ICC NOTE: Actions taken by Muslim Fulani herdsmen against Christian farmers has claimed over 60,000 lives since 2001 according to reports. However, these numbers are likely much higher as many go unreported due to the party’s involved and lack of accurate assessment. As Boko Haram makes the majority of headlines out of Nigeria it is welcoming, yet with a heavy heart, to see the persecution of Christian farmers in this conflict gaining notoriety. Recent attacks by Fulani herdsmen resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 Christians in the region, many being women and children. Little is being done to stop the violence as the governments attention has and will be on Boko Haram for the foreseeable future.
3/11/2016 Nigeria (The Daily Beast) – It may well have been the bloodiest seven days in recent times. In north-central Nigeria, cattle herders and four farming communities armed with guns and machetes waged pitched battles last month. It was the latest round of violence in a long-running fight over grazing rights in the region.
Anyone who’s watched old movies about the Wild West in the United States will remember violent dramas about range wars between cattlemen and dirt farmers. But wild West Africa is far bloodier than anything Hollywood ever imagined.
Hundreds were killed in this one incident—including children who were hacked to death. Houses were razed and properties destroyed before security agents restored peace in the Agatu local government area of Benue state.
Yet little has been reported outside Nigeria about these massacres in the north-central region of the country, because this isn’t essentially a war about establishing a caliphate, the so-called Islamic State is not directly involved (at least not yet), and the actors don’t kill with the same intentions as Boko Haram in the north-east, although that group has exploited some of the horror stories that have emerged from the conflict. Nobody would claim, to use a favorite phrase of U.S. President Barack Obama, that this range war presents an “existential threat” to the United States. But it certainly threatens the existence of people in this country.
Over the past several years, herdsmen from Nigeria’s Fulani tribe, who have had a long-running battle with farmers in the central region known as the Middle Belt, are believed to have killed thousands of people in agrarian communities. These massacres have in turn generated revenge killings. Often the attacks are carried out with traditional weapons—bows, arrows and machetes—and the killings have a ghastly, almost ritualistic appearance.
Since 2001, disputes over land in the Middle Belt have claimed over 60,000 lives. Boko Haram attacks, meanwhile, have resulted in about 17,000 deaths since 2009.
Because the herdsmen are largely Mulsim and the farmers are mostly Christian, the potential is there for radicals to exploit the conflict, but its roots are not primarily religious. At least since 1999, bigger herds of cattle have been encroaching on greater parcels of farmland.