An Impending Genocide of Christians in Nigeria?

20 July 2022

Nigeria is facing an impending crisis. In the Middle Belt, violence has been escalating due to  Islamist Fulani militia’s violent attacks against predominantly Christian communities. This emergency has been overlooked by the international community despite the scale and nature of the violence. It has now claimed even more lives than the deadly Boko Haram insurgency and displaced tens of thousands of people, threatening the national security of Nigeria.[1] It is imperative that we take action now to prevent countless more lives from being lost.

Religious identities have always played a significant role in Nigerian politics. 53% of the Nigerian population are  Muslim and around 45% are Christian.[2] Colonialism was central in polarising these religious identities. By exaggerating religious differences, the British were able to ‘divide and rule’ to solidify their colonial rule.[3] After independence in 1960, increasing Islamic extremism, scarcity of land, and mass displacement of over 3 million people has led to religion being a constant source of conflict in Nigeria.[4]

In March 2022, HART visited our partners in Nigeria and witnessed the terrible destruction of homes and farms by the Fulani militia, as well as the detailed accounts of the brutal slaughtering of their victims.  Whilst these attacks have been ongoing since 2009, they have greatly increased in scope and frequency since 2015.[5] From 2009 to 2021, between 13,000 and 19,000 people have been killed in Fulani militia attacks according to local human rights groups. These attacks have been extremely vicious and have systematically targeted Christians in particular.

Tegbe is one of 15 villages that was attacked in November 2021 in Miango. The quote below details the extreme violence and persecution that they faced:

They set the houses on fire. Those who were inside the house were burnt together with their children. Others were shot. There was a family who had a sick relative, so they had gathered in the house to take care of him. Six of them were shot and killed inside the house.

It is essential not to understate the violence as simply an everyday conflict between farmers and herders. To do so plays down the significance of these attacks and obscures how the Fulani militia repeatedly and systematically target Christians due to their religion. First-hand witness accounts state that the Fulani attackers  “kill, burn houses and churches while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar.’”[6] After wiping out entire villages, Fulani attackers then occupy them, displacing thousands of villagers. The government has done little to discourage them, due to its heavy bias towards the Fulitia militia.[7] Consequently, the army has barely intervened or helped the victims, even though there are several bases near the attacked villages.

It is also important to note that the Fulani militia is only a small group and is not representative of the entire Fulani group of more than 20 million people.

Most concerningly, these attacks are worryingly similar to how the 1994 Rwandan genocide started. 800,000 lives were lost within 100 days due to Tutsis slaughtering their neighbours, the Hutus.[8] The genocide took place within a society that had similarly deep social cleavages created by colonialism; a stalling economy; and a wider context of violence.[9] Extreme parallels can be drawn between Rwanda and Nigeria; in 2020, Nigeria experienced its deepest recession in two decades.[10]

Alarmingly, there are already signs of a potential genocide as the attacks have started to be systematically coordinated by leaders using whistles, as well as close-hand killing by machetes, both which were infamously used in the Rwandan genocide. Indeed many activists are already declaring it to be a genocide with Jubilee Campaign argued that the term was legally applicable in a report to the International Criminal Court[11], echoed by CSI issuing a Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria.[12]

In 1994, the international community stood by whilst the genocide was occurring in Rwanda. Not only did they send troops after the genocide was nearing its end, but they also withdrew the UN troops that were in Rwanda at the time.[13] This lack of political will was due to countries following their own economic and political interests, instead of collaborating and preventing such a tragic loss of human life.

We must learn from our mistakes and ensure that the same devastation does not happen in Nigeria. Many countries are reluctant to get involved because of Nigeria’s political sensitivity; Saudi Arabia has previously supported radicals in Nigeria and they fear provoking her due to their own oil interests.[14] However, it is imperative that action is taken now. Tensions must be de-escalated before the upcoming national election in 2023. In Nigeria’s past, democratic elections have  frequently resulted in violence as politicians campaign on religious grounds, furthering the polarisation. With the 2023 election taking place in an even greater politically unstable climate, measures must be taken in order to save countless lives.

HART has been working hard to do so by supporting our local partner the Diocese of Jos. Its Women for Peace programme is a preventative de-radicalisation project, which aims to encourage inter-faith community building. The project is led by a group of 20 Christian and 20 Muslim women who work together to provide skills classes to help women generate an income. Lifting people out of poverty is key to de-escalating tensions. Also, developing personal relationships between Christians and Muslims helps to create social unity within the community.

Additionally, HART’s partnership enables the Roads to Hope programme to provide safe education to thousands of children in central Nigeria. Displaced students are able to learn as the mobile van is fully equipped with books, pens, and a solar-powered generator. Access to education allows vulnerable children, who were easy targets for exploitation by radicals, kidnappings and attacks on schools, greater opportunities for self-sufficiency.

We will continue to advocate for those whose voices are not being heard, and hold everyone accountable to their responsibility to protect. We refuse to stand by and let another mass atrocity happen again.

By Mina Kim, HART Volunteer


[1] International Crisis Group. (2018) Stopping Nigeria’s Spiralling Farmer-Herder Violence, Africa Report Nº262, Brussels, Belgium

[2] Doris Dokua Sasu. (2022) Distribution of religions in Nigeria 2018, available at:

[3] Haldun Çancı and Opeyemi Adedoyin Odukoya (2016). Ethnic and religious crises in Nigeria, A specific analysis upon identities (1999-2013), AJCR 1, available at:

[4] UNHCR, Nigeria: All Population Snapshot, 28 February 2022

[5] Christian Solidarity Worldwide (2021), available at:

[6] Shea, Nina. (2022) ‘Nigeria’s religious-cleansing crisis is not due to climate change’, available at:

[7] Adebowale, Yemi (2021) ‘Fulani Militia: The Infamy of our President’, available at:

[8] Kuperman, Alan. (2001) The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention, Washington: the Brookings Institution

[9] Valentino, Benjamin. (2000) ‘Final solutions: The causes of mass killing and genocide’, Security Studies, 9:3: 1-59


[11] Nigeria: This Genocide is Loading. Finding a Reasonable Basis to Believe Crimes Against Humanity Occurred, Jubilee Campaign, 18 November 2020,

[12] Christian Solidarity International (2020) “CSI Issues Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria, Calls on Permanent Members of the UN Security Council to Act,”,

[13] Dellaire, Roméo. (2003) Shaking hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

[14] Andrew Walker (2012) SPECIAL REPORT, United Nations Institute of Peace


Although all blog posts are reviewed by an editorial team, our blog authors all write in a personal capacity and the views expressed are not necessarily those of HART.

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