Nigeria: Will Kaduna Ever Know Peace?

2 August 2020
opinion

The spate of killings in Southern Kaduna has continued unabated despite the dusk-to-dusk curfew imposed by the state government. But, will Kaduna ever know peace? Samuel Ajayi asks

In Gonan Rogo village in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State, blood flowed. Human beings were mercilessly hacked down and houses set ablaze. For Azumi Boka, an old woman of 93 years, who could barely see, she would have wished she died ten times over instead of killing eleven children of hers.

And as authorities seemed helpless in the situation, the question many are asking is if Kaduna would ever know peace?

For Governor Nasir el-Rufai, these are not the best of times. In fact, his fellow governors would not envy him. He seems to have a problem in his hands, which appears to be defying solutions.

The Southern Kaduna killings have gone for too long. And from all indications, there seems to be no hope for a thaw in the crisis at sight. As Kaduna bleeds, the world helplessly looks on.

While people of Southern Kaduna have felt the brunt of the attacks more, there are reports that the killing might not be one sided as being reported.

The umbrella body of Fulani cattle rearers, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, came in support of its members, who might be involved in the killings saying they were acting in self-defence.

The body claimed any attack from its members were reprisal attacks against native militias, who have continued to kill its members and kill or rustle their cattle.

Reports have it that between July 21 and 24, about 43 people were killed and now the figure has risen to 178 in the last seven months. While the state government said the killings were being carried out by bandits terrorising the north western and eastern part of the country, those who are privy to the killings said this was not true as these killings are being carried out by militias targeting Southern Kaduna.

On July 21, a tweet from the Presidency said: "The Presidency wishes to state that the problem of insecurity in Southern Kaduna is more complicated than many people are willing to admit."

The Presidency said the attacks were politically motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs that are basing these attacks on ethnic and religious sentiments.

While the Presidency might have a point, it has not stopped the killings. In Zango Kataf and Kajuru centres, where there are internally displaced people, one of those there who spoke to THE GUARDIAN newspaper, Enoch James, said heavily armed militias stormed their Sabon Kaura village around 11:20pm and hacked his brother's wife, her baby, his own wife, step mother and three of his siblings to death. He explained that they had a foreknowledge of the attack.

"We got information that our village was going to be attacked. So we quickly told our wives and children to move out to one of neighbouring communities while we were at the outskirts of the town.

"But the attackers invaded our village started shooting and burning down our houses at exactly 11:20pm. Unknown to me, my wife, my brother's wife, my stepmother and three of my siblings had moved to my cousin's house.

"The attackers had a one-hour operation and left at exactly 12:30am in the morning. We went back to the village, when it was dawn; checking from house to house to see the level of destruction. On reaching my cousin's house, we discovered five burnt bodies."

The problem in these attacks is the seeming helplessness of the state. Recently, the Nigerian Army claimed they were helpless in arresting the carnage. And this is where the problem lies. Even if the attacks were not one-sided, perhaps, it boils down to the fact that victims have resorted to self-help, when it seemed the state had failed them.

For instance, Enoch said when they got information that their village would be attacked, they contacted security agencies but, according to him, there was no response.

Ironically, the killings have even continued despite a 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government on the area. Jonathan Asake, President of the Southern Kaduna People's Union, SOKAPU, said the agenda has not changed neither were the tactics of the attackers.

He said for attacks to still be taking place despite a 24-hour interview shows that there was a conspiracy somewhere.

"If you look at the conspiracy of silence, when these killings are taking place, the massacre, carnage and destruction and genocide on regular basis, the authorities that ought to take necessary steps apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice would prefer not to do that but rather use other narratives.

"When the killings are taking place, they would call it communal clash, farmers-herders clash or reprisal attacks. By their utterances, actions or inactions, you will see that genocide is going on and assisted by the authorities that ought to protect us," Asake explained.

He might have a point. Both the state and the federal governments would rather laid the blames on the door step of bandits terrorising some northern parts of the country or blame the killings on communal clashes between farmers and herders or villagers against villagers.

The strangest part of it all is that no one has been arrested not to talk of being charged for these killings and on both sides. The question is whether those who carry out these killings are invisible or they just disappear into thin air after carrying out these attacks.

Asake said government's decision to revisit the 1992 Zango Kataf crisis White Paper was part of the agenda. He claimed that while government was busy doing this, those who were invading the villages would not stop, as their intention is to change the demography of the area.

However, Alhaji Ibrahim Bayero, the head of media and publicity for MACBAN in Kaduna State, said the natives should be blamed for whatever fate is befalling them. He stated that the people of Southern Kaduna and Christians should stop blaming Fulanis, because they (the Southern Kaduna people) used to attack Fulanis first.

While the claims and counter-claims continue, the question remains: who will bring peace to Southern Kaduna and Kaduna as a whole, because as it is, the current government has either failed or incapacitated?

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