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VIEW FROM ABROAD: Trump may not be wrong on the Fulani herdsmen crisis in Nigeria

By Ewelina U. Ochab/FORBES on 06/05/2018

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•Fulani herdsmen on the move
•Fulani herdsmen on the move

At the end of April 2018, President Trump met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. It was a very important meeting as President Buhari was the first president from sub-Saharan Africa to visit President Trump at the White House. President Trump was reportedly very interested in the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. President Trump has caused an outcry for the sympathy he has expressed for the Christian farmers targeted by the Fulani herdsmen. However, such criticism may have been ignorant. Indeed, President Trump may not be wrong on the Fulani herdsmen crisis in Nigeria.

The Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani militia, are a semi-nomadic, pastoralist ethnic group living in the central regions of Nigeria, predominately in the Middle Belt. The majority of the Fulani herdsmen are Muslim. They have clashed with indigenous tribes and local, mainly Christian, farmers over grazing land over the centuries. However, as Open Doors explains, the clashes intensified around the time of the 2011 and 2015 elections, and again earlier this year. The regions most affected by the violence include the areas of Jama’a, Kachia, Kagarko, Kaura and Sanga in southern Kaduna.

The atrocities perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen include the destruction of houses and churches, as well as the seizure of land and properties belonging to Christian owners. Reports have also emerged of the Fulani herdsmen ‘kidnapping Christian schoolgirls to marry them to Muslim men.’ In its 2015 report, Open Doors lists detailed examples of such targeted attacks. The report rebuts the argument that the clashes were caused by environmental degradation and resulting migration. The report presents a more comprehensive picture incorporating some elements of religious persecution. Indeed, the conflict is extremely complex.

Despite this, according to BBC, President Buhari was reportedly quick to deflect the issues stating that ‘The problem of cattle herders is a very long historical problem. Before now, cattle herders were known to carry sticks and machetes… but these ones are carrying AK-47s.’ If this is the case, the question is then, what the Nigerian government is doing to resolve the ongoing conflict between Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers;  investigate the crimes and prosecute the perpetrators; investigate the supply chain of AK-47s; consider the potential religious component to the conflict; and assist all victims of the conflict?

While President Buhari is often praised for his fight against deeply rooted corruption in Nigeria and his pro-active approach to the atrocities committed by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria (although some of these pro-active steps are currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court), the conflict in the Middle Belt does not appear to gain the government’s attention or trigger decisive actions. This is of particular importance because of the militarisation of the Fulani herdsmen and because of similar violence against Christian minorities in northern Nigeria (although conducted by a different actor). Considering the widespread use of AK-47’s by Fulani herdsmen, greater action from the Nigerian government would be expected. This is of increased importance in light of yet more news that Nigeria is home to over 350 million illegal weapons. Furthermore, the religious component cannot be neglected. Open Doors reported that between 2006 and 2014, 9,000 – 11,500 Christians were killed and over 13,000 churches destroyed in northern Nigeria. Those numbers are not insignificant and the effect of such targeted atrocities cannot be ignored. Indeed, the destruction of 13,000 churches is likely to have affected close to 1.3 million Christians in the region and do adversely affected their right to practice their religion as well as marginalised the group as a whole.

Refreshing or ignorant, many may not agree with President Trump’s bold delivery of his opinions. In case of the issue of the Fulani herdsmen, their attacks on farmers in the Middle Belt and the continued ignorance of the Nigerian government, it is such controversial statements which may trigger the needed change (as per political pressure). The situation in the Middle Belt requires urgent attention and decisive actions. President Buhari’s dismissive approach is not justified.

•Sourced from FORBES. Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East".

Source News Express

Posted 06/05/2018 12:38:47 PM

 

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