Nigeria: “In the twinkling of an eye,45 killed”
February 02, 2017
“The gunmen came to my village. As they entered, they were shouting and chanting ‘Allahu akhbar’ [Allah is the greatest], and in the twinkling of an eye, 45 people were killed.”
This is the account of a survivor of a November attack in Chaiwai village in the Kaura Local Government Area of northern Nigeria’s Kaduna State.
“They shot at pigs and stole goats, sheep and grain, while they burnt churches and houses,” said the survivor, who did not wish to be named.
The November massacre in Chaiwai turned out to be only a prelude to a string of other attacks against indigenous Christian communities in southern Kaduna over the 2016 Christmas period – attacks thought to have been perpetrated by Muslim herdsmen from the Hausa and Fulani tribal groups.
And the attacks have continued into 2017. Between 7-12 January, a large number of heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen targeted the Christian communities of Kagoro and Kafanchan, two towns where families have been hosting people displaced by previous attacks, local sources told World Watch Monitor.
The attackers destroyed most of the surrounding villages and farms, while countless bodies were abandoned in the bush because people were too scared to collect them after those who tried to do so were attacked.
According to the leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, a total of 808 people were killed in 53 villages across four Local Government Areas in southern Kaduna from April to the end of 2016. The church leaders said 57 people were injured; farm produce estimated at N5.5 billion (US$18m) was destroyed, and a total of 1,422 houses and 16 churches were burnt down.
However, the state government blamed foreign elements (from Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Cameroon, among others) for the attacks. Governor Nasir El-Rufai said “the attackers are foreign Fulani herdsmen, who were avenging past attacks on them and their livestock”.
El-Rufai also admitted to paying them money to stop the killings.
The Nigerian Minister for the Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, described the violence as criminal rather than religious. He said the attackers do not discriminate along religious and ethnic lines.
But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) insists that the violence is religiously motivated. Islamists, CAN claims, want to eliminate Christianity in southern Kaduna and occupy the land. CAN contends that the Hausa-Fulani herdsmen have seized and occupied 16 villages in southern Kaduna with their cattle and families, after terrorizing Christian natives.
The situation in southern Kaduna has become so bad that the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions is investigating the killings.
Dr. Agnes Callamard has confirmed that she is probing “recent allegations of killings of over 800 citizens – mostly women, children and the elderly – in southern Kaduna by suspected herdsmen, to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to provide reparations to victims”.
The conflict in southern Kaduna has a long history. More than the issues of indigenes versus settlers, Christians versus Muslims or farmers versus herdsmen, Christians say it’s about marginalization and exclusion. Since colonial times, there has been the imposition of Hausa-Fulani Muslim chiefs over minority-Christian groups. Many indigenous ethnic groups have been forcefully brought under the Sokoto Caliphate. Their traditional chiefdoms have been turned into emirates and their chiefs are forced to be Muslims. These chiefs, most of the time, control the right to allocate land to Muslims and Hausa-Fulani herdsmen, stifling the indigenous right to land.
As tribes and ethnic groups become more politically aware in southern Kaduna, many indigenous communities say they want to rectify this historical injustice.
World Watch Monitor copy / TRUNEWS summary.
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