4000 killed in ‘Harvest of Death’ says Amnesty International
Amnesty International has reported the killing of about 4000 people in the predominantly Christian central region of Nigeria by Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen between 2016 and 2018. The report, “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders” states that 57 per cent of the 3,641 recorded deaths occurred in 2018 alone.
The research by the Human rights group said it covered the period between August 2017 and September 2018, conducted 10 field trips to 56 villages in five states and interviewed 262 victims, eyewitnesses, community leaders, medical practitioners, religious leaders and government officials, including members of the security forces.
The Human rights Organisation’s report, however did not include the massacres in June 2018 in Plateau state where more than 400 people were killed and the subsequent killings between June and December 2018 in the troubled middle region of the country. The organisation admitted not visiting Plateau state and therefore many of the atrocities committed in the state by the Fulani were not included in this report…..
The Amnesty report indicted Nigerian security operatives of complacency and in states like Adamawa and Plateau states where the military was accused of collaborating with the Fulani militia to attack villages, especially in Nkeidoro near Jos, Central Nigeria in 2017, where soldiers forced the villagers into a classroom and left as the Fulani herdsmen executed over 27 of the villagers. “A 20-year-old boy said he was serving punishment imposed on him by soldiers and had been forced to lie on the ground within the school compound, when the attacks happened, because he had refused to enter the classroom with other villagers, as instructed by the soldier. From where he lay on the ground, he was able to see the armed suspected Fulani men entering into the school,” the Amnesty report said.
“Our research shows that these attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles. Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.” the report showed.
“The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population and end the intensifying conflict between herders and farmers,” Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria said.
The organisation claims that “the root cause of this conflict has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity; it is largely about land and access to grazing. But in some places, because of the failures of the security forces, competition over resources is used as a pretext to kill and maim along ethnic or religious lines. The conflict has also been dangerously politicised by some state government officials who have inflamed tensions by embarking on a blame game along political party lines,” said Osai Ojigho.
The report however failed to mention or look at the affiliation between the Boko Haram Islamic jihadi terrorist group and failed to associate the Fulani massacres on innocent communities as an act of terrorism. Though it denied the religious ideological drive of the Islamic driver behind the attacks, Amnesty acknowledged that “at least 310 attacks were recorded between 5 January 2016 and 5 October 2018. The attacks were most frequent in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Plateau. Other parts of the country including Enugu, Ondo, Oyo, Delta and Edo also recorded attacks.” Which are predominantly Christian communities and cities.
“If the claim is that Fulanis kill for grazing land, are the Christian communities the only regions in the country where grazing lands are available? Are there no grazing lands in other predominantly muslim areas? And is the desperate search for lands for cattle enough to wipe out christians in hundreds of thousands in communities? Is the nigerian government contended that this is the right and civilised way of life in this day and age? This is the question christians are demanding answers,” A former Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) executive member in Maiduguri Yola asked.
“You see, as long as Human rights groups like Amnesty and other international organisations refuse to acknowledge the Islamic ideology driving these Fulanis and Boko Haram to kill christians and take over their lands, they will waste their funds and resources addressing the wrong problem. This means we will be in this war for years to come. May be the government and some of these organisations want to keep it so for whatever benefits, i cant say.” The former CAN executive said.
Responding to the Amnesty International’s report, the Nigerian army accused the Rights organisation of “working to destabilise the country.”
But is its repose to the army’s attack, Auwal Rafsanjani, chairman of the organisation in Nigeria said, “we are not a threat, we are not joining issues with anybody, we are not agents of destruction and we are not a politically-motivated organisation,” Rafsanjani advise the military “to look at the recommendations we have made to the government and address them,” he noted that anybody’s “right can be protected today, that same right can be violated tomorrow and if you do not have a voice to speak on behalf of the voiceless, there would be a problem,” he said.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos
Image Credits: Google Images/Osai Ojigho/herdsmen-Author/A burnt village-Ubandoma