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Amid the recent violence this week in the Mangu district in Plateau State, Nigeria, the head of the local development association – Sir Joseph Gwankat (KSM) Makaman Panyam – read the statement below at a press conference in Jos on Friday. His words and emotion gave insight into the depth and breadth of the struggle that local tribes and Christians have endured – as well as the causes and potential remedies for resolving the Fulani militant fray.

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MWAGHAVUL DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION (M.D.A) P.O. BOX 120 Mangu, Plateau State, Nigeria. 08036534332, 08065385319 Our Ref: Your Ref: Date: PRESS CONFERENCE BY SIR JOSEPH GWANKAT (KSM) MAKAMAN PANYAM , NATIONAL PRESIDENT MWAGHAVUL DEVELOPMENT TH ASSOCIATION,(MDA) PLATEAU STATE NIGERIA ON 19 MAY 2023 AT THE PRESS CENTRE JOS. PROTOCOL

“Ladies and gentlemen of the Press. Good afternoon. You are welcome to this press conference organized by the National body of the Mwaghavul Development Association (MDA)

WHO ARE WE?

“We are Nigerians. This association is the apex body of our tribe or ethnic nationality. We are located in Plateau State, within the Central Zone of the State and are among the 56 ethnic nationalities of Plateau State and one of the minority tribes of Nigeria. Although our people are highly mobile, we do not have any home other than our ancestral land where we are indigenes. We are surrounded by other ethnic nationalities of Plateau State and all other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria including major tribes of Nigeria and tribes of some foreign countries are represented in our land. In a sense we are a miniature Nigeria. Our community people are basically farmers; business people and civil servants. We have a long history of peaceful coexistence with other Nigerians and foreign nationalities.

OUR VALUES, ACTIONS, AND FEARS

“We draw inspiration from our cultural values and Nigeria’s constitution which sets values for her citizens. Some of values include among others peace, justice, dialogue, love, fear of God, hard work, unity, interdependency, education, accountability, transparency, discipline, truthfulness, rule of law etc. As much as possible we have taken advantage of all societal agents of socialization to train our children to be patriotic, respect sanctity of life, and observe fundamental human rights of others as well to ensuring that their personal conduct reflects Nigeria’s core values. Those who refuse to conform to our national ethos and values are often subjected to prescribed discipline of our National Constitution and other extant laws of the land. 19th May, 2023 It is important to explain who we are because our behaviors are largely dependent on these values. This explains why Mangu Local Government Area was severally referred as one of the most peaceful Area in Nigeria. We pride ourselves as a people of peace. As a matter of fact, we have never left our land in search of perceive enemies to attack and kill them. But enemies of the state have consistently mobilized themselves at national and sub national level to come and attack smaller tribes like ours, and by such acts reconfirm the fears of insecurity and marginalization of minority groups of Nigeria at independence.

MANAGEMENT OF CONFLICTS IN MWAGHAVUL CHIEFDOM

“Conflict is intrinsic to every society including ours. Over the years, however, we have largely leverage on traditional institutions of our communities as well as formal platforms for the management of conflicts, diversity and to dispense justice. Because we hate violent conflicts, we work towards conflict transformation and do attribute some of our socio economic and political progress to the positive and creative management of past conflicts. It is important to let you know this because; we have a rich community experience in the management of conflicts and appreciate the place of conflict in the development of our society. Yet we abhor violent conflict. We also have great respect for our cultural and formal institutions, particularly because of their place in ensuring social harmony and building of a progressive society. At all levels we abhor and sanction dysfunctional behaviors.

CHALLENGES OF MANAGING VIOLENT CONFLICTS BETWEEN FULANIS AND MWAGHAVUL PEOPLE

“We have always managed conflicts between our members and Fulanis in our communities. We facilitate peace with our neighbors by developing trust and right attitude towards them. The Fulanis living in our communities are perceived extended members of our families because of our mutually beneficial economic activities. Besides, our own Fulanis speak Mwaghavul in addition to adopting some of our cultural ways of life. Out of trust, we buy and keep our cattle with them. In some cases, we have intermarried with them. Although cultural integration between us is slow, there is no doubt that some level of integration is happening. Why should we fight with such a people? Like in other parts of the state, some forms of conflict may occur between individual herder Fulani men and some individual farmers but such conflicts are often managed by community leaders. Never in history did we ever witness violent conflicts between the two communities as we have witnessed in the last two decades. Although this experience is not unique to us, we wonder why such a beautiful and peaceful relationship is turning sour. We too have observed the participation of foreign mercenaries in a conflict with a people we feel obliged to protect. Although it is generally believed the Fulani violence against us is not unconnected to armed proliferation, we strongly feel we have never been a thread to them.

