15 November 2012

Nigeria: The Bombing At St. Rita's in Kaduna

Yet another suicide bomber attacked St. Rita's Catholic Church in Kaduna a fortnight ago, this time at the Ungwan Yero, Badarawa neighbourhood claiming eight lives while many people sustained injuries. According to accounts, the apparent suicide bomber who was driving a Honda CRV jeep attempted to get into the church compound but was barred by security men at the gate. Thereafter he made as if he wanted to park the vehicle but suddenly drove at top speed towards the church from another direction, knocking down a wall in the process. The explosion that ensued destroyed part of the church and caused the fatalities and injuries.

Up to now, no one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Suspicion has fallen on members of the Boko Haram sect. The group has neither denied nor accepted that it carried out the attack. It is not unlikely however that with the relentless surveillance and armed onslaught mounted against the sect's ranks, which have led to the capture or killing of many of its ranking cadre, many of the cells could have gone solo, acting independently and out of the control of what remains of its leadership. The latest incident in Kaduna may be one of such. It could also be the work of some other groups pursuing an agenda of driving a wedge between Christian and Muslim communities.

Indeed, the incident could also be the handiwork of an entirely different group using tactics loosely associated with Boko Haram. Whatever it is, the security agencies and the Joint Task Force (JTF) had better re-strategize to deal with the menace likely to ensue from these cells or from any other quarters for that matter, implying that the cycle of violence rather than dwindling, is widening and prolonging the time for combating the conflict. It is gratifying however that the reprisal attacks that ensued immediately after the bombing incident was promptly contained and quelled by the security agencies, thereby avoiding what could have snowballed in to religious and communal bloodletting that has dogged Kaduna State for many years. Therefore, the security agencies cannot afford to relent in the vigilance needed to always be a step ahead of purveyors of violence.

None of the major religions that Nigerian profess preaches violence as a doctrine; the attacks on churches and mosques should therefore be seen for what they are--acts targeted at causing social and religious divisions and interfaith unrests. More than ever before, the authorities should deploy all their resources -coercive or otherwise- in search for solution to this virtual insurrection threatening to rend the social and political fabric of the nation asunder. So much is being undertaken in the area of deployment of coercion to combat the insurrection, but its impact has not been totally effective in the sense of putting a stop to the insurgency altogether. In fact, as a recent human rights report appeared to portray, the use of violence outside the rules of engagement by the security forces in such challenged areas seems to blunt the message it was meant to deliver.

The authorities should be bold in exploring less forceful but result-oriented measures in their bid to quell the insurrection and other forms of violence. Large-scale deployment of force not only on the insurgency group, but also on civil population, has begun to arouse concerns in domestic cycles, as in the international arena, making the effort look premeditated and outright collective punishment. Government cannot afford to let its actions to be so misconstrued; it should therefore find a way to adopt the carrot-and-stick approach to bring about an end to the cycle of violence.

Efforts have to be intensified not only to identify the perpetrators of the bombing at St Rita's, but to bring those behind it to justice. Community and religious leaders have a leading role to play in this, by taking measures to ensure that strangers in their midst explain their mission and notifying the appropriate authorities when they are in doubt.

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