Installation of monarch turns bloody in Taraba State

The installation of Yakubu Kirim as traditional ruler of Wurkuns- Karimjo in Karim Lamido Local Government of Taraba State has resulted in a bloodbath as the two ethnic groups turned the town into a theatre of violence.

Penpushing reports that the bloodbath occurred on Saturday, May 6, 2023 after a group of Karimjos protested, arguing that the Governor, Darius Ishaku, should not have appointed an ethnic Wurkun as the monarch.

The protesters argued that the appointment was unfair to the Karimjos after the same Governor recently created a chiefdom for the Wurkuns in neighbouring Bambur, hence, this led to tension which pervaded the main town and adjoining villages.

Lush Arena

Penpushing further reports that the tension later snowballed into mayhem, and on May 12, 2023, hell was let loose when some members of both ethnic groups attacked each other, while the Karimjos accused Wurkuns of provoking them to act violently

The former National President of the Karimjo Development Association, Samaila Zubairu, alleged that while celebrating the return of the newly installed monarch to Karim, the Wurkuns started mocking and harassing the Karimjos, calling them names.

Penpushing also reports that he claimed this was what triggered some Karimjo youth to attack the Wurkuns explaining that before the latest incidents, Karim Lamido was a peaceful local government area where the estimated 15 ethnic groups that are indigenous to the area lived in harmony.

The former National President of the Karimjo Development Associatio said distrust set in after the state government created new chiefdoms in the area and sidelined some ethnic groups,adding that the Karimjos, with a population of over 50,000, were not given a monarch despite being the first settlers in Karim and that was why the town was named after the ethnic group.

“We are Karim by tribe but the Jo that was added was by the Fulanis who were the second settlers, meaning ‘man of Karim. After the Fulanis, many other tribes, including the Wurkuns came to settle with us in Karim and we have been relating well in several means’, he stated.

“We are the real owners of the land and all the resources in the land but we are being oppressed in our own land. For many years, the Karimjos have been yearning for liberation and emancipation over the issue of chiefdom, we have written different requests to past and present administrations in the state but to no avail’,  Zubairu said.

‘We felt it was time for us to be liberated and regain our chiefdom. Our people felt that Governor Ishaku was not fair to us for giving an additional chiefdom to the Wurkuns in Bambur and also installed another Wurkun in Karim. That triggered our anger. Our youths when out on a peaceful protest which is a constitutional right to voice out their anger, unfortunately, some persons in high authority decided to send the army to beat and harass them”

Penpushing further reports that Zubairu claimed that while celebrating the return of the new monarch to Karim last Friday, the Wurkuns started mocking the Karimjo by chanting provocative statements, threatening to deal with them

The former President of the Karimjo Development Association accused Wukun militias of attacking Karimjo settlements and destroying their properties, alleging soldiers to have assisted the Wurkuns during the attacks by repelling the Karimjos when they tried to retaliate.

‘Military that was drafted to the area were not neutral. They repelled our youths and out of anger our youths started burning the houses of the Wurkuns because they felt justice was being perverted,” he said.

‘But unfortunately on Saturday the military invaded Karimjo settlements and killed more than 13 persons and many were injured. For now, we cannot ascertain the actual number of casualties because we are still gathering our losses caused by the military. If you go to Karim now, the settlement of Karimjo is empty, the military succeeded in displacing our people.

‘And because the military succeeded in displacing them the Wurkun youths and militias came out in large numbers and burnt down all the settlements of the Karimjos. Apart from having top political appointments and influential persons in the society, when you talk of the military they have Generals both serving and retired, they have senior serving and retired police officers, so I feel the military was sponsored to perpetrate the act’, he stated

Penpushing also reports that Zubairu said the Wurkuns are taking advantage of their political and educational advancement to oppress them, explaining that it took the intervention of elders and leaders of the Karimjos to calm the situation.

The National President of the Wurkun Community Development Association Wilfred Kwanchi in his own response said his kinsmen fought back in self-defence, and dismissed the claim that his people instigated the clash.

Penpushing reports that he explained that when the Karimjos heard the announcement of the newly installed chief, they started burning tyres in Karim protesting adding that when the new chief was presented with the staff of office, everywhere was initially calm.

The National President of the Wurkun Community Development Association, later that night the Karimjos went on the rampage, destroying and burning the houses of the Wurkuns in Karim, adding that he could not ascertain the level of damages and the number of dead persons from the Wurkun side because the attacks were still ongoing.

‘Yesterday night there were villages that were attacked by the Karimjos and we were meant to understand that we lost some of our tribesmen and about six Wurkun villages were completely destroyed’

‘The first village that was destroyed is called Balassa. Balassa has been in existence since before the Karimjos came to settle in Karim. I don’t want to give you half-baked information, we are waiting for a comprehensive report to come”.

Penpushing further reports that he stated that contrary to claims by the Karimjos of being the original owners of the throne, the Wurkun chiefdom has been in existence since 1976 when the late chief of Wurkun was turbaned as a third-class chief.

The association President posited that if the Karimjos wanted a separate chiefdom, they should have requested it with credible arguments rather than resorting to violence and laying claim over what does not belong to them.

Penpushing also reports that he stated that the Karimjos were not in Karim Lamido, rather, they were residing at the riverbank, adding that the entire Karim Lamido was known as a Wurkun district even before the colonial era.

The National President of the Wurkun Community Development Association, said and declared that the allegation that the Wurkuns used soldiers to kill and displace the Karimjos was false and malicious.

Penpushing reports that the military while responding denied the allegation that it took sides in the crisis, explaining that the army is not an ethnic organisation and therefore could not have taken sides or molested any group.

The authorities explained and emphsised that the military was only in Karim to ensure that they restore peace and the situation was brought under control, while on its own part Taraba State Police Command said the casualties were still being compiled, but normalcy had been restored in the affected areas.

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