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Southern Kaduna: A Long Story of Herdsmen Raids, Reprisal And Government Neglect

The military did not step in to quell the violence sparked by the Sharia riots until the third month. Riot police were reported to have stayed back and watched houses, churches and mosques get burnt

In the last five years, more than a thousand lives have been cut short in southern Kaduna in a series of intermittent raids allegedly by Fulani herdsmen and reprisal on Fulani settlements. 

The river of bloody conflict in Southern Kaduna can be traced to minor provocations in a tension-prone area of the Northwest state. 

These provocations are rooted in feelings of hatred against the Hausa/Fulani settlers by ethnic groups in the state as the region battles land exploitation and religious clashes. SaharaReporters examines the genesis of the crisis in this report.


How it all started

Before now, the incidents were outbursts of violence that could be traced to a particular event. 

After the politically-motivated election violence of 2011, a more dangerous trend of killing that chiefly involved cattle trampling on farmlands and herders carrying guns became the order of the day.

SBM Intelligence said in a research published in January 2017 that the bloodbath in 2016 was the epiphany of the new wave of sustained killings in Southern Kaduna.

“When viewing the current Southern Kaduna crisis, it is important to differentiate between this – killings between September 2016 and January 2017 and the previous historical incidents,” the publication said. 

“The first critical difference is in the duration of the incidents. Most of the violent incidents before 2016 were either single incidents or closely related incidents occurring within a short space of time.

“That is not so with the ongoing violence. The violence has occurred in several separate incidents over a while much longer than any others in the history of Southern Kaduna."

SBM, however, recalled that in the aftermath of President Buhari’s loss to Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, there were 13 separate incidents of ethno religious attacks in Kaduna state alone – Southern Kaduna inclusive.

The killings, according to SBM research, was reported to have started in May 2016 and subsided in September 2017.


Land exploitation

A research titled, “Southern Kaduna and the atrocities of Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen,” authored by the African Conflict and Security Analysis Network (ACSAN), said the sustained devastation, which SBM reckons began in 2016, had started earlier. 

This report says some communities in Southern Kaduna were “so devastated that they could not even participate in the general election – 2015.” 

ACSAN’s paper noted that the bitterness in that part of the state had its roots in the feelings of marginalisation by the different non-Hausa/Fulani groups. 

This emotion has festered over the centuries. 

“Before colonial and after colonial rule, the indigenous people of Southern Kaduna feel an alien system of governance was imposed upon them.

“In 1450-1850, it was the Saurata System in Zazzau, then came the Emirate System in 1816-1903 and the Native Authority System in 1903-1930, and in all these periods the indigenous people were marginalised and their land exploited,” the report recounted.


Timeline of killing spree

Reports of the frayed relationship between the dominant minority and the marginalised majority started filtering through in the eighties.

Reports reviewed by SaharaReporters showed there were several attacks which culminated in the destruction of properties, before the wildfire of 1987, which led to the death of 19 persons according to official records in 1987.

ACSAN recollects that the fire was reportedly ignited by a Muslim student, Aisha Garba, who was incensed by the preaching of a pastor that had switched from Islam to Christianity, Abubakar Bako. 

Ms Garba is said to have jumped onto the podium at the event organised by the Fellowship of Christian Dtudents in the Kafanchan college of education, seized the microphone and “called on all Muslims to rise in defence of Islam.”

On a Sunday thereafter, some Muslim youths attacked an ECWA church. 

The governor of the state at that time, Abubakar Umar, issued a broadcast, saying mosques and copies of Koran had been burnt in Kafanchan. 

Governor Umar’s seemingly unfounded claim sparked a riot that turned the headquarters of Jema’a local government inside out and spread to other parts of the state.

Before the now frequent herdsmen raids, three more high-fatality riots split the frail cohabitation between the settling Hausa/Fulani and the ethnic non-Muslims of Southern Kaduna.

Between February and May of 1992, the Rahila Cudjoe commission said in its unpublished report that the Zangon-Kataf crisis caused over a thousand deaths and the destruction of multiple properties. 

This crisis was sparked by an attempt to relocate the location of the weekly market, which was situated in a clustered Hausa/Fulani neighbourhood. 

Within the same period, eight years later, Human Rights Watch said between 2,000 to 5,000 persons were killed, when Muslims and Christians in all of Kaduna went on a violent killing spree. 

The deaths were allegedly ignited when Muslim youths attacked a protest organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) against an executive bill to introduce Sharia law in the state.

In November 2001, 1,295 persons were murdered in Gwantu, Sanga LGA of Southern Kaduna, according to a police report. This outpour of blood was provoked by the traditional Muslim head of Gwantu and the Christian chairman of the local government. 

ACSAN notes that both parties failed to explain to each other that the creation of a Sharia and customary court in the LGA would not affect their way of life. Once clashes broke out on the streets after Friday prayers, the Sanga LGA chairman was said to have left.


Passive government

Since 1987 when the occasional burst of killings started, the federal and state governments have been reported to be either passive or on the side of the Hausa/Fulani attackers.

In 1987, the riot was sparked by the state governor. In 1992, the Rahila Cudjoe commission failed to publish its report, and no stories of culprits being sentenced were reported.

The military did not step in to quell the violence sparked by the Sharia riots until the third month. Riot police were reported to have stayed back and watched houses, churches and mosques get burnt, done nothing. 

While the crisis lasted, people were slaughtered on the streets and barricades of burning tyres erected across the state, including in the South. 

The military was said to have stepped in when some youths, reported to be Christians, tried to launch a reprisal in a Muslim neighbourhood.

The present Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, has been accused of partiality since the sustained herdsmen attacks began. 

On February 15, 2019, the former FCTA minister said 66 persons of Fulani extraction were killed in the troubled local government of Kajuru, which is bordered by three local governments at the heart of the southern Kaduna crisis.

He said the death toll rose to 130 four days later but reportedly refused to comment on the killing of 11 persons from the Adara ethnic group during the same timeline of the massacre he announced.

The senator representing the area, Shehu Sani; human rights advocate, Chidi Odinkalu; and the commissioner of police in the state at the time, Ahmad Abdurrahman, disowned El-Rufai’s claims. Sani said the death toll was between 10 and 15; while Odinkalu noted there were 11 deaths.

El-Rufai, who revealed that most of the herdsmen terrorising residents of southern Kaduna and Kajuru are foreigners, attempted to expand the Ladduga grazing reserve. 

The Southern Kaduna people, who said they had already lost lands to the Hausa/Fulani settlers, felt this was an affront.

SBM, in its January 2017 report, noted that the failure of governments at both state and federal level, to make policies out of genuine consultation, could see a full-blown militia created in the region. 

The intelligence-gathering company highlighted the moves made by the Tarok, Jukun and Eggon ethnic groups to defend themselves against Fulani herdsmen attacks and carry out reprisal on innocent Fulani settlements when provoked.

In one incident in 2013, the Eggon militia was reported to have killed 90 security personnel. 

When will the killings in Southern Kaduna stop? Time will tell.

CRIME Insurgency