It’s an increasingly common sight. The pick-up trucks roll out of town, corpses stacked high in the bed, bound for rudimentary mass graves cut into the arid soil. Some of the bodies are charred black, having been burned alive. Others, maimed and mutilated, rendered unrecognizable. If you ask the government, this is the unfortunate reaction of irate herdsmen over a few stolen cows. If you ask the American media, there’s only one obvious culprit: climate change.
So far in 2018, 6,000 Christians, mostly women and children, have been massacred in Nigeria’s northern Plateau state by a radical Islamic gang known as the Fulani. While most of the bloodshed in that region has been attributed to the Islamic State in West Africa, known as Boko Haram, the Fulani is rapidly eclipsing its rival’s death toll this year.
In 2014, Boko Haram made international headlines after kidnapping 276 school girls, mostly Christian, prompting First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to negotiate the children’s release by deploying a viral hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. Most of schoolgirls remain missing with many presumed dead.
In one of the most egregious attacks of this year, in late April, 30 Fulani militants stormed St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Belt region and killed 17 worshipers and two priests.
In the late 1960s, the Nigeria civil war, known as the Biafran War, saw the hostile takeover of the nation’s government, military, and finances by the Muslim Hausa faction. Nigeria’s oil reserves are the fifth largest in the world. The Christians of Nigeria, called Igbo, where mostly farmers and tradesmen who then lost sovereignty over their state, Biafra, as it came under the rule of the newly-empowered Muslim government. During the civil war, the Hausa murdered or starved 30,000 people, reports indicate.
Christians in Nigeria mostly occupy the southern part of the country. The middle region, or “west,” comprises a mix of Muslims and Ekpe, the culture some voodoo is rooted in. The Hausa continue to dominate the north, including Plateau.
“What is happening in Plateau state and other select states in Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately,” the Christian Association of Nigeria, comprised of many church denominational heads, reported in a press release last week.
Leaders in Nigeria’s northern Plateau region reported, “over 6,000 persons, mostly children, women and the aged have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen,” causing them to beg the Nigerian government, “to stop this senseless and blood shedding in the land and avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves.”
Yet the Nigerian government continues to dismiss the murders of the Christian farmers; labeling the heavily-armed Fulani “herdsmen,” and chalking the