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Story Publication logo February 13, 2012

One Nation Under Gods: Nigeria's Sectarian Crisis

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Images by Bénédicte Kurzen, Nigeria, 2011
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Sectarian violence sparked by a deepening rift between Nigeria's Muslims and Christians has killed...

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Even for a country that has spent the majority of its 50-year existence careening from one crisis to the next, the past few months in Nigeria have been without precedent. A campaign of Christmas Day church bombings by the shadowy Islamist sect Boko Haram heralded the expansion of an insurgency that now threatens to engulf the entire Muslim north. Meanwhile, tens of thousands took to the streets nationwide to protest the removal of fuel subsidies, exposing a dangerous rift between Nigeria's increasingly impoverished people and a disconnected ruling class.

Despite understandable shock and outrage both at home and abroad, warning signs of an impending meltdown were abundant long before the current crisis. Benedicte Kurzen looks back at one such ominous harbinger: the 2011 general elections, which laid bare the deep economic, social and geographical divisions that separate Nigerians and are expressed most dramatically through sectarian violence. Over the course of three days in April, as large parts of the country succumbed to a familiar cycle of despair, rage, hatred and revenge, over 800 people lost their lives in what President Goodluck Jonathan would later call the worst single outbreak of violence since Nigeria's independence-era civil war.

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