Mar 4, 2010

The Jos Crisis of January 2010: Almost a war


Elook.org defines war as the waging of an armed conflict against an enemy. On the other hand, crisis according to anwers.com is an unstable condition involving an impending abrupt or decisive change.
I live in Bukuru town in Jos-south. Bukuru is the second largest town in Plateau State. It used to be a separated town from Jos but development eventually matched the two towns in the 90s so that Bukuru is essentially an extension or a suburb of Jos, just 9km away.
Besides the misunderstanding that led to the killing of two persons at Nassarawa Gwom on 17 January 2010 in Jos North, nothing else happened that day. I found my way to Trade Center along the way to Vom the second day. At about 11am, word came through local radio that the state government has declared a 24-hour curfew as a result of the escalation of the disturbance of the previous day. The implication was that all markets will be closed. So I bought what I could buy and was lucky to find a daring bus driver going to Bukuru. By the time we arrived Vom Junction along the Bukuru Expressway, I saw two corpses. By the time we arrived Bukuru Fire Service, there were cutlass wielding youths who barricaded the road. The driver then dropped us and turned back. It was a safe territory for me. So I walked passed the youths without anybody saying a word to me. But I had to avoid the expressway and walked along the perimeter of the town in the Gyel neighborhood to the west of Bukuru town. Its lower elevation afforded me the opportunity to have a full view of Bukuru town.
From the vantage position it seemed that Bukuru had become an industrial area of some sorts. Every house became a chimney from which smoke spiraled into the sky. Sounds of gunshots, the cries of people in the face danger and the shouts of people urging their men to fight on filled the air. By the time I arrived home, the smoke has thickened and diminished the intensity of the sun. There was an eclipse, eclipse of the sun by the smoke of the burning town.
My house is at a relatively safe location, just behind the fighters that have pushed the enemies to about half a kilometer east of the Bukuru expressway. I then walked along the expressway to discover two additional corpses. Occasionally, the youths will cross the expressway to set fire on the few remaining houses. At about 5 pm, the combined effects of hunger, fatigue and carbon monoxide poisoning had drained the strengths off the fighting youths on both sides. The smoke kept rising but the town suddenly became quiet and calm.
Nobody slept, fearing that the enemies might use the night to launch another attack. The next day soldiers from Abuja came and put a final end to the fighting.
During the 2001 crisis, there was fighting in Bukuru. In 2008 however, the town managed to stay on the fence. There were more deaths in Bukuru town than there has been this time. The horror of the current conflict could however be seen in terms of the intensity of destruction of homes and businesses. At a glance it could be said that 40% of the houses in Bukuru now lay in ashes. The popular Bukuru market is now history with the Ibos coming out worst. The absence of homes and business facilities has suddenly turned Bukuru to a ghost town.
After walking around the town, I came back, sat and unconsciously held my head between my hands. Bukuru town is gone and would take decades of unbroken peace to restore it.
The fight for territorial expansion is now old-fashioned. People are now fighting to make the world a better place by making the optimal use of what they already have.

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