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Fresh Violence in Southern Kaduna

Reports last week of fresh inter-communal violence in restive southern Kaduna State were very disturbing indeed because of fears that it could lead to the…

Reports last week of fresh inter-communal violence in restive southern Kaduna State were very disturbing indeed because of fears that it could lead to the unravelling of the relative peace enjoyed in the area in the past several months. Thirty two persons from both combatant communities were said by the police to have lost their lives; many more were wounded while whole villages were burnt down. Coming so soon after the grisly murders in Mambilla Plateau of Taraba State, this latest violence is proof enough that we are yet to find a solution to incessant inter-communal violence that sets communities back for decades on end.

As to the cause of the latest violence in Kajuru Local Government of Kaduna State, there were several versions according to different parties. For example, the state’s Police Commissioner Agyole Abeh said the trouble started on July 11 when some youths in Chikun attacked a Fulani youth as well as his father who rushed to his aid. This attack took place at Banono village. He said the boy later died in hospital and Fulani youths launched a “reprisal” attack and killed six village youths. The “reprisal” attack took place at Ungwan Uka village. Abeh said “the youths from the area immediately mobilised and went into the bush, killing, maiming and burning any Fulani settlement in sight” until they killed 26 people.

A  Kadara youth who spoke to a newspaper anonymously did not dispute the essentials of the Police Commissioner’s account but he said “the Fulani man that was killed was a known bandit who had been harassing the people of the area and was killed by a mob while he was trying to escape.” According to him, the Chief of Kajuru summoned the head of the Fulani community in the area and explained to him why the man was killed, but that the Fulani youths still mounted a “reprisal” attack and killed five Kadara youths that they identified as being responsible for the killing of their kinsman. The Kadara youths then mobilised, attacked and burnt Fulani settlements and killed many of their inhabitants, he said. 

National secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria Ibrahim Abdullahi gave yet another account. He said trouble began when four of its members were killed by youths from the troubled Southern Kaduna. He said youths from Kadara and Gwari communities in Kajuru were responsible for the killings. The security agencies’ tepid response to the crisis was what allowed the level of casualties to attain the level it did, according to what some witnesses told newsmen. One such eye witness said though security agents were deployed soon after the first attack on Fulani settlements, they soon left the bushes when calm appeared to have been restored, paving way for the Kadara youths to launch renewed attacks which killed another ten persons.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo however responded swiftly by ordering soldiers into the area in order to restore calm. The Federal Government had learnt its lesson from recent events on the Mambilla Plateau, where hundreds of people were killed in remote villages before the military was deployed to quell the killings. Some groups still blamed Osinbajo for deploying soldiers to Mambilla when, according to them, government was slow to deploy soldiers in other crises situations. 

The outbreak of violence in Kajuru was heart breaking for many reasons. For one, the local government area was largely spared when several local government areas in southern Kaduna State were engulfed in violence last year. Kajuru is only 50 kilometres from Kaduna city and violence in that area, with the attendant spilling of refugees and injured persons into the state capital, could escalate the crisis, though mercifully nothing of the sort happened this time around. It is also doubly tragic that this violence should occur just when all persons of goodwill were breathing a sigh of relief that peace has gradually returned to southern Kaduna after the terrible mayhem and attendant suffering of last year.

Through the accounts of both Kadara and Fulani communities, it is also heart breaking to note that the terrible culture of “reprisal” attacks and generally of taking the law into their own hands is very much with the southern Kaduna communities. Many years of conflict in the region has given rise to bitter inter-communal animosity and lessened the room for understanding and cooperation to solve common problems. If it is true that the Fulani man killed was a known bandit, the Kadara youths ought to have handed him over to the police rather than lynch him. On the other hand, if his kinsmen believed that he wasn’t a bandit and was innocently killed, the right thing to do was to report to the police and seek justice, rather than launch a “reprisal” attack. As long as these two terrible attitudes persist in both communities, it will be difficult indeed to establish permanent peace in southern Kaduna. It is time to break them through concerted action by the government, community leaders and security agencies.

We urge the Federal and state governments to learn the right lessons from this episode and rededicate themselves to the task of ending the cycle of violence in southern Kaduna and in all other restive communities in Nigeria once and for all.  


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