|Wikileaks:||View 01ABUJA2827 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PINS MOPS PREF PGOV 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.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002827 SIPDIS NOFORN E.O. 12958: DECL: 1.6X5, 1.6X6 TAGS: PINS, MOPS, PREF, PGOV, NI SUBJECT: NIGERIA: BENUE UPDATE FROM SSS DIRECTOR GENERAL REF: A. ABUJA 2708 B. ABUJA 2750 C. ABUJA NI 2776 D. IIR 7 800 0052 02 E. IIR 7 800 0065 02 F. IIR 7 800 0064 02 Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.6X5, 1.6X6. 1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: During a November 2 meeting, SSS DG Are briefed the CDA on the recent violence in Benue. It was a mystery to Are how the 19 murdered soldiers had let themselves be disarmed. Are insisted the Army was investigating the alleged reprisals against villagers and planned to punish those responsible. Pointing to the number of ex-military in the State, Are expressed concern Tiv leaders needed to exercise statesmanship or the situation in Benue might deteriorate further. Are estimated the number of internally displaced persons (IDP) to be 186,000. END SUMMARY. 2. (C) CDA Andrews November 2 met State Security Service (SSS) Director General Kayode Are to discuss the recent violence in Benue/Taraba States. The meeting was arranged in response to CDA's indirect request to VP Atiku Abubakar for an opportunity to meet with someone who had accompanied him on his fact-finding mission to Benue and Taraba. 3. (S/NF) Are showed Andrews an internal SSS investigative report summarizing interviews with witnesses and suspects in the murder of the 19 soldiers (16 bodies have been recovered to date). Contrary to allegations in some media, no senior GON official nor any nationally prominent figure was implicated for supporting the Tiv militia. The most senior person directly implicated in the soldiers' deaths was the deputy chairman of a local government area. 4. (U) COMMENT: While not accusing Gemade of the deaths of the soldiers and for reasons that may have to do more with factional infighting in the PDP, Benue Governor Akume has publicly blamed embattled PDP Chairman Barnabas Gemade for hiring local thugs to engage in violence during a student protest against the Army's alleged reprisal attacks. Gemade, in turn, has charged Akume with fomenting dissent in order to further his political agenda. END COMMENT. 5. (S/NF) Are said the SSS might never be able to determine how the 19 soldiers were disarmed. The operating hypothesis (see Ref D) is that the soldiers believed their ROE precluded use of weapons, even in self-defense. The soldiers, Are continued, were marched by the militia to the Zaki-Biam Local Government Area (LGA) headquarters, where the LGA Chairman, Pilate-like, washed his hands of the situation, saying the soldiers should be taken to the police. At the police station, ethnic Tiv police told the militia (in the Tiv language) that the soldiers were "their problem" and that they should "take care of them." The soldiers were murdered soon after; all were decapitated and castrated. Some were disemboweled. Heads were mounted on poles and paraded. (NOTE: Horrific photographs of the butchery were printed in "Tell" magazine. END NOTE.) 6. (S/NF) Despite the gruesome nature of the soldiers' deaths, SSS believed the military's response was wrong. Are said the Army is considering courts-martial for any soldier involved. There was no indication yet that anyone above the rank of captain might have been complicit, but that possibility could not be excluded. Investigations were continuing. 7. (C) CDA told Are that the GON needed to do a better job of letting the public know that it was investigating both the original murders and the reprisal attacks, with the intention of tracking down culprits and bringing them to justice. Partisans of one side to the conflict in the area were contacting diplomatic missions, the media, and possibly NGOs to present their perspective. The GON's relative silence risked creating an atmosphere in which its eventual explanation might be seen as a contrivance. Individuals and groups concerned with human rights in the U.S. were not unmindful of the difficulties the GON faces in resolving the crisis. They would show patience, but patience should not be misinterpreted disinterest, Andrews stressed. If the GON has a story to tell, it should tell it accurately but quickly. Nigeria's diplomats could do so in capitals to which they are accredited. The GON should not rely exclusively on the reporting of foreign diplomats in Nigeria. 8. (S/NF) Are said he was perceived by all sides in the Benue clash as neutral. He had, in fact, reached out to some "Tivs who want peace" to seek their support in lowering tensions. He specifically mentioned retired BG John Atom Kpera. He wanted the GON to avoid an "information war" with Tiv representatives and would encourage his interlocutors to urge their ethnic brethren not to put the GON in a position where it would feel compelled to respond to public accusations. 9. (S/NF) Are expressed concern, however, that if Tiv leaders did not begin to energetically discourage militia action, the security situation in northern Benue state could deteriorate badly. He was saddened that two suspected militia members had served under him in the Army. One, he said, was a particularly competent soldier and leader with combat experience in Liberia and extensive time in peacekeeping. With the Tivs, the Nigerian Army was not facing the usual ethnic thuggery; many of these men were well-trained and perhaps well-armed. 10. (U) NOTE: Police three weeks ago stopped a vehicle belonging to a retired military officer and reportedly found several thousand rounds of ammunition. The vehicle was stopped in Nasarawa State, apparently headed for the Taraba/Benue border area. END NOTE. 11. (S/NF) Andrews asked if conditions permitted Embassy personnel to visit IDP camps. Are said most camps were around Makurdi and he had no objection to visiting this area since it was relatively secure. SSS believed there were about 186,000 IDPs (Governor Akume has suggested the number might be around 250,000, a figure Are considered too high). Are discouraged visiting the Gboko, Takum and Wukari areas because the security situation was still unstable. He agreed that inhabitants there could indeed show significant destruction caused by the Nigerian Army, and reiterated the GON's intention to prosecute those responsible. 12. (S/NF) Are claimed that LTG Malu's (ret) house was attacked not out of animus toward Malu but because fleeing militiamen began shooting at soldiers after taking refuge in the compound. Are said he was not taking Malu's calls because Malu had the unfortunate tendency to quote publicly those with whom he spoke. (COMMENT: Are avoids public appearances, preferring to work in the background. He is deeply allergic to being quoted publicly. END COMMENT.) 13. (S/NF) Notwithstanding significant public antipathy toward the Tivs who many consider an aggressive, militant group, President Obasanjo was intent on restoring "everyone" to his land. That would be difficult this time, Are opined, because those who had driven the Tiv out of Nasarawa and Taraba had wiped out traces of Tiv habitation wherever possible. They had razed villages and even removed cemetery markers, for example. While lamenting this activity, Are expressed some sympathy for the Tivs' antagonists. Tivs, he said, do not assimilate into the local communities. They get the local populations to provide them (unused) land but then build their own, separate communities. After a generation or two, Tivs often try to take over the entire area and drive out the original settlers. Are agreed that the importance of "indigenousness" in Nigeria's political system was a major aggravating factor in the violence. 14. (C) COMMENT: The gruesome murders of the hapless soldiers have moved many Nigerians toward disgust at the Tiv militia. While Nigerians do not condone the reprisal attacks, they understand the emotion behind them. Further, many Nigerians view the military as the only institution capable of maintaining order by containing large-scale violence. If the army now is perceived as vulnerable to attack by ethnic militias, then maintenance of order becomes even more difficult. Thus, for those who see the Army as the lone institution that stands between them and possible chaos, the deaths of the civilians in Benue is an unfortunate but acceptable price to pay. The importance of reprofessionalizing Nigeria's Army is thus once again made clear. END COMMENT. Andrews
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