Southern Kaduna massacre: Before it’s too late
The killings last month in Southern Kaduna have become a cause of concern. Nigeria is now a society in a free fall where bloodletting has become a daily occurrence.
Every part of the country is at the moment affected by new militarism, that is, non-state armed bandits who are in the orgy of bloodletting. North West to North East and Middle Belt to Southern Nigeria are the free zones of these agents of destruction. This is unacceptable!
The latest development in these routine killings is currently in South Kaduna, a conclave of indigenous African communities. The peoples of Jema’aa, Kaura, and Zango-Kataf councils were recently swamped by armed Fulani invaders who slaughtered the natives in cold blood. Also, homes and property were destroyed while many fled into refugee camps. A similar massacre took place in 2017 shortly before the Christmas.
The intriguing thing about the development in Southern Kaduna is that most of the killings are being perpetrated under an ostensible state of emergency imposed by the state government in the troubled areas as a result of which the people let off their guard and became an easy prey to the invaders. In addition, the government’s partisanship is evinced in the disarming of communities to undermine their capacity for self-defence against the rampaging herdsmen.
The issues may appear complex but the factors are salient. The indigenous Southern Kaduna inhabitants alleged that the invaders who are Fulani herders are on land grab mission with the connivance of both the federal and state governments. Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Kaduna State Chapter fenced off the accusation that the Fulani were perpetrating ethnic cleansing and blamed the natives for the current calamity and argued that the Fulani who are traditional pastoralists were ambushed and killed along with their cattle. This development the cattle breeders alleged, engendered what they called an act of self-defence and reprisals against the native militias for their actions.
Lurking behind these mutual recriminations is the official narrative of the Kaduna State government, which reduces the crisis to the herder-farmer conflict including communal clashes. It has also controverted the point that land grab is central to the crisis and that Kaduna State is for all. Also, the military authorities seem to tow the line of the official narrative. The Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Major-General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, attributed the killings to the activities of criminal elements involved in attacks and reprisal attacks on some communities beyond the claims of ethnic cleansing. Missing in the narrative is the partisan deployment of security forces who are perceived partisan to one side of the conflict.
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), have countered this official line of the Federal Government and the Kaduna State Government as deliberate lies. Indeed, the narrative of general citizenship is ahistorical and self-serving. Southern Kaduna belongs to the indigenous people and their oppression dates back to the Sokoto jihad of 1804 led by the Fulani. Zaria which belonged to the people of southern Kaduna and where Queen Amina, a Gbagi notable, held sway was converted to a Fulani emirate.
The most significant resistance of Southern Kaduna people was the Zango-Kataf crisis of 1992 under the Babangida military administration. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida then set up the Justice Pius Okadigbo-led tribunal to try notable Southern Kaduna people, on allegation of culpable homicide. The tribunal subsequently sentenced Major-General Zamani Lekwot, Major James Atomic Kude, Yohanna Karau Kibori, Marcus Mamman, Yahaya Duniya and Julius Sarki Zamman Dabo to death by hanging. Reprieve came for them under the regime of General Sani Abacha.
Meanwhile, there were the 1992 Zango-Kataf crisis white paper and the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu-led 2011 post-election crisis report which had far-reaching recommendations. While the latter has been largely implemented, it is alleged that the government is avoiding the Lemu report because of its candour.
The latent function, which is the Darfurianisation of Southern Kaduna may account for the apparent official complicity. As we have stressed over and again, the current scenario is similar to the Darfur conflict. In Sudan’s Darfur, the government was directly involved in the displacement of Darfurians by the migrants. The Janjanwids were the attack dogs playing exactly the role the Fulani herdsmen are playing across the country. The response of the indigenous people was armed rebellion. The Sudan Liberation Army/ Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were formed for self-determination.
The killings are bound to alter the demography of the area reminiscent of the Darfur situation, which gave birth to armed insurgency. In the current conflict, the perpetrators are known and the government ought to move against them. And given the massacres occurring across the entire Middle Belt, the allegation of ethnic cleansing could hardly be faulted and the recent call by South Middle Belt Movement (SMBM) on the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the genocide going on in Southern Kaduna is timely. The international community needs to appreciate the urgency of the moment and act fast before it is too late.