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Cable 492: US Embassy Report on Ethnic Conflict and Human Rights Abuses in Benue, Nigeria

Cable 492: US Embassy Report on Ethnic Conflict and Human Rights Abuses in Benue, Nigeria

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Published by Andres
This is a 2001 US embassy report providing background information on the ethnic strife that led to the massacre of at least 58 civilians by Nigerian troops in the southeastern state of Benue.
This is a 2001 US embassy report providing background information on the ethnic strife that led to the massacre of at least 58 civilians by Nigerian troops in the southeastern state of Benue.

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Published by: Andres on Sep 04, 2011
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09/04/2011

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Wikileaks Note: The full text of this cable is notavailable.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002855SUBJECT: NIGERIA: UPDATE ON BENUE CRISIS
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¶G. ABUJA 2827¶H. IIR 7 114 0027 02¶I. ABUJA 2832¶J. IIR 6 871 0511 02Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.6X5 and 1.6X6.¶1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: In Benue, Taraba and Nasarawastates, the military was called to do what thepolice could not -- contain civil unrest. As withOdi in 1999, the tragedy that occurred in Benuedemonstrates the problems associated with askingoften poorly-led soldiers to assume law enforcementduties for which they are not trained. There weretwo massacres in Benue, the initial killing ofsoldiers by ethnic Tiv militia, and the revengekilling of Tivs by soldiers. The Benue massacreswill force Obasanjo to walk a fine line between therule of law, on one hand, and political exigencies,which include his relationship with the military,
 
on the other. Obasanjo must investigate but takecare not to further estrange the military, whichhappens to be the mainstay of security in severalkey areas of the country. End summary.
------------------------------------ WHAT WE KNOW OF BENUE - WHAT WE HEAR ------------------------------------
 2. (S/NF) Accounts we have heard about whathappened in Benue vary somewhat in their details.However, the general picture provided by mostaccounts is similar. Paras 2 - 7 contain what wehave been able to piece together thus far. The 19dead soldiers were in Benue as part of the militarydeployment to defuse a long-standing feud betweenTivs and Jukuns. While on patrol, the soldierswere ambushed by Tiv militia on or about October10. (NOTE: One contact informed Poloff that 24soldiers were captured, but five of the soldiers,ethnic Tivs, were released. We cannot confirm thisclaim. END NOTE.) According to previous reporting(Ref G), after attempting to turn the soldiers overto the police and local leaders, the militiamembers brutally murdered the soldiers anddismembered their bodies.¶3. (S/NF) While most contacts state the soldierswere ambushed, there also is a different version ofevents being circulated. While the Army contendedthat soldiers gave up without a fight, Tivs retortthat the soldiers were in league with the Jukunmilitia. In this rendition, a firefight tookplace where the soldiers and Jukun exhausted their
 
ammunition, enabling Tiv fighters to capture them.At this point, local officials refused to getinvolved. Worse, the Tiv captors got word that theband of Jukun and soldiers had attacked other Tivsearlier that day. Hearing this, the Tivs executed19 of their military captives, giving the five Tivsa reprieve. The Tivs also killed a larger butunspecified number of Jukun.¶4. (U) Attributing comments to the PresidentialVilla, the media reported not-so-veiled threats tolocal Tiv leaders in Benue to turn over theresponsible militia members or face theconsequences. Media reports of comments fromunnamed Defense Headquarters "sources" were evenstronger. However, during the October 22 funeralfor the 16 soldiers whose bodies had beenrecovered, President Obasanjo rejected"provocation" and emphasized the responsibility ofthe Federal Government to protect its citizenry.He said that his administration would not bedeterred from this objective. He also tasked the"security agencies" to track down the killers.¶5. (S/NF) On 24 October, soldiers apparently froma unit other than those killed (Refs E and H)entered eastern Benue from Taraba state, andcarried out attacks against the local population.It is impossible to state a specific number ofcasualties. However, 58 people were reportedlykilled in one village, and roughly 14 villages weredestroyed, as well as most of the town of ZakiBiam. The death toll is likely between 100 and250. In one village, according to press reports,adult males were separated from the others then

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