Nine more people have been killed and more homes have been destroyed as Fulani violence in Nigeria’s troubling Kaduna state has seen the death of dozens upon dozens of Christians in the last few weeks.
Kaduna Gov. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai confirmed that the latest attack occurred on Saturday morning in the Sanga local government area of the Kaduna state, which lies in the northern part of Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
“The security agencies have so far recovered nine corpses, including children,” El-Rufai said in a statement. ”The attackers also burnt several houses in the village. The government condemns this attack on the lives and security of citizens and appeals to our communities to resist those who do not want peace.”
The governor’s statement vowed that the government, security agencies and religious institutions will work towards creating "sustainable peace.”
“In this moment of grief, we must come together to defeat the machinations of those who have no notion of respect for the lives of others,” Rufai said.
“Violence has left an unacceptable toll of death and injury, loss of livelihoods, pain and fear. We must overcome this by respecting our common humanity, settling differences peacefully and promptly reporting threats and suspicions to the appropriate authorities. Evil will never triumph over our common humanity.”
In addition to security agencies being deployed to the district, the State Emergency Management Agency has been directed to provide relief to the impacted community.
Although the perpetrators of the latest attack have not been identified, the attack comes just a few days after a Christian human rights group warned that at least 120 Christians have been killed by Fulani militant attacks on various areas in Kaduna since the beginning of February.
Last Monday, at least 52 people were killed and at least 140 homes were reportedly destroyed in the Maro district of the Kajuru Local Government Area in Kaduna by suspected Fulani militants.
In late February, another attack in the Maro district saw the loss of at least 32 lives and the destruction of homes and a church.
While the Kaduna state has been the hardest hit by the recent string of violence, there were at least 70 Christian deaths that occurred between the last week of December 2018 and first week of March 2019 in the Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau and Benue States, according to the Nigeria-based NGO International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law.
In 2018, it was reported that thousands of Christians in the Middle Belt were killed by Fulani radicals.
As Agence France Press notes, Nigeria’s Middle Belt has suffered from years-long violence between mostly Muslim Fulani cattle herders and indigenous Christian grain farmers.
Some Christian leaders, however, have rejected the narrative that the Fulani violence against Christian farmers is a simple “farmers/herdsmen clash.”
Last year, Christian leaders accused the federal government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from a Fulani family, of pushing “false propaganda and deceit” while pushing a policy idea to establish cattle ranches and colonies on the “ancestral farming lands of the attacked communities.”
Although the violence between the Fulani herders and Christian farmers have been territorial, it has been noted that the violence in recent years has taken on religious dimensions.
Stephen Enada, the co-founder of the International Committee on Nigeria who fled from Nigeria after his own cousin was killed by Fulani radicals in the Benue state, told The Christian Post last year that Fulani militants have begun to take after radical Islamic groups like Boko Haram.
He recounted the similarities in the way Fulani militants are now attacking communities and farms with “sophisticated weapons” in order to drive out the population and occupy the lands.
“Recently we have seen Fulani militias have Boko Haram branding and wreaking havoc in communities with sophisticated weapons and anyone who stands in their way is killed or decimated,” he said. “When this happens, they occupy.”
"It is not that they are unknown. It is just that government is looking the other way,” Enada added. “If someone is a terrorist and overruns a community, the government should make sure certain people are arrested and prosecuted."
Buhari condemned the violence and the “ethnic and religious bigotry” in a statement Saturday. However, he stressed that all “communities involved” must find a “lasting solution.”
“[The] lack of cooperation by those involved might frustrate government’s efforts towards finding a lasting solution, especially if those efforts are politicized,” Buhari said in a statement released through an assistant. “If the people resist government’s efforts to hold the perpetrators and their sponsors accountable, it would be very difficult to bring the violence to a permanent end.”
Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.