We have therefore continued to wander why such a beautiful relationship could turn sour to a point of war where their kinsmen at Continental, National and Sub-national levels are mobilized with lethal weapons to fight an unjust war against us as a result of a conflict we can easily resolve on a table or through normal judicial actions. The mobilization and involvement of a 45m to 50m Fulanis worldwide against individual ethnic nationalities whose populations are only in thousands is not only unjust but an agenda for ethnic cleansing and land grappling. It is curious to also note the relationship between violent conflicts and solid mineral deposits in minority areas of Nigeria. Although these postulations may need further investigations to establish the veracity , they have generally increase our fears and suspicions concerning the possibility for a peaceful coexistence considering the surge of violent conflicts being orchestrated by Fulanis against us and other minority groups in Plateau state. The point being made here is that violent conflicts in our land is needless and may be linked to deep economic interest .The only capital we have left is our ancestral land. No group is ready to surrender a capital that is basic to survival to any other interest group we won’t either! Those being used to orchestrate violence against us have demonstrated that they have alternative homes, but we don’t.

TWO DECADES OF SPORADIC VIOLENCE AGAINST MWAGHAVUL PEOPLE

“Towards the end of December 2014 a violent conflict erupted between our youths and Fulanis in the Mangu District of our Chiefdom. This follows the killing of our member whose head was dismembered and the killer traced to a Fulani man. This was such a painful death. We tried to convince our angry youths that two wrongs don’t make right. Unfortunately, what started as violence by one individual against another individual soon turned into a full blown war between our communities. Happily the intervention of National Orientation Agency Plateau State Directorate stopped that war. The two communities resolved not to engage themselves in any kind of violence again. What has happened to that history? Why can’t we learn from it?

THE RECENT 2023 VIOLENT CONFLICT

“Today, we want the world to know that what is happening to us can best be described as genocide. It is systematic and deliberate ethnic cleansing of minority tribes in Nigeria and we cannot allow this to continue. We are calling on our people to arise and defend yourselves, your God-giving land and properties with all that you have. We will not leave our land of heritage, this is the only place we can call our own; we have no any other place to run to. The humanitarian situation is overwhelming and pathetic. People are either squatting with relatives, neighbors, in Churches and other available public places. They need food, toiletries, medication and places where they can rest their heads. There is trauma and psychological depression. There is fear of even their safety where they are taking shelter as the threats spread across the Local Government. These are beyond the Mwaghavul Development Association and Mangu Local Government Council. We are therefore seeking for help from spirited individuals, Corporate Organizations, NGOs and the International Communities to help ameliorate the suffering of our people are going through at the moment. We must reiterate Government take immediate steps to end this callous killing and destruction of lives and properties in the land. This is the primary responsibility of Government to its citizens.

RECOMMENDATION

“1) Government must take immediate step to facilitate the return of all persons that have become refugees in different IDP Camps by reconstructing their homes and providing security for them as well. Otherwise, they won’t be able to go back and continue with their farming activities.

2) The re-admittance and reintegration of the killer herdsmen into our land again if it will be at all should be facilitated by an NGO or any agency of Government and at the cost of Government.

3) Government should take over full responsibility of educating children below age 10 children who have lost both parents as a result of this conflict, while arrangements made for those SS3 students whose WAEC Exams were disrupted as a consequence of this conflict

4) The State Police has demonstrated low capacity and political will to secure minority tribes in Nigeria, hence we strongly recommend for state policing in all states and communities in Nigeria.

5) Security agencies should build synergy with our community people to secure their families. The integration of the Vigilantes and hunters Association into the state Operation Rainbow may assist in information and proper protection of our people.

6) Government must create a special court to dispense justice between conflicting communities which will always help in nipping some conflicts before they escalate.

7) NEMA/SEMA must urgently mobilize resources immediately to address the situation of the victims and the hosts of the victims. We wish to encourage our people to remain state fast, firm and unshakeable in the defense of our land. We have never left our land in the pursuit of any perceived enemies to attack and kill them but enemies of the state mobilize themselves at Regional, National and sub-national levels to attack us.

Those who have died have paid the supreme price – May their souls rest in peace. Thank you and God bless you all.”

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