Plateau Peace Walks Call For End To Genocidal Killings
Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt March for Peace
On Monday morning at nine o’clock, Christians from Plateau state in the so-called Middle Belt of Nigeria came together to call for an end to the genocidal killings that have wounded and damaged their communities for decades. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) spearheaded the event in response to the ongoing terrorist attacks in Plateau and other parts of Nigeria. The protesters marched to the Plateau State Government House, where former lawyer Caleb Mutfwang, sits in office. In front of the gathered group of protesters, he stated that he did not come as a governor to: “preside over burial ceremonies, but that it was time to move from the book of Lamentations to the book of Acts.” During the peace rally in front of the Governor’s Office, Plateau state church leaders submitted a petition to Mutfwang to put an end to the killings.
This was not the first peace rally in Plateau, last Saturday there was a demonstration in the state capital Jos as well.
Wednesday, January 10th, there will be a demonstration in London, England as well and another one is scheduled in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, on the 17th of this month.
On social media Christians from the Middle Belt have held several debate groups, which I joined a few times to hear their stories. From what I have learned, there is a growing sense of the need to join strength and unite for a more safe and secure future for Christians in the Middle Belt.
According to a 2022 report by Genocide Watch, fourteen Christians are killed daily and 420 monthly in southern Kaduna, Benue, and Plateau states. In fact, Genocide Watch published a Genocide Emergency Alert concerning Nigeria in December 2022 in which it stated that: “Nigeria is currently undergoing one of the deadliest genocides in the world. More people die in Nigeria every month than in Ukraine.”
“Fulani militants are committing human rights violations and massacres against Christians. This is not a herdsman versus farmers conflict, but a genocidal war between ethnic groups, fueled by Islamic extremists with modern weapons.”
Christian persecution watchdog, Open Doors, writes that there are Islamic preachers from Saudi Arabia and Iran joining the Fulani militant groups. According to Open Doors, there is an agenda to spread Islam and turn Nigeria into an Islamic state.
Herdsmen or Jihadists?
Christians in Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, and other Middle Belt states, have been defensively murdered, abducted, raped, robbed and forced to flee for years. In April 2023 Fulani jihadists beheaded a 5-year-old boy in Southern Kaduna. In August 2021, Thomas Wollo (46) was beheaded together with his 7-year-old son, Nggwe in Plateau. Second, these attacks often take place during church services or at nighttime when people are either sleeping or getting ready for bed. For example, a 25-year-old seminary student, Na’aman Dalami, was killed when Fulani jihadists burned down the house of the parish priest where the young man was serving. Already in bed, he could not escape the fire and was burned alive.
During the peace rally in Plateau last Monday morning, people held up signs saying: “It is not a clash, it is pure terrorism” and “Terrorists are not natives.” One of the elements in the petition that the church leaders handed to Governor Mutfwang on Monday addresses the question of whether we are talking about herdsmen or jihadists. These messages are in sharp contrast with the predominant narrative, both in Nigeria and the international press, that the ongoing massacre of mostly Christians from the Middle Belt is a clash between herdsmen and farmer communities.
This idea in Nigeria and the West alike, that we are dealing with a confrontation or conflict between two involved parties; nomadic, predominantly Muslim herdsmen, and sedentary, often Christian farmers is an often repeated narrative. According to CNN, it is an “escalating conflict between herders and farmers,” with Al-Jazeera describing it as a “grazing conflict between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers.” These are only two examples of a widespread narrative. On the other hand, Genocide Watch speaks of jihadist herdsmen and The International Organization for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ), the International Committee On Nigeria (ICON), politicians such as Baroness Cox of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and retired member of United States Congress, Mr. Frank Wolf, in a joint report refer to the Fulanis as extremists or militants. International Christian Concern (ICC) also speaks of Fulani militants, a name the 2014 Global Terror Index used to describe them as the world’s fourth deadliest terror group.
There is a serious discrepancy between what politicians and the experts say on the one hand, parroted by the media, and the analyses of human rights organizations when it comes to the murderous attacks on Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt states. Delineating the beheading of innocent people, including children, during their weakest or most vulnerable moments as a clash between two groups having a dispute over grazing land is misleading, only allowed to hold because of the media’s lack of reporting on what happens daily in Nigeria.
