 
particularly the street youth.  In their twisted cosmology, 
their criminal acts 
are legitimate political and religious behavior.  This 
radicalism makes Kano 
more susceptible to sporadic turbulence than most other 
Nigerian cities. 
 
 
11.  (C) Our operation in Afghanistan aggravated a 
pre-existing condition in 
the city.  While criminality, poverty, and local political 
machinations 
probably played the much larger role, that the disturbance 
occurred after 
Friday prayers and after the anti-U.S. march was probably not 
coincidental. 
Anti-U.S. sentiment and religious militancy were lesser, 
junior partners in this 
eruption.  Fortunately, GON security gained control before 
the situation 
worsened.  Thus far, there are no reports of violence 
spreading to other 
Northern cities.  While deployment of the military may 
squelch turbulence in 
the short-term, the GON will have to develop a political 
strategy that begins 
to neutralize the radicalism currently residing in pockets of 
the North.  If 
not, President Obasanjo will continually face these periodic 
eruptions that 
blemish his stewardship and undermine Nigeria's quest for 
social stability 
based on ethno-religious tolerance. 
Jeter 

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