In cen­tral Nige­ria, peace elud­ing farm­ers, herders

Kuwait Times - - International -

MAKURDI: Madu Maji sits on a bench at the cat­tle mar­ket in Makurdi, cen­tral Nige­ria, drag­ging his bare feet through the dust to stave off bore­dom. In the pens, the few cows that re­main are lit­tle more than skin and bone. “Our cows can’t go graz­ing in the bush, they are dy­ing now. Herds­men don’t come here any­more,” said the el­derly Maji, who op­er­ates the big­gest cat­tle mar­ket in Benue state. Be­cause of violence in re­cent months, only about a dozen an­i­mals are sold ev­ery day, com­pared to hun­dreds ear­lier.

No­madic cat­tle herders have all but left Benue state, driven away by fight­ing over ac­cess to re­sources and a new law ban­ning mi­gra­tory herd­ing, an age-old prac­tice nec­es­sary for the sur­vival of the live­stock. The fer­tile lands of Benue, veined with a vast net­work of rivers, at­tract thou­sands of herders mi­grat­ing with their an­i­mals in the dry sea­son from desert zones of West Africa. More are com­ing as a re­sult of de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion but ten­sion is ris­ing in a coun­try where space is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly scarce be­cause of a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion.

Nige­ria, al­ready home to al­most 200 mil­lion peo­ple, is pre­dicted to be­come the world’s third most pop­u­lous coun­try by 2050, ac­cord­ing to the UN. The cen­tral re­gion has be­come the scene of al­most daily clashes be­tween set­tled farm­ers such as the eth­nic Chris­tian Tiv and herders, who are mainly Fu­lani and Mus­lim. More than 100 peo­ple have been killed since early Jan­uary, with 100,000 flee­ing their homes to safety, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal emer­gency man­age­ment agency. After months of in­ac­tion, the Nige­rian army an­nounced the planned de­ploy­ment of troops to sev­eral states, in­clud­ing Benue, to end the violence.

Food bas­ket Adams Ni­cholas lost ev­ery­thing when “Fu­lani killers” armed with as­sault ri­fles, pis­tols and sticks de­scended on his vil­lage of An­cha on the evening of Jan­uary 4. “A big num­ber of peo­ple came with their cat­tle and they started to shoot spo­rad­i­cally.” “Two peo­ple were killed, our houses were burnt down. They de­stroyed ev­ery­thing,” said the 30-year-old teacher, one of 10,000 dis­placed peo­ple staying at Gba­jimba pri­mary school, some 40 kilo­me­tres (25 miles) from the state cap­i­tal. For miles around, dozens of dusty vil­lages with burnt-out homes have been emp­tied of their in­hab­i­tants. Others live un­der a night-time cur­few. “We’ve al­ways been al­low­ing their cows to graze around our farms. But we can’t live to­gether any­more. They’re an­i­mals,” Adams said. In Benue, nick­named “Food Bas­ket of the Na­tion”, the cri­sis has mor­phed into a eth­nic and re­li­gious cri­sis, with more and more Tiv openly ex­press­ing ha­tred to­wards the Fu­lani, whom they ac­cuse of launch­ing raids from neigh­bour­ing states and loot­ing their crops.

GBA­JIMBA, Nige­ria: A po­lice­man stands guard as he speaks on the phone at the in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple camp oc­cu­pied largely by women and chil­dren af­fected by herders and farmer’s vi­o­lent clashes in Benue State.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.