The ongoing deadly clashes between the nomadic, mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and the predominantly Christian farming communities of Nigeria’s Middle Belt are often referred to in the mainstream media as “farmer-herder clashes”: the Middle Belt is a farming region, and the advancing Fulani-owned herds have increasingly encroached on croplands.

However, attacks by herder militia now occur with such frequency and apparent organisation that the characterisation as “communal clashes” no longer seems adequate.

Human rights groups have accused Nigeria’s government and its president, Muhammadu Buhari, of failing to deal with the conflict. An International Crisis Group report has pointed out impunity as one of the root causes of the continuing violence.

Here, World Watch Monitor explains the history of the conflict and why, in recent years, the herders, who once lived peacefully alongside their Christian neighbours, have been responsible for more bloodshed than Boko Haram.