Genocide in Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen or Fulani Hard men?

HardmenDifferent views become relevant while describing the issues surrounding the killing of herdsmen by herdsmen in the villages of Nigeria. For centuries in Nigeria and West Africa the Fulani herdsmen and their families have roamed the land as a nomadic indigenous group. Some settle as they have predominately in the northern regions of Nigeria. The aim of these people was to question the activities of modern life which they termed “a taboo” to their religious practice.

Researching the origins of members of the Fulani tribe is a futile endeavor. As the Encyclopedia of World Cultures describes:

“A search for the origin of the Fulani is not only futile, it betrays a position toward ethnic identity that strikes many anthropologists as profoundly wrong. Ethnic groups are political-action groups that exist, among other reasons, to attain benefits for their members. Therefore, by definition, their social organization, as well as cultural content, will change over time. Moreover, ethnic groups, such as the Fulani, are always coming into—and going out of—existence. Rather than searching for the legendary eastern origin of the Fulani, a more productive approach might be to focus on the meaning of Fulani identity within concrete historical situations and analyze the factors that shaped Fulani ethnicity and the manner in which people used it to attain particular goals.

“Fulbe” is the preferred self-name of the group the Hausa term the “Fulani” or “Hilani.” In French countries, they tend to be termed “Peul” or “Fulata.” Because of their spread over a wide area and their assumption of cultural traits from surrounding groups, there is great confusion regarding the nature of Fulani ethnicity. This confusion is reflected in the confounding and conflating of names for particular segments or local groups of Fulbe, such as Toroobe and Bororo’en, with the entire ethnic group. The Fulani live in an area that stretches from Ouadaï, a city east of Lake Chad, to Senegal’s Atlantic shore. There are groups of Fulani as far east as the border of Ethiopia.”

fulani-presence-in-west-africa
Fulani presence in West Africa

Estimates of the number of Fulani vary. A major problem in reckoning the population is that Fulani are found in twenty nations in a wide swath of Africa—from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Only Liberia may not have any Fulani settlements. It seems reasonable to accept an estimate of seven to eight million nomadic Fulani and 16 million settled Fulani. Their adoption of Islam increased the Fulani’ feeling of cultural and religious superiority to surrounding people, and that adoption became a major ethnic boundary marker.

Presently, Fulani herdsmen have clashed with herdsmen in Enugu State. Villagers were killed on their farms by the people believed to be Fulani citizens using cutlasses and clubs. From a political perspective, the issues were addressed using the power of the ruling ethnicity, without considering the consequences and even the major origins and aims of the killings.

Benue State recorded the death of approximately 60 people by the Fulani. The herdsmen have been reported to take over villages and farmlands they attack. Raping and maiming becomes a major instrument of attack where the herdsmen were originally accommodated. Tactics like slaughtering children and adults through the slitting of throats makes the view of the Fulani more like “hard men” instead of herdsmen.

A statement issued by the Benue State Government over the weekend stated that the Federal Government is in the right position to address the issue, but has decided to remain silent for some unknown reason. According to Governor Samuel Ortom’s statement, “we are reporting this matter to the President. And if there is no urgent response, we will have to put laws into our hands as the community conflicts”.

There are reports of many Agatus (ethnic community within Benue State) being hacked to death on their farms, pregnant women being killed by Fulani fighters, and the killing of Fulani women, children, and livestock by the Agatu fighters further illustrates the bloodshed between the neighbors.