Climate change, ethnicity and neglect fuel violence in Nigeria — a global issue
At the Bokkos camp for internally displaced people. Photo: Promise Eze/IPS
  • Promise Eze (Kaduna, Nigeria)
  • Inter Press Service

Gunmen, believed to be Fulani herders, had surrounded the village and were firing from multiple angles.

Kvass tried to flee to safety in nearby bushes with his three-year-old son on his back, but was shot in the head and knocked unconscious.

“I was so happy to wake up two weeks later in hospital in Kaduna and find out my son was alive,” she recalled.

Residents who spoke to IPS reported that the attack, which lasted about four hours, burned more than 30 houses, injured dozens and killed more than 20 people, including Kwas’s mother, who was massacred by the herders.

The attackers fled before security forces reached the disturbed area.

Kvass’s ordeal is part of a troubling pattern: tensions between farmers and herders have risen in recent years. Escalated Nigeria’s north-central states, commonly known as the Middle Belt, have seen a series of violent clashes, including a deadly attack last year in Zangon Kataf area of ​​Kaduna state that left 33 people dead. attack by rural Fulani herders.

Similarly, more than 200 people died in Bokkos area of ​​Plateau State. Brutally Murdered The incident occurred during a raid led by herders on Christmas Eve last year.

According to Human Rights Watch, approximately 60,000 people Conflict has killed and displaced more than 300,000 people in the region, including Grace Mahan, who lost her eldest son in an attack in Bokkos and now lives as a refugee in one of the region’s 14 refugee camps.

“Everything was destroyed, my livestock, my house. Everything was destroyed. I fled with nothing but the clothes on my back,” she told IPS.

Climate Change

Observers say the situation Drought is linked to climate change In the north, the region’s annual average rainfall has dropped significantly to less than 600 mm, in contrast to 3,500 mm. received As a result, nomads were forced to migrate south in search of grazing land for their livestock.

Nigeria’s livestock is growing at a very fast pace. Approximately 20 millionIts population is also growing, making it one of the largest in the world. Over 200 million peoplethe highest in Africa.

Rapid growth in livestock and human populations, particularly in the north-central region, has led to competition between farmers and pastoralists for scarce resources, resulting in one of the bloodiest conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.

The conflict has now spread to the southern states of the country, resulting in mass killings. Increasingly reported Over the past few years, herders have accused local farmers of stealing their cattle, while farmers have accused the herders of encroaching on farmland and destroying crops.

Religious fires amid ethnic tensions

In recent years, the conflict has shifted from a fight over resources to Ethno-religious crisis the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt, who are primarily Christian, and the predominantly Muslim Settlers.

For many Christian groups in Nigeria and abroad, the attack It is called “War of Islamic Expansion.” This view is supported by the fact that Nigeria The most dangerous place for Christians The rise of jihadist groups and politically motivated killings targeting Christians has led to an increase in Christian deaths. According to one report, nearly 90 percent of Christian deaths are in the United States. 5,000 Christians More than one million people were killed in Nigeria last year for faith-based reasons.

Even before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Nigeria in February, U.S. Christian advocacy and religious freedom groups Criticized President Joe Biden’s administration did not include Nigeria on its religious freedom watch list.

Some Muslims in the north fear Christian attacks on the Fulani. Attacks on IslamSome are calling for retaliation.

These clashes typically occur in villages and quickly Violent conflict Conflict broke out between Christians and Muslims in northern towns, with devastating consequences.

Nigerian Muslim groups have consistently Condemned It condemned the killings by both sides and maintained the attacks were not religiously motivated.

Underlying factors

for Oludare OgunlanaProfessor of National Security Collin College, TexasFor decades, the government has struggled with religious tensions, ethno-political crises, poverty, unemploymentand illiteracy something that has plagued the region.

Although Nigeria is a secular state, religion plays an important role in the country’s politics, and politicians often exploit religion for their own purposes. Religious sentiment To attract voters in elections, socio-political issues can quickly evolve into religious crises, particularly in the North-Central region, where, for example, Christian protests against government plans to introduce Sharia law in Kaduna state in 2000 led to a series of clashes that left at least one million people dead. 2000 people.

In the early 2000s, in Jos, Plateau State, government officials were appointed on religious grounds; A series of violent incidents Conflict broke out between Christians and Muslims, leaving hundreds dead.

“Religious intolerance is a result of poverty – not just in terms of material possessions but also in terms of ideas. Most farmers and herders in the Middle Belt are relatively poor. Given the existing religious tensions in a region plagued by illiteracy and the government’s inability to address these issues, it is not surprising that the crisis for farmers and herders has now become one over religion,” Ogunlana told IPS.

Government negligence

Critics say the government is not giving the crisis the attention it needs, despite efforts to mitigate the killings. was suggested The plan is to set up grazing camps and cattle colonies across the country, but the plan has faced opposition from leaders in the Middle Belt who see it as a strategy to help nomads grab land and promote Islam.

US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Annual Report 2024 criticized It condemns the Nigerian government for failing to respond to religious extremist violence.

For Ogunlana, policing the area, frequent roundtables with religious and traditional leaders and creating opportunities to encourage herders to invest in more profitable businesses other than livestock farming would help put out the fires.

“Governments need to promote inclusive governance and implement policies that ensure fair representation and participation of diverse religious communities in decision-making processes at all levels of governance, which can foster trust and a sense of belonging among different religious and ethnic groups,” he added.

Nigeria, despite its strict gun laws, Illegal firearmsrefueling Security issues. United Nations Report Of West Africa’s 500 million illegal weapons, 70% are in Nigeria, perpetuating a cycle of violence between farmers and herders.

Miyetti Allah, a Fulani herder leader, Claim The herders claim that the attacks are in retaliation for cattle theft by farmers, but the farmers protect Their land.

As the crisis worsens, the scars deepen. Abdulrahman Muhammed, a herder from Bokkos, told IPS that after the Christmas Eve attack, retaliatory Christian natives attacked multiple Fulani settlements the next day, burning down many homes, including his own.

“I managed to escape but some of my cattle were stolen. I hope that talks can be held between the indigenous people and the pastoralists and a way can be found to end the killings,” he said.

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© Inter Press Services (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service

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