John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Religious Violence in Jos

by John Campbell
August 31, 2011

A signboard welcoming visitors is seen at the main entrance of Nigeria's central city of Jos. (Joseph Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

On August 28 in Jos there was a new outbreak of violence, ostensibly between Muslims and Christians. The Nigerian press reports that members of the Muslim Izala sect were walking to a prayer ground to celebrate the Eid el-Fitir Sallah. On the way, they were challenged by a Christian mob who accused Muslims of spoiling their Christmas last year by bombing their homes. Estimates are that at least ten persons from both sides were killed before the military restored order.

International attention with respect to Nigeria at present is focused on Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement that may be responsible for the suicide bombing of the UN Nigeria headquarters building in Abuja on August 26. Though Boko Haram and Izala both look to the establishment of a pure Islamic state based on Sharia, I doubt that the latest episode in Jos has anything to do with the former. The latest episode in Jos appears to be part of a local cycle of revenge killings that is, indeed, acquiring an increased religious coloration, but is likely unrelated to the UN building bombing in Abuja or Boko Haram instigated violence.

In Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital, religious, ethnic and economic boundaries tend to coincide. Violence, usually attributed to ethnicity and religion though often rooted in disputes over water or land use, has marred Jos and its environs for several years. Religious and ethnic communities are increasingly segregated with the practice of “ethnic cleansing” on both sides in formerly mixed areas. Trust between the two major religious and ethnic groups appears to have broken down almost entirely. Our Security Tracker estimates that between May 30 and August 30 thirty-seven to forty-seven people have been killed in the community. This may be an under-estimate: an NGO representative has said to me that official casualty estimates should be multiplied by five.

Post a Comment 4 Comments


    Dear Amb Cambell,

    I’m a regular recipient of your writes and I feel privileged.

    I’ve just read your piece on the violence in Jos. I Just wish to draw your attention to the fact that EL Zak Zaki is not the leader of the Izala sect. EL Zak Zaki is the Leader of the Shiates. The leader of that particular Izala faction (because they are also factionalised is Sheik Jingir)

    The Izala Sect is distinct from the Shiates. While the former has some measure of support from the Saudis, the latter is supported mostly by the Iranians.


    Mallam Mohammed

  • Posted by Mohammed Bello

    Thank you for this article. But there are certain corrections in the article. The Izala has two factions. Yes two factions. The Jos faction is led by SHEIKH YAHAYA JINGIR [it has followers all over Nigeria. The Kaduna faction led now by SHEIKH SAIDU ALHASSAN JOS and SHEIKH YUSUF SAMBO RIGACHIKUN.

    SHEIKH IBRAHIM EL-ZAKZAKKY is the leader of the Islamic Movement [they are called SHIATEs or Yan SHIA in Hausa] and their headquaters is in Zaria.

    The Boko Haram or Yusufiyya Movement has its headquaters in Maiduguri and has lots of followers in Borno and Yobe states with sympathizers in most Northern States. It was led by Mohammed Yusuf. Then the pacifist Tijjaniyya and Qadriyya orders led by Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi and Mohammed Nasiru Kabara.

    Mohammed Bello.

  • Posted by sani sadiq

    Please note that Ibrahim al zak zaki is not the leader of the Izala sect. He is a Shia Muslim cleric based in Zaria Northern Nigeria.

  • Posted by Tim Temple

    John Campbell, you ostensibly know what you are talking about ….

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