Does anyone hear? Does anyone care? The UK ‘Spectator’ reporter Douglas Murray is dismayed after visiting northern and Middle Belt Nigeria, where he found communities torn apart by a conflict that has been allowed alternately to simmer and rage, for years, without intervention.
In the last couple of months the violence has increased, with 45 people killed in one village in November, followed by a string of other attacks, particularly in southern Kaduna. The imposition of a curfew and the arrival of troops has not stopped the killing; these also make it impossible to report accurate numbers of deaths, as access to villages is denied “for security”.
The conflict between indigenous farmers and mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen has displaced many thousands, mainly Christians, from their homes. A detailed report in 2015 for the Open Doors’ World Watch Unit concluded that a “vicious circle of violence in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria … has led to the deaths of thousands of Christians, with hundreds of churches targeted or destroyed”.
Last month, the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission called on the President to put an end to the attacks. At the same time, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked the UN to investigate the killings.
Dr. Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on Extra-Judicial or Arbitrary Executions, promised to look into the massacres, with a view to ensuring that justice prevails and the culprits are punished.
Church groups in northern Nigeria condemn the killings, which they say are aimed at wiping out the Christian presence in the region. Data from the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan (Kaduna’s fourth city, in Jem’aa LGA) shows 808 people lost their lives from 2011 to the end of 2016. Fifty-seven others were injured in attacks on 53 villages.
Murray says the government is actively involved through the complicity of the army with the Fulanis.
The Nigerian government, which says “conflicts are fuelled by political motives, ethnic differences, extremism, intolerance and terrorism”, says it “considers it ludicrous to claim that the nation’s military was arming Fulani herdsmen to kill Christians”.
However, Open Doors researcher Yonas Dembele concluded that the pattern of Fulani violence in the region –their use of military-grade weapons to drive Christians off the land and to occupy it; the destruction of Christian homes and churches; and the Fulanis’ call for the imposition of Islamic law, among other hallmarks – amounts to ethnic cleansing of parts of Nigeria.