The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is calling on Nigerian authorities to tackle the underlying causes of repeated outbreaks of deadly ethnic and religious violence near the northern city of Jos.
“Ethnic hatred must not be allowed to foment in Nigeria,” said human rights expert Anwar Kemal, in his capacity as Chairperson of the Committee, which just concluded its 76th session in Geneva.
He urged the Government of Nigeria “to take all the appropriate measures to immediately stop the ethnic violence, to protect the victims, and to avoid the repetition of such killings in the future.”
As many as 500 people in the area around Jos may have been killed last weekend during the latest wave of clashes between Christians and Muslims, which followed similar attacks in January and in November 2009.
In a decision passed this week, the UN expert body urged Nigeria to investigate the massacres, bring to justice those responsible and to provide redress to the victims – which included children, women and the elderly – and their families.
Among its recommendations, the Committee called on all local, regional and national authorities in Nigeria to study the underlying causes of the ethnic violence in the country.
The Committee also called on the authorities “to firmly address all underlying causes of tension leading to this repeated violence” and to promote dialogue between different ethnic communities to achieve tolerance and peace.
The expert group drew attention to the fact that Nigeria has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of Alls Forms of Racial Discrimination, and is obligated to prevent and protect persons against acts of hatred, incitement to racial and ethnic violence or any form of violence based on ethnicity.
Over the last ten years, over 13,500 people have died in recurring acts of violence resulting from tensions between ethno-religious groups in the country.
Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced their concerns about the ethnic tensions in Nigeria.
Ms. Pillay has called the killings a “massacre.”