Community Leaders Explain the Effects of the Fulani Militant Crisis in Nigeria

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An ICC contact in Nigeria recently interviewed leaders of Christian communities who have been devastated by ongoing attacks by Fulani Militants. Tens of thousands of Christians have been killed over the last 20 years in Nigeria,

the bullseye of Christian persecution globally, while hundreds of thousands have lost everything and are living as refugees. The Fulani Militia has surpassed Boko Haram as the greatest threat to Nigerian Christians and has killed the majority of the over 3,460 Christians who have already been murdered in 2021.

 

Hunger is becoming worse than the crisis,” said 65-year-old Bitrus Mahweti, a community leader in Ganda village, Bokkos LGA, Plateau State. “We don’t have access to our land. It is a big risk for us to farm. Fulani (militants) occupy our farms for grazing; they often kill you when you are on the farm. Our children are not in school; we can’t afford to pay their school fees. Schools and churches are burned down. My church, Christ Apostle Church, was burned too.

 

The Fulani are a migrant herder people group who span much of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are about 90% Muslim and, though most Fulani are peaceful people, some have become radicalized by Islamic extremist groups. These violent groups, identified by ICC as Fulani militants, have wreaked havoc and destruction among mainly Christian farmers throughout Nigeria’s Middle Belt for many years.

“The attackers came at night,” explained Bitrus Mashat, a 75-year-old community leader of Fubok-Faram. “The Fulani (militants) did not only kill us but left with our wealth and took our means of livelihood. We can’t rebuild our house because it is occupied by Fulani (militants), grazing with guns. We want to go back to our community, but there is no place for us to farm. If this continues, we may die of hunger. We need our land back.”

 

Christian leaders in Nigeria believe that attacks are motivated by Jihadist Fulani’s desire to take over farmland and impose Islam on the population. Many citizens and political leaders are frustrated with the Muslim-dominated government that is believed to be enabling Fulani atrocities. On December 7th, The U.S. State Department added Nigeria to their list of Countries of Particular Concern for tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”

“[The]Fulani have been grazing on our farm for the past three years,” said Mabas Kasale of Nghakudung community, “The community is displaced; we can’t go back.”

“We have lost millions of naira,” added 45-year-old Makut James of Fubok-Madung, “Our land is fertile; Fulani (militants) ambushed our people and occupied our land for grazing.”

The mainstream media has tried to portray Fulani violence as back-and-forth exchanges between herders and farmers, under-emphasizing the roll that religious motivations enter into the attackers’ calculus. While environmental push factors and economic, ethnic, and political motives certainly play a role in Fulani territorial conquest, lost in the discussion is the reality that Christian communities are primarily targeted, and survivors’ descriptions of attacks consistently reveal scenes that suggest jihadist elements to these assaults.

 

“The Fulani (militants) burned our houses, and we can’t rebuild those houses nor have access to them,” said Mafulub Mabur, a 43-year-old community leader in Farun-Donghai.

“The government has failed us,” added Bitrus Kamoh, a ward councillor in Kwattas community, “They have allowed Fulani (militants) to occupy our land. We want to start harvesting from our farm. We need our farms back.” 

 

From the International Christian Concern here.