In the latest outbreak of communal violence in Nigeria, more than 1,000 people reportedly fled their homes in the northern town of Dutse earlier this week as mobs went on the rampage, looting and burning churches and other property belonging to Christians in apparent response to a Christian trader blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. In February 2006, as many as 50,000 people were displaced and about 150 killed in a wave of sectarian violence across various Nigerian states, sparked by protests over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. At the same time, thousands of people who fled the disputed Bakassi Peninsula after a handover over from Nigeria to Cameroon last month remain displaced in Nigeria, many of them in inadequate temporary camps in southern Bayelsa state. A recent IDMC report says that while ethnoreligious conflict is endemic in Nigeria, with at least 14,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since military rule ended in 1999, tensions have been building since early 2006. The fall-out from February’s religious cartoon riots, coinciding with a dramatic increase in militant violence in the oil-rich Delta region, were clear warning signs that once violence erupts--and the causes are invariably more complex than simply religion or ethnicity--it can quickly take on a momentum of its own. Violence linked with secessionist demands in Nigeria’s south-east is a further cause for concern, says the report. As splits within the government have deepened and jockeying for power increased, many observers fear that the level of conflict, and with it the level of internal displacement, may increase as the April 2007 presidential elections draw nearer.
See also: IDMC Nigeria country page: http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004CE90B/(httpCountries)/19D5FDB3E4AF4D1D802570A7004B613E?OpenDocument