This article was first publish weeks after the post election violence by the Daily Trust (one of the few objective news media in Nigeria). I decided to republish it so we do not forget who the real victims of the post election violence of April 2011 really were.
Post Election Violence- Survivors of Zonkwa massacre tell their stories
Horrendous acts of violence were carried out in Southern Kaduna on April 18th following the post-election crisis that erupted in many states in the North, especially that of Zonkwa, in Kaduna South. Weekly Trust went to Hajj Camp, Mando, Kaduna to see how the displaced aretrying to get on with their lives.
Last Thursday, by 7:30am, most people had already massed around polling units across the state, waiting patiently for electoral officials to arrive voting centres. In some areas, a huge number turned out to exercisetheir rights while in other places, the turn-out was low. However, at Hajj Camp, Mando, there was no voter turn-out at all. Infact, the election was the last thing on their minds, having been displaced from their homes in Southern Kaduna. For over a week,the people have been trying to pick the pieces at the Hajj Camp, currently serving asa refugee camp of sorts.
Men, women and children were forced to flee from Zonkwa, Kafanchan and other trouble spots, following the post-election violence. Most have lost somebody, including their belongings and entire life savings and so a voter’s card is an inconsequential loss. Elsewhere in Mariri, Saminaka and Zangon Kataf, the displaced are in various camps, uprooted from their homes. Alhaji Abdullahi Jibrin, Chairman of Hausa/Fulani community in Southern Kaduna, said around 1:00pm, he was still compiling the list of the dead, destroyed properties and other losses inflicted on the Hausa/Fulani community. On Governor Patrick Yakowa’s order, a committee has been formed to look at the victims’ demands. Specifically, the Hausa/Fulanis want the leaders of the various tribes and their own to enter a treaty, whereby the former would be held liable for any future massacre. In addition, they want compensation for the loss of their properties and the government to foot the medical bills of those in hospital. Above all, the Hausa/Fulanis have resolved to remain in Zonkwa.
At the camp, a functional medical centre was attending to patients and Dr Muhammad Bello, the officer in charge, told our correspondent that cases of bullet wounds had been treated in Al-Mansur, FOMWAN and Rakiya Memorial Hospitals. As yet, there is no epidemic in the camp as the general living condition is not unhygienic. NEMA, Red Cross and other agencies, have been providing food and around 1.30pm, Jollof rice was being served the refugees. But behind the male living quarters, some of the victims recalled the gory details of the massacre.
According to Idris Abdullahi, a former resident of Zonkwa, the massacre began around 4pm when some Kataf youths blocked the road with tyres. A lorry, which was conveying goods and people, charged through the road block and parked close to a mosque at Makera. Thereafter, he said thatthe youths deflated the tyres and started hurling the yams that the lorry was conveying at the mosque. Some of the natives cautioned against that but the youths continued. Not satisfied, someone brought pick axes and started hacking at the mosque until it collapsed. After that, they descended on Alhaji Namadi’s mosque and that angered Yallo, one Hausa/Fulani youth who protested against the action. He was shot instantly and that ignited the crisis. The Kataf youths, according to Idris, started shooting, even as neither the police nor any other security agents came to their rescue. The massacre continued unabated till around 12 noon on Tuesday, April 19th after the uncompleted Friday mosque was bombed.
Able-bodied Muslims, fearing for their lives, hid in pit latrines and wells but the not-so-lucky ones were gunned down, slaughtered or burnt alive. The carnage stopped when they thought that the entire menfolk had been exterminated. However, women and children were spared but they were subjected to various humiliations, includingasking them to denounce CPC and praise PDP. In the end, over 1,000 people were allegedly killed, most of them dumped into wells. Alhaji Kabiru Uba, a Kaduna resident who lost five relatives lamented that the alleged culprits are still roaming the streets of Zonkwa. Right now, his Unguwar Sanusi residence is a mini refugee camp as friends and relatives from Zonkwa and environs, have found succour there.
Governor Yakowa, according to Uba, gave the victims “a paltry N1 million” when he visited Zonkwa. “But to add insult to injury,Barrister Mark Jacob, former National Legal Adviser to PDP, said that outsiders caused the mayhem,” Uba added, saying Jacob continued that said outsiders came with truck-load of ammunitions. Uba challenged Jacob to prove his allegation.
“The saddest part is nobody is telling our stories,” said a tearful Hadiza Umar, a refugee. “It’s as if we are sub-human or we don’t even exist.”
However, in spite of all these killings, the leaders of the Hausa community want to return to Zonkwa and other towns in Southern Kaduna. On this point, the leaders and followers are parting ways. According to Yunusa Mohammed, returning to Zonkwais not on his mind, accusing their leaders of selfishness. Also, Mohammed Uba said he would never return to Zonkwa. “We saw hell during the post-election crisis. It was practically genocide. I narrowly escaped as Ihid inside a well,” he said, adding that he’ll not go back, even to vote. Like him, JummaiAbdullahi also said she would never return to where she registered because her voter’s card was burnt along with their house.
Out of the 38,976 displaced persons, over 90 percent are women and children, according to statistics obtained from the Nigerian Red Cross. However, the figure has plunged to 15,000 across the 15 camps in the state because some refugees have been reunited with their families. However, the camp is swelling in some respects as newborn babies arrive. So far, a total of 13 babies have been delivered there, comprising a set of triplets, twins and eightsingle births. The figure was confirmed by Dr Asma’u Maikudi, Kaduna State chairperson of the Nigerian Red Cross. In addition, ten other pregnant women are close to their Expected Day of Delivery (EDD).
When Weekly Trust spoke to the refugees, they expressed satisfaction with the camp but urged the state government to assist them in starting their lives again by empowering them. The refugees are occupying seven hostels. Water tanks and mobile toilets were seen at strategic locations in addition to the regular toilets. The environment was somewhat unkempt.
Hadiza Aminu, one of the nursing mothers, lamented that all the items that she bought in preparation for birth were burnt in the crisis. “We lost everything, but I thank Allah for the safe delivery. The baby’s name is Fatima and we thank God for our lives. I only got to see my husband some days ago since the crisis. We will never return to Zonkwa again,” she said.
“Trauma, tension and stress are responsible for the upsurge of births in the camp,” Mrs. Maikudi said. Although the babies seem healthy, she lamented that the size of the triplets are “slightly bigger than a bottle of coke.” The Red Cross boss described the camp situation as pathetic because, according to her, “These women are left with nothing; many of them are left with only the clothes they wore into the camp and the case of their children is the same.” Having lost spouses, friends and relatives, including all their belongings, these displaced victims have also been disenfranchised and are now refugees in their own country.