SA appeals for calm in Nigeria

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pretoria - South Africa has appealed for calm following sectarian violence in Nigeria's northern Jos region.

Several hundred people are feared to have been killed in recent clashes involving Muslim herders and Christian villagers.

Violence has been concentrated around the city of Jos, which lies at the crossroads of Nigeria's Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. The villagers on Monday buried dozens of bodies, including those of women and children, in a mass grave.

International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota told BuaNews that the South African government was keeping a close eye on events in Nigeria and would not issue any travel warning until it had all the facts.

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane earlier told the SABC that said she would be in contact with her Nigerian counterpart to get the full details of the killings.

"Nigeria is a very very important player in Africa, in Ecowas, in the region of West Africa, in the AU and also in the economic well being of the continent... So we really cannot just sit back and watch Nigeria fall apart," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged the country's political and religious leaders to work together to "address the underlying causes and to achieve a permanent solution to the crisis in Jos".

"I am deeply concerned that there has been more inter-religious violence, with appalling loss of life," Ban said. "I appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint."

Meanwhile, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has called an emergency meeting with all security service chiefs to discuss strategies to prevent clashes spreading to neighboring states, presidential sources said.

Jonathan has also put the army on alert in the region to curb any further attacks.

The massacre is believed to have been sparked by violent clashes early this year where more than 300 people died in the region when youths burnt churches, mosques and businesses.