Nigeria: Outsiders and ethnic tensions fuel savage massacres

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria.

"The massacre is brought about by the confrontation between farmers and herders. It is an old problem that has not been solved yet" said Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, who serves as the president of the Catholic bishops' conference of Nigeria. According to a report from the Fides news service, he is visiting Rome, where he received the "Disarmament Archive - Golden Doves for Peace" award. He commented on a series of attacks waged on Christian villages in Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital. The attacks killed at least 63 people. In a further assault during the July 8 funerals of the victims,  a senator and a local deputy were killed.

 "I think the problem is economic," said the archbishop. "The Fulani herders feel victims of injustice because their cattle are killed or stolen and are not compensated for losses incurred. I think that the anger originates from this situation drives them to attack in this terrible way."

Archbishop Kaigama does not deny that there is also an ethnic dimension of the conflict: "The problem is between the Fulani and Birom. These two ethnic groups have been disputing for a long time. All attacks on villages in the area have always been focused on these two groups. There are no attacks involving other tribes. " With regards to the religious aspect of the clash, the Archbishop replied: "The Fulani are predominantly Muslim, while the Birom are mostly Christians. For this reason it is easy to read 'Muslims attack Christians' or 'Christians attack Muslims', but as I said, the problem is primarily economic and ethnic. "

Archbishop remains in constant contact with Jos and revealed new details on the recent massacres: "I spoke with the Governor of Plateau State who was really saddened and shocked by the deaths and the level of destruction caused by the attacks. He is convinced that the perpetrators of the massacres are not from the place, but instead come from outside."

Said Archbishop Kaigama, "According to the Governor, the Fulani have a network that extends beyond Nigeria and has spread to neighboring Countries, the aggressors are also mercenaries from elsewhere, they are not the Fulani resident in the State. Several of them also wore military uniforms. We do not know if they were people dressed as soldiers, or if the attackers were helped by real soldiers. In the light of these revelations one cannot exclude political factors, but in my opinion the main problem is economic to explain this violence." 

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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