SK: “The Kaduna state government traveled about 800 kilometers to River State where I used to work and they abducted me. They did not arrest me, because there was no warrant for that arrest, I was abducted.”
Another favorite theme, when trying to analyze the ongoing persecution in Nigeria, is that this is all due to climate change. A while ago I spoke with Nigerian Christian journalist Steven Kefas and asked him about this narrative:
SK: “It has nothing to do with climate change. They bring in climate change to deceive the international community and some gullible Nigerians, but we here in Nigeria, we have loved ones being killed. We have witnessed these attacks, we know that the attackers just come in to kill people. Sometimes when they kill people, they tell them: ‘Why don’t you call on your God to come and defend you?’
“There is a lady I interviewed, who was taken by these terrorists, she was raped and molested in the forest and they told her: ‘You say you have a God, why don’t you call your God to come and save you from our hand?’ This tells you that these people have an agenda, it is a jihadist agenda that is not just restricted or limited to Nigeria. It is an agenda that is across Africa, we have them in Mali, Somalia, Guinea, and some other places. So that is what is on the plate and it has nothing to do with climate change.”
Former president of Nigeria, Buhari, is a Fulani Muslim himself. During his administration, the Nigerian government, according to Genocide Watch, turned a blind eye to the Fulani massacres of Christians. Genocide Watch, in the same report, also stated that the U.S. State Department is in full denial of the Fulani massacres of Christians. According to Open Doors, there are alarming reports that show deliberate neglect and sometimes even complicity of the Nigerian Security Forces concerning these deadly attacks by Fulani militants. Buhari, according to Open Doors, has “openly and publicly admitted knowledge of the atrocities, often adducing justifications for the criminals.”
When Trump left office, he had put Nigeria on the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” after the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had been advising the government to do so for several years. This is a list of countries that violate religious freedom. Then, when Biden took office, Nigeria was taken off of this blacklist and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a virtual meeting with then Nigerian president Buhari in which they wanted to “strengthen their communal interests” as it was called. I asked Mr. Kefas what he thought of that decision, considering that by then it was already widely known that there was a genocide happening on the Nigerian Christian population, specifically in the Middle Belt region. Climate change, security, and a strategic partnership were all brought to the table, except for the murdering of Christians.
SK: “As to your question why the United States took Nigeria off of the list ‘Countries of Particular Concern’, well unfortunately only the Biden administration can answer that question.
“The current administration in the USA seems to be more concerned about their own interests. They don’t seem to be interested in human rights, the rights of Christians across the world, or traditional worshippers across the world. Whatever is going to affect their interest, they don’t joke with it. I think that is what is really top on their priority list right now.”
In addition to this, on January 4th of this year, the State Department published a list of countries that violate religious freedom. Nigeria is not mentioned and yet, Christians are murdered during church services or specifically targeted during Christian holidays, as we have seen recently when over 200 Christians were massacred on Christmas Eve in Plateau state. And, equally important, the Fulani militants are not mentioned in the same document as part of the Entities of Particular Concern. In contrast, for example, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa, both active in Nigeria, are listed as such. Yet, the Fulani militants commit crimes that are no different from those committed by Boko Haram, i.e. killing, raping, plundering, kidnapping, using coercion, intimidation, and installing fear among the Christian population of the Middle Belt.
One of the ten points on the agenda, submitted to the governor of Plateau State, Mr. Mutfwang on Monday, is to recognize the Fulani militants as such:
“We unanimously call on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as a matter of urgency, to initiate the process of officially proscribing the armed terrorist militias responsible for these mindless killings. They should be officially designated as terrorists. This will give the military the power to fully engage them as provided in the Terrorism Act of 2022.”
This demand is repeated by the many Nigerian Christians I speak to almost daily. Recognize the militants as such, to give the armed forces the tools to deal with the massacres adequately. It would also allow for a clear distinction between Fulani herdsmen who are indeed looking for grazing land for their cattle and armed militias who massacre innocent citizens and drive them away from their ancestral lands, driven by a radical agenda to conquer the land and spread Islam. This becomes even more apparent when we realize that Fulani militants are also active in neighboring countries such as Chad and Cameroon, combining forces may be the best way forward if we can agree on who we are fighting against.
Wrong Speak Publishing is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.