The Kaduna state government had recently imposed curfew in Zango Kataf and Kauru local government areas due to the escalation of tension in these areas. However, there is uproar by the Southern Kaduna People Union (SOKAPU) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over what they alleged as ethnic cleansing by suspected Fulani marauders.
These ethnic and religious associations have blamed the Kaduna state government for not doing enough to arrest the situation. The accusation came barely when the Executive Governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasiru El-rufai, promised to implement the 1992 Zangon Kataf crises white paper to the logical conclusion.
While Kaduna state has been experiencing attacks by bandits in recent times, the killings in the southern part of the state have taken an ethnic and religious colouration. There is no gain saying the fact that the killings in Southern Kaduna predate the El-Rufai administration. The crises are deeply rooted as a result of claim of land ownership between the predominant Christian majority and the Muslim minority who are tagged as “settlers”.
For the Fulani nomads who are being accused as the main culprits of the daily attacks on the area, their aggression towards the natives are based on the alleged killing of their loved ones by ethnic militias and rustling of their cattle. After the 2011 governorship election in which late Patrick Yakowa won, Fulani herdsmen who were on transit through the Southern Kaduna were allegedly maimed, attacked and killed by the Southern Kaduna militias.
The committee set up by late Governor Yakowa to find out the remorse and immediate causes of the post-elections violence in Kaduna state recommended that compensation be paid to the Fulani herdsmen who suffered incalculable losses during the post-elections crises in the state. I think the current unfortunate killings in the area could either be connected to revenge by those Fulani who were unjustifiably murdered in cold blood in 2011 election, bandits or faceless hired assassins.
Whoever is the culprit, the continued killing in the rural communities in spite of concerted effort by the government to address it, supports the conspiracy theory of ethno-religious cleansing. Yes, some people are either profiting from the senseless killings or are not helping matters. The inability of government to prosecute those found wanting in the cobweb or circles of killings in Southern Kaduna has aggravated tension, ignited revenge and fractured genuine commitment to find lasting peace in the troubled area.
The state would have heaved a sigh of relief after the Zangon Kataf ethnic and religious conflict.
If we could recall, a committee of inquiry was set up to investigate the causes of the crises by the Babangida military government. At the end of the committee’s assignment, some retired military generals including Zamani Lekwot were indicted for aiding or abetting the crises that claimed hundreds of lives.
However, the Babangida military regime threw away the baby with the bath water; it went ahead to pardon them. Ever since, the state continues to experience ethno-religious tension with the culprits getting away with their impunity. These killers are allowed to walk free in the midst of their victims.
Although, the Kaduna state governor has promised to produce the white paper on the recommendations made by the judicial commission of inquiry and the reconciliation committees, there is the need for government to move faster, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these ungodly or heinous crimes. This will serve as deterrent to other trouble makers. The media hype and concocted lies being bandied or peddled by some war merchants in cohort with a section of the ethnic bigots media are making the peace effort in the area more complicated.
The Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Major-General Chukwumeka Okonkwo, has described the killings in Southern Kaduna as the activities of criminal elements on both sides and not ethnic cleansing as it is being claimed.
The commander further said “any incident is enough to spark off crisis in the area, there have been lingering disputes and animosities, banditry and cattle rustling there”. Notwithstanding the clarification by the commander of Operation Safe Haven, ethnic warriors are still beating the drums of war and inciting unrest. According to Governor El-Rufa’i, “peace can reign in Southern Kaduna only if people agree to live in peace and harmony”. Will the aggrieved people living in the Southern Kaduna agree to sheath their sword and live in peace? At the time of writing this piece, I read that three Fulani herdsmen were ambushed by hoodlums in Zango Kataf area on Tuesday.
These Fulani herdsmen who went to graze their cattle were attacked and sustained various degrees of injuries. On Thursday, in what appeared as another reprisal attack, 32 people were gruesomely murdered by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Besides, an alarm was also raised on how innocent travellers are waylaid and killed on the basis of ethnic and faith they belong to. These ongoing callous acts or actions are condemnable and can deteriorate the already tense situation in the state.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna state08169056963.