Archive for May, 2013

Coincidence, Correlation, Causation

May 31, 2013

What does it all mean? You be the judge: on Tuesday, Comrade Bear visited Bishkek for “an informal meeting” of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance composed of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.  Ostensible agenda: post-ISAF Afghanistan and the threat of regional terrorism and religious extremism.

CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha … warned that the situation near Russia’s southern borders will worsen after the ISAF withdrawal.  A zone of instability will emerge in regions bordering Afghanistan, and the influence of extremist groups will grow, as will the penetration of Islamist fundamentalist ideas in neighboring states, Bordyuzha said.

And after all that heated discussion and impromptu saber-rattling, there’s always time for a stroll through the idyllic countryside of Kyrgyzstan’s forested mountains … perchance a stream.

headwaters of the Rubicon?

headwaters of the Rubicon?

But just three days later …

Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters besieged a Canadian gold mine in Issyk Kul Province, northern Kyrgyzstan on Friday, clashing violently with riot police.  Over 50 people were wounded and 80 detained in the clashes, authorities said.  The demonstrations began earlier this week when protesters blocked the road leading to the mine in the northern Tian Shan mountains. On Thursday night, several hundred demonstrators, some on horseback, cut off electricity to the mine for several hours.  Riot police moved in overnight, detaining about 80 protesters and restoring the power supply.

The huge Kumtor gold mine is run by Canada’s Centerra Gold.  The protesters are demanding a bigger share of the profits from the gold mine and more investment in local infrastructure.  Previously accused of causing environmental damage and tax evasion, [the mine’s management] has denied those allegations and said it has paid $1.2 billion in taxes since 1994.

Kumtor_agitprop

Kumtor, the largest gold mine in Central Asia, produced more than 8.4 million ounces of gold between 1997 and the end of 2011. Under a 2009 agreement, the Kyrgyzstan government acquired one-third of Centerra.  Centerra’s subsidiary, Kumtor Operating Company, accounted for 12 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP and over half its industrial output in 2011, and is the [single] largest revenue source in the Kyrgyzstan budget.

[After repeated clashes on] Friday, riot police used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse some 2,000 protesters who attempted to storm the Kumtor mine office.

Crisis contained?  Not hardly:

The protest quickly spread, engulfing the southern city of Jalal-Abad, where several hundred people stormed a local governor’s building, drove officials out and appointed Medet Usenov a “people’s governor,” the Interfax news agency reported.  Usenov told Interfax the protesters intend to name local mayors and district administrators throughout Jalal-Abad province. They are also demanding the release of several opposition legislators who were jailed last October when a demonstration in Bishkek to demand the nationalization of Kumtor [degenerated] into a violent confrontation with police.

Jalal-Abad_2010

Kyrgyz media speculated on Friday that the current government’s political rivals could be behind the protests.  [Kyrgyzstan has experienced] the violent overthrow of two governments since gaining independence in 1991.  In 2010, the government was overthrown as clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks killed at least 470 people.

So is this good ole Kyrgyz home cooking, or an exotic foreign recipe for direct action?  Coincidence, correlation, or causation?  You be the judge.   Lungu has his own opinion.

 

 

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Eggon Their Faces

May 10, 2013

Warning:  readers with a reductionist binary world view may find this blog post hazardous to their pitifully inadequate perspective on the truly wondrous complexity of existence.

Liberals v. Conservatives.  Capitalists v. Communists.  Christians (and/or Jews) v. Muslims.  Jesus v. godless atheists.  Yankees v. Red Sox.  Just when you think you’ve got the world reduced into neatly opposing binary categories, along comes trouble.  In Nigeria.  No, Lunghu ain’t talking about Boko Haram, an armed Islamist social movement active in the northern state of Kano and points east.  Western news media actually HAS been providing some perfunctory coverage of the BH insurrection – mostly because it fits neatly into that whole Christianity v. Islam narrative that’s so popular in this century.  But how about this:

Gunmen from the Ombatse cult ambushed a  detachment of 60 police officers in central Nigeria’s Nasarawa state, killing 23 of them and then setting fire to their bodies.  17 officers remain missing.  The police chief said the security forces had tried to arrest some Ombatse leaders following allegations of forced conversions in a village not far from the state capital Lafia.
“We decided to send our men to the area to arrest members of Ombatse, including their priest,” he said.

The Ombatse cult? Forced conversions?  Uh oh.  Where did they come from?  Definitely not part of America’s global threat picture … Yet.  But it seems as though burnt offerings may be part of their religious practice:

Nasarawa-Eggon_2

[Last November,] members of Ombatse, a die-hard spiritual group of the Eggon tribe, attacked Agyaragu on the outskirts of Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, where they opened fire on targeted residences of Koro people in a crisis that stretched for 10 hours.  Traditional ruler Zhe Meri, district head of Gidan Rai, and his elder sister were roasted to death in a house where they had taken refuge in Agyaragu.  The charred remains of the traditional ruler’s corpse and that of his sister were found in a corner of the burnt one-room apartment, which was part of a large compound sacked by Ombatse.  [Elsewhere in] the now-deserted town, nine persons including children were killed and their bodies burnt.  Most of the corpses had machete and axe cuts, and were burnt, either on the streets or inside houses burnt down.

Ombatse, which means “time has come,” and which practitioners claim is a traditional religion handed down from heaven, is a mysticism which seeks to cleanse society of sundry ills, including adultery, fornication, public theft, drunkenness, smoking, envy, killing; to pave the way for the culture of morality and chastity.  The spiritual practice recently became bold among the people, with its leaders claiming that heightening societal ills have provoked them into a crusade to cleanse the land.  Its day is Saturday, [when] new members are initiated, and oaths are administered to converts to cleanse them of their sins. Women are never allowed near Alogani Center, a popular initiation area in Nasarawa-Eggon, during the cleansing ceremony, except unmarried teenagers who are believed to be pure from fornication.

Uh … unmarried [female] teenagers believed pure from fornication?!!?  On which planet?!!?  On which continent?  Clearly, this neotraditional faith has some significant theo-logical shortcomings.  But, in a truly ecumenical spirit, rather than rush to judgment let’s learn more.   Who would know better what Ombatse is all about than its leader and spokesman?  Let’s hear from Zachary Zamani Allumaga:

ZZ_Allumaga

  • Our forefathers had their own way of worship, which is the traditional way of worship before the invasion of the Europeans, Christianity and the Islamic jihad.  The society used to be serene and orderly till the advent of the foreigners.  What led to us bring back this traditional worship is the complaints we receive from our people about the evil and vices that have pervaded our society and our state.  Those societal ills include murder, theft, rumor-mongering, secret societies and witchcraft.
  • My father, who is still alive, practices both the traditional religion and Christianity. I have an uncle who is a Muslim and at the same time practices the traditional religion.  I [myself] am a confirmed communicant Catholic and at the same time too, a traditional worshiper.
  • One thing you need to know about this cult is that it has no form of moderation. [This is] unlike what the Christians or Muslims will tell you: that God will punish anyone who commit atrocity, and [offenders] may be forgiven if they ask God for forgiveness, or that God can allow them live until the Judgment Day, thereby allowing the offender to move about freely.  Elders from Eggon land have received instructions by one form of inspiration or the other to resort to azhili (the traditional deity), who can bring back sanity to the land again.
  • When you find violence involving Eggon people in the state — particularly the southern senatorial zone of Nasarawa state — it [merely] means their population is very great [in these areas].  But not all Eggon are members of Ombatse, and I want you to understand that violence is one of those things that is not acceptable to azhili. 
  • According to the police, they have arrested over 19 suspects in connection with the recent Agharagu feud. Let them carefully carry out their investigation and tell us if any Eggon person who is involved will claim he is from Ombatse or whether Ombatse sent them to go and fight.
  • If we are a problem group or militia group as they tag us, those security agents who invaded our shrine [in 2012] would not have survived. But none  of them was hurt or beaten by us. I assure you that we are a peaceful group.
  • The reason why there is serious animosity against Ombatse is because [our adversaries] are aware that we went to azhili and prayed for the political landscape of Nasarawa state to change for good, and indeed it changed.  Some people are planning to ensure the Eggon nation is dislodged from the political landscape of Nasarawa state, so they call us all kinds of names so that they can hang us.  It was the Nazi Joseph Goebbels who said, and I quote: “if you tell a lie and want people to believe it as truth, all you will do is [repeat] it several times.”
  • We discovered that politicians from Eggon nation such as Solomon Ewuga were [cheated] during the PDP governorship primary election [when the ballot] was rigged by Alh. Abdullahi Adamu, the first civilian governor of Nasarawa.  The result of that primary election has not been declared, apart from simply saying Abdullahi Adamu won it.  Nobody has told anybody what margin he won with.  In 2007, these same people conspired to rig out Solomon Ewuga in the governorship election.
  • When Abdullahi Adamu’s government got to power, he conspired with other tribes in Nasarawa state and brought up a policy he called the Deployment Policy, [under which] all Eggons should leave wherever they are settled in the state [and relocate] to Nasarawa Eggon.  We challenged [this policy] as far as the Supreme Court and the judgment in our favor was delivered in April [2012], declaring such directive as illegal. They all know that the Eggons were on the ground before [any of the other tribes] arrived in Nasarawa state.
  • If the government wants us to partner with them to preach and install peace among our people across the length and breadth of Nasarawa state, we are ready. If we can be allowed to go around to inform and sanitize our people, especially some of the places where this provocation is high, we will do so because we the Ombatse have nothing to do with blood.  We shall also meet with police and the commandant of the Army and other security agents to let them know who we are and what we are out for so that people will not go about peddling false stories against Ombatse group.

So there you have it.  Lots of interesting tidbits to be gleaned from ZZ Allumaga’s interview.

  • The Eggon people believe they have some legitimate grievances that aren’t being adequately addressed within the Nigerian polity. “We were here first, don’t try to push us out” is just one of their complaints.  They’re not happy about all the murder, theft, fornication and sorcery in the neighborhood, either.
  • The guilty are not being punished, which just leads to more of the above.  Nigeria’s version of the Broken Window hypothesis.
  • This cult has no form of moderation.  Just so you know.
  • I want you to understand that violence is not acceptable to azhili.  People who stayed awake during Interview and Interrogation training would point out that ZZ Allumaga doesn’t categorically and unequivocally disavow violence:  he “wants you to understand” that Ombatse beliefs renounce violence.  Significant difference there.  Cf.; “I want you to understand that I didn’t kill my wife.”

So What:

Maybe a police detachment in Nasarawa was ambushed and maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe the assailants were Eggon tribesmen, and maybe they weren’t.  Maybe they were Ombatse members, or maybe not.  Maybe the police detachment had probable cause to arrest Ombatse members and clergy for breach of the peace, and maybe they even had arrest warrants.  Maybe not.

In Nigeria, and in many other places in Africa, you just don’t know.  Information is always fragmentary, always partial, and almost never impartial.  Attempting any evaluation of information quality will always be a daunting task.  Reaching anything more than a tentative conclusion based on low quality, noisy information is almost never a good idea.  But Lunghu is pretty sure he won’t be visiting Nasarawa state anytime soon.  Not even with a trunkful of machetes.

NG_states