New massacres in Nigeria: capitalist barbarism at work

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Capitalist barbarism at work

A huge hole in the parched red earth; dozens of bodies of men, women and children; a crowd weeping in grief. Horror has struck again in Nigeria. On the night of 6-7 March, several hundred people, all Christians, were massacred. These new atrocities took place in three villages in Plateau state, in the centre of Nigeria which stands between the south with its Christian majority and the north which has a majority of Muslims. While the corpses were still warm, different factions of the bourgeoisie were squabbling over how many people had died.

This new slaughter carried out by an extremist Muslim group called Boro Haram is just another in a series of killings over a number of years. Last January, over 300 people, mainly Muslims, were killed by Christians in Jos and its environs. Over the last 10 years, according to official figures, 10,000 people have been murdered in this way. And if you go back to Nigerian independence in 1960 you would have to count in millions. There is no doubt that there has been a real development of hatred within the Christian and Muslim populations, but a stark question is posed: who is really responsible for all these massacres? Who is permanently fanning the flames between the different communities? Who is arming and protecting the killers in both camps?

The bloody work of imperialism

Nigeria is by far the most heavily populated country in Africa. 130 million people live there and have been forced to try to survive in a situation of constant warfare. Between 1967 and 1970, there was a war which left two million dead. At the time, as today, this war was presented as a simple ethnic and religious conflict between the Muslim Hausas in the North and Christian Ibos in the South East. The latter tried to set up an independent state in the south by trying to separate the region of Biafra from the rest of Nigeria. At this time it was British imperialism which still had a major influence in the country despite its formal independence. By encouraging the Biafran secessionist movement, France was trying to weaken British influence in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Ivory Coast, under French control, served as a staging post for the arms being supplied to the Biafran rebels, while Gabon and its capital Libreville were used quite simply as a base for French military and political operations. These murderous policies have not stopped. French imperialism still hasn't succeeded in controlling Nigeria, which has become a focus for countering French influence in the whole of West Africa. France's policies go under the name of ‘Francafrique'. They involve countries like the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Mali and Niger. They are based on intrigue, manipulation and murder. In the period 1993 to 1998, under the rule of Sani Abacha, France made spectacular inroads in Nigeria, pushing back the influence of Britain and the USA. But these powers did not remain inactive. The return to power of Oluseguen Obansanjo in 1999 enabled American imperialism to get its foot back in the door.

‘Francafrique' is still there

The new president of Nigeria presents himself as the number one mouthpiece of the US in West Africa. This allegiance won't last, because he will offer himself to the highest bidder, which will once again prove to be France. During his visit to Paris in 2005, where he met Jacques Chirac and came to get French help in annulling Nigeria's debt, this is what he said: "France can show leadership and courage in this matter by compensating a government which makes reforms, a government which to a large extent looks after the security of West Africa, a government which has shown courage in its struggle against corruption". An appeal which was readily listened to: the Club de Paris, under pressure from the French government, decided to cancel the debt.

Nigeria would not prove ungrateful and is now supporting France in its current involvement in the massacres in Togo, facilitated by Gnassingbe's coup d'Etat. In Nigeria, as in any other African country, not one of the big imperialist gangsters wants to give up its place to its direct competitors. After the massacres on 6-7 March, each of the imperialist predators present in Nigeria vied with each other to be the most hypocritical. The chief of French military diplomacy Bernard Kouchner, was not lagging behind: "France firmly condemns the serious violence against the village communities to the south of the town of Jos in Plateau state. I send my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims. I express France's support for the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to restore calm and bring the authors of this violence to justice". His US counterpart Hilary Clinton echoed him: "I appeal to Nigerians to come to the conference table and call on the authorities to bring the guilty to justice". Behind these honeyed words hides bitter competition between France and the USA. The northern region, under the weight of decomposition and poverty, is fertile soil for a Taliban type radicalisation, ie inhuman religious fanaticism; as for the south, the zone which possesses considerable oil resources (estimated to make up about 3% of the global total) will continue to be the theatre of ferocious economic and imperialist rivalries. The Nigerian population, like that of the rest Africa and much of the ‘third world', is the prey of capitalist barbarism.  

P & T 22/3/10