Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - A Nigerian priest was killed who was mediating in a conflict between ethnic groups in central-eastern Nigeria. On August 29, Fr David Tanko was stopped by armed men on the way to the village of Takum, where he was to attend a meeting to mediate a peace agreement aimed at ending the crisis that opposes the Tiv and Jukun populations.
According to local sources, the criminals, perhaps belonging to a Tiv militia, after killing Fr. Tanko set fire to the body of the priest and his car.
His Exc. Mgr. Charles Michael Hammawa, Bishop of Jalingo, condemned the killing of Fr. David Tanko: "As soon as we heard the news of his death we were shocked. The diocese is in mourning". The Bishop added: "We preached peace and made efforts to bring both sides to the negotiating table. State police promised me they are investigating the case, we pray that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. "Our main concern now is to give him a proper burial. We do not want there to be retaliation that would only worsen the situation", warned Bishop Hammawa. The priest's funeral will be held on September 2, while the burial will take place on September 3 in the diocesan cemetery of Jalingo.
There have been a series of armed attacks in the State of Taraba, the most recent in the area of Wukari. Two people were killed while a police officer was injured in the attack. Furthermore, in the nearby Donga Local Government Area (LGA), a student of the ECWA Seminary School was killed in the early hours of 28 August.
The conflict between the Tiv and the Jukuns dates back to 1953 (for others to 1959 or 1977), between truces and backfires of violence. According to some historical studies the two populations lived in harmony until the advent of British colonization, when the colonial authorities favored the Jukuns to the detriment of the Tiv, planting the seed of discord which exists to the present day.
The conflict resurfaced violently on April 1st and was triggered by a dispute between a Tiv and a Jukun in the village of Kente in the Wukari area, which soon degenerated into a series of raids in the villages of the two populations, with deaths and looting. The violence also spread to the neighboring State of Benue. In July, the governors of the two States concerned, Benue and Taraba, launched an appeal for peace, while Dr. Isaiah Jirapye, President of the local section of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), asked the two parties to dialogue, stating "to having made the necessary contacts for an immediate dialogue to guarantee the end of hostilities". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 30/8/2019)