Help our local partners realise their vision of hope for their communities
It has been five years since Nigeria’s Islamist Fulani herdsmen insurgency began. Thousands of civilians have been killed. Hundreds of Christian churches have been burned to rubble. Entire communities have been forced to abandon their homes and farmland.
Across northern and central-belt states, militant herdsmen continue to engage in an aggressive and strategic land-grabbing policy. They seek to replace diversity and difference with an Islamist ideology (similar to Boko Haram’s) which is imposed with violence on those who refuse to comply. It is – according to the Nigerian House of Representatives – genocide.
I have visited many of the worst affected areas and seen the tragedies of death and destruction in Bauchi, Kano and Plateau States. The scale of suffering is overwhelming – more than 1000 Christian deaths since January.
A lady from a neighbouring village said she slept in the bushes to avoid an attack.
She said: “Only me and my husband remain. Our home is destroyed. Nothing survived. We have to beg for food.”
In every village, the message from local people is the same: “Please, please help us! The Fulani are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.”
Yet time and again, the UK Government has ignored their cry for help.
It continues to insist the “situation” has little to do with religion or ideology. They refer to the insurgency as “ethnic riots”, “a consequence of population growth”, “land and water disputes” or “tit-for-tat clashes between farmers and herders”.
Such a characterisation is an insult to those who are suffering so much. The causes of violence are, of course, complex.
But given the escalation, frequency, organisation, brutality and asymmetry of attacks against predominantly Christian communities, is it not time to revisit this narrative?
There is no place here for moral equivalence. Nor is it sufficient for our Government merely to “emphasise the importance of meditation and inter-faith dialogue”.
While tensions between sedentary farmers and nomadic herders have existed for a long time, these recent attacks suggest a deeply worrying trend: the Fulani’s military capability and ideological fervour are increasing.
It is too simplistic to label such atrocities as driven by desertification or competition for resources. Protracted attempts to address these (albeit important) long-term factors will not stop the current massive rate of killings.
I, and many colleagues in the House of Commons and House of Lords, have frequently raised these concerns by meetings with ministers, letters, evidence to inquiries, formal questions and parliamentary debates.
However, to date, our Government’s response has been woefully inadequate. Impunity largely remains unchallenged.
We therefore urge representatives of the Foreign Office to ensure the Nigerian Government takes effective action to protect all its citizens and call to account those who perpetrate atrocities. And given the Nigerian Government’s apparent complicity in the persecution of Christians, we also urge the Department for International Development to attach withhold/ make strong conditions for the continuation of UK aid (£327 million in 2017) until Abuja fulfils its responsibility to protect and provide for its own citizens who are being subjected to such horrendous suffering.
Something has to change – urgently. We must give greater effect to our obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention and our duty to protect.
For the longer we tolerate these massacres and atrocities, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing and fulfil their threat ‘Your land or your blood’.
You can read more about the Mai Adiko Reconciliation Project in Jos at Lady Cox’s charity HART
This project, initiated by the Anglican Diocese of Jos, aims to build peace by bringing together members of the Christian and Muslim communities for a broad range of activities, including skill sharing, training, sporting competitions and the generation of small businesses.
Original article Daily Express.