Terror in Kafanchan
By Greg Jones (22) 66-68
Background: Friends of Nigeria has sponsored VSO volunteers working in Kafanchan with the Fantsuam Foundation. Through them we learned about the Fantsuam Foundation. I visited Kafanchan and Fantsuam during the FON trip to Nigeria in 2008. I was very impressed. Friends of Nigeria has made microlending through the Fantsuam Foundation one of our main fund-raising efforts. John Dada is the leader of the Fantsuam Foundation, and, IMHO, a visionary.
Post-election violence has been especially destructive in Kaduna and Kafanchan. While estimates of the number of people killed vary, John Dada said they used mass graves to dispose of the bodies. The market in Kafanchan was burned to the ground, and many people lost their cash on hand and inventories, as well as their places of business. Here is an early email from Bala, a member of the Fantsuam Foundation staff:
“Thank you for your concern, all FF (Fantsuam Foundation) staff are fine physically right now though three had their houses burnt along with all their possessions. Things are a bit calmer now and there are military personnel all about town to keep the peace. During the fighting most of the staff of the general Hospital fled, leaving FF clinic as the only source of immediate first aid and treatment in town. As a result dozens of people were treated for gunshot and machete wounds. Our medical supplies and staff have been stretched really thin though we have been able to purchase essential medication from Jos.
“There is no market is Kafanchan anymore, so people are having to go to Jos to buy food and other essentials, I have had to do the same. No banks are open and everything is at a standstill. Now that things are getting calmer, I think one of the most pressing concerns will be the reconstruction of homes that have been burnt down. Its rainy season now and so many people have lost their homes and means of livelihood. Also, there is no place where they can buy food, some people go to other towns to buy food, but I know very soon people will exhaust whatever cash reserves they have and will need to earn money.
“In the short term, we need to make available food, shelter and medicine for those with no homes/displaced, in the medium term we need to find ways to facilitate the rebuilding of livelihoods and reconciliation.”
This sounds much like the violence that swept the north soon after Training Group 22 arrived in September, 1966. Armed gangs roaming the streets attacking anybody who happened to come from the wrong place or belong to the wrong tribe. This following an election that international monitors have declared to be one of the most honest in recent memory. Clearly the notion that “this is our turn” trumps an honest electoral result.
We in FON can sit back and cluck about how terrible such violence is. Or we can work with the organizations we have developed relationships with in the past and try to build the bridges that are the only way out of this mess. The Fantsuam Foundation is one such organization. We know what kind of work it is capable of from what it did in peace time. I had a late-night Skype conversation with John Dada. It was much later for him (4AM) than it was for me (10PM), but his attitude was that you have to take advantage of NEPA power when they happen to provide it. Here are a few quotes from the conversation:
John Dada: Yes, our backbone is still microfinance. We have about 2,000 active clients. Many southerners sent their wives and children home, but some are trickling back now. We have been able to make contact with about 60% of our clients.
Greg: What % of your clients were southerners? Northerners? In-betweens?
John: The bulk of our clients, 70%, are from the Kafanchan area, 20% southerners, and 10% from far north.
Greg: How bad was the violence? Any estimates of how many were killed?
John: No accurate records, but mass graves had to be used for burial. The attacks were late in the night about 1.00am, so it was devastating. There is now an uneasy calm as armed security men are all over the place, on 24-hour patrols.
This is why we are keen to get economic activities going for all sides. We think the orgy of violence has petered out and folks are desperate to restart their lives. Women remain the key to the peace of our communities. The women are still in contact across the divides: they are married on both sides: Christians and Moslems. We think it has to be stick and carrot: economic progress for peace. While I think it has dawned on all that we have to live together; the pains and hurting will take some time to heal. I think it is important to start the process by getting peace activists on both sides to start working to rebuild the peace.
Yes, it is the immediate needs we have been grappling with: food, shelter, clothing and security. We now need to engage people’s minds and help them see that there is a future. We need to help people to get to their farms quickly: if we miss the planting season, there will be hunger by October. May and June are the planting months; food storage units have all been lost to fire. We have to plant now as the rains have arrived.
In response to the immediate need, the FON board has sent $2,000 in undesignated funds to Fantsuam to help provide seed and fertilizer for planting. In response, John Dada sent the following email: This is a big help at this time. Our team will start purchase and distribution of fertilizer & seed tomorrow.
Earlier, John had sent us the following longer-term proposal: Given the FON’s previous focus on Microfinance, and given that this is one of the most-badly hit of the Fantsuam services, FON may want to provide a combination of grants and loans totaling N15,000,000 or $100,000 US dollars that would be equally distributed to 500 women ( N30,000 or US$200.00 per woman) designated for use in the following manner:
• N5,000 for a one-time Grant, not to be repaid, that could be used to meet family expenses,
• N5,000 for purchase of fertilizer and other farm inputs,
• N20,000 for a loan to be re-invested into a micro-business.
Clearly, $100,000 is far more than FON has ever been able to muster in the past. But gauging your gifts by the amount per person is a reasonable thing to do. A gift of $600 from you would help put three affected families back on their feet. Remember: FON’s support is incremental, but whatever you can donate now will have an immediate impact. We welcome the opportunity to speed your support on its way to the people who are on the scene and providing direct support at this time of heart-rending turbulence. Please use the coupon on the back page of the newsletter marking the gift unrestricted and noting you’d like the money to go to our “emergency fund.”