The conflict in Zango-Kataf in southern Kaduna State illustrates the explosive mix of religious and ethnic rivalry, as well as the highly partial approach of the authorities which has succeeded in inflaming conflict.
The town of Zango-Kataf is an enclave of mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulanis in an area dominated by the mostly Christian Katafs. Tension between the two communities has been long-standing. In February 1992, rioting broke out over a local government decision to move the market from a Hausa area to one dominated by Katafs. Sixty people died. Worse rioting broke out in May, apparently after Kataf attacks on the Hausa community. The violence spread to Kaduna, where it was mainly directed by Hausas against Christians. Several churches were burned down and Christian ministers killed. The official death toll was 300 but unofficial estimates were as high as several thousand. Over 60,000 people fled their homes.
The official response to the violence was to arrest several hundred Katafs, most of whom were held without charge. Six prominent Katafs, including Major-General Zamani Lekwot, a former ambassador, were charged with complicity in the riots before a specially constituted Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal. The prosecution withdrew its case, but the accused were rearrested by security agents as they left the court. In September 1991, they were charged again, with a total of 14 people being sentenced to death by two Civil Disturbances Tribunals, including Major-General Lekwot. The hearings had all the same defects as the tribunal which heard the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists, since they were constituted under the same law. In this instance, the Government commuted the death sentences to five years' imprisonment.