Africa, conflict coverage, ethnic cleansing, ethnic conflict, Fulani, Fulani Land Pirates, Middle Belt, Muslim v Christian, Nigeria, religious warfare
The article features a Gombe State case study that romanticizes the Fulani at peace within their own ethnic and religious community. My question for you: why not take Taraba, Benue, or even Plateau State in the north central region of Nigeria or the more than 16 states that have experienced horrific violence and see the story through the eyes of the bereaved and dispossessed?
BackChannels’ editor has been responding to a contact in Nigeria with interest in what this blog has referred to as the “Fulani Land Pirates” — and this has been the year for watching “activity” (brigandage or warfare or both) that has amounted to the ethnic cleansing of Christian villages from the land with either apparent or somewhat implied complicity on the government’s part.
Last month, The New York Times (TYNT) published an overview of the Fulani drifting — in part a response to desertification — and the related conflict, but the journalist chose to paint a romantic view of the Fulani who have indeed lived with the bravado, color, and community known to nomadic herdsmen. On behalf of Nigeria’s isolated or remote Christian community, the contact took exception to that depiction.
The edited letter was submitted to TNYT last week (October 24), but having not appeared, BackChannels offered to publish it.
I am writing to express my disappointment with “Nigerian Herders Face Threat From Farmers Competing for Land” (September 22, 2018) by Dionne Searcey.
I don’t believe there has been a deliberate attempt to mislead the general public and do injustice to the thousands of people that have been raped, hacked or killed by assaults associated with herdsman, but the numbers in the article have merely hinted at the scale of the violence. Many attacks have involved marauding “troops” with numbers above one-hundred, and as a consequence today there are thousands of people living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in states like Benue, Taraba and Plateau.
Herder umbrella groups like Miyetti Allah that have issued threat of violence and followed through with hundreds of people killed were not mentioned in the article.
Moreover, the failure of security under the present government to arrest these killers was also not mentioned.
Portraying the southern part of Nigeria as a Christian majority viewing herders as beheaders, rapists, or Boko Haram may suggest bias in support of the herders. The truth is the southern portion of Nigeria has accommodated all despite differences in culture and religion.
In fact, most herders have lived peacefully with their hosts until turning without warning to run the same off the land.
In the past few years, the continuous influx of herders into Nigeria coupled with ethnic and religious issues and a complete absence of the rule of law have set loose countless raiders against Christian farmers.
Southern Nigeria has been organized into three large geopolitical zones comprised of 17 states, most of which have suffered murders, kidnappings, destroyed property, and the loss of farmland. At times, related arson has been dramatically political. The burning of a farm owned by Chief Olu Falaye on 21 January 2018 and the burning of former naval chief Afolayan’s 90 hectares of productive land – oranges, cassava, and palm – deliberately beg the public’s conscience and patience in relation to the desire for earnest state defense.
I also disagree with the article’s position that the President has not done much for Fulani herdsmen.
President Buhari has represented Fulni interests more than those of any other group. In October 13, 2010 he led a protest to the Oyo state government complaining about the treatment of Fulani herders despite that he was acting on a wrong heading. He also has tried to grab land to give to the Fulani herders but has been impeded only by constitutional arrangements in which lands are not vested with the Federal government but with state governments.
The article features a Gombe state case study that romanticizes the Fulani at peace within its own ethnic and religious community. My question for you: why not take Taraba, Benue or even Plateau State in the north central region of Nigeria or the more than 16 states that have experienced horrific violence and see the story through the eyes of the bereaved and dispossessed?
Why whitewash this conflict that at the hands of Kalashnikov-armed Fulani herdsman has seen numerous Christian villages burned and ethnically cleansed in the manner of medieval rape and rapine?
One may concede that cattle rustling is a major problem that affects herders, and that rustlers – as bandits often do – cut across ethnic boundaries (as widely reported in Zamfara State where the majority are Hausa-Fulani Muslims), and the police should up their game on bringing to justice those criminals.
For peace for the near future of Nigeria, ranching would be the best solution to pursue through legal political processes. The frontier for nomadic herding without boundaries may need to be closed.
Odunsi, Wale. “Buhari blows hot over renewed Plateau killings.” Daily Post, October 1, 2018.
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