Recent mass kidnappings and a spate of smaller attacks around Nigeria are serving to raise the profile of the often-forgotten trend of increased violence in Africa’s most populous country. Many factors contribute to the violence, including religious tension.
The violence in Nigeria comes from a number of different sources. One is the Boko Haram terror group, which has grown significantly in power and destructive ability in the last decade. Now split into two factions, Boko Haram seems to be making a comeback after its territory was significantly reduced in 2015, also the year it pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Boko Haram was responsible for dozens of incidents in the first two months of 2021 alone and is believed to have already killed dozens. Years ago, it helped start what is now a well-established pattern of kidnapping school children for ransom when it kidnapped 276 mostly Christian girls from a school in Chibok. Over 100 of those girls are still missing. There have already been several large-scale kidnappings in 2021, though they are thought to have been carried out by loosely organized bandits rather than Boko Haram.
Another source of violence in Nigeria is radical Fulani militants. They are from a largely Muslim ethnic group and often clash with Christian farming communities. The source of these so-called farmer-herder conflicts can vary from perceived slights to land-use disputes to religion, but whatever the source Fulani attacks often lead to the decimation of Christian villages and places of worship.
1,900 civilians and government employees were killed by Boko Haram and Fulani militants in 2020 alone, according to ICC analysis. Much of the violence is concentrated in Christian-majority areas of the Middle Belt region.
Though most of the conversation around violence in Nigeria is focused on the problem posed by Boko Haram, ICC analysis finds that the majority of civilian and government personnel deaths in 2020 happened at the hands of Fulani militants rather than Boko Haram terrorists or bandit groups.
Despite this fact, the government of Nigeria continues to largely ignore the Fulani crisis in favour of the more easily-defined terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram and the simpler criminal threat posed by vaguely-defined bandits. This must change and an accurate understanding of the problem posed by Fulani militants must be reached if Nigeria’s Christian population is to be adequately protected.
From International Christian Concern here.