The Threat of Fulani Militants Exceeds Boko Haram

ICC Note: The past year has seen an increase in attacks by Fulani Militants on Christian farmers that has surpassed the threat posed by Boko Haram. Attacks have been going on since around 2011 in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria along the Christian-Muslim divide in the country. Measures taken by the government thus far have been insufficient, ineffective, or ill-advised; and media sources are calling on officials to do more.

06/09/2018 Nigeria (The Economist) – An age-old rivalry has grown deadlier, thanks to climate change, bad government and plentiful guns.

MARIS GIDWELL unwinds the bandage from her forearm and removes a wooden splint. Two fingers are missing. Her arm shakes as she tells how, as dawn broke, she heard shouts warning the residents of Lawaru, in Adamawa state in north-east Nigeria, to flee. She ran towards a neighbouring village with her 25-year-old son. Tragically, men wielding machetes caught them. They robbed and wounded Ms Gidwell, and murdered her son.

The attack on Lawaru and its surrounding villages was probably carried out by nomadic Fulani herdsmen, a group that is scattered across much of west Africa’s semi-arid Sahel, from Mali to the Central African Republic. Many of those killed were sedentary farmers, mostly from the Bachama tribe. The incident is part of a growing wave of violence between nomads and farmers that has ebbed and flowed across Nigeria’s central “Middle Belt” since at least 2011.

Although strife between herdsmen and farmers dates back centuries, it has escalated sharply as climate change pushes herders south. Clashes are deadlier, too, thanks to guns looted from the arsenals of Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, and smuggled around the region.

The fighting is stretching a government that is also trying to contain a jihadist insurgency in the north-east and banditry in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Violence in the Middle Belt, which is about a third of Nigeria’s land mass, is every bit as brutal.

In the past year armed Fulani groups have surpassed Boko Haram, a jihadist group, as the deadliest threat to civilians. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit organisation, estimates that armed Fulani men have killed almost 1,000 civilians this year; Boko Haram have slaughtered 200 or so.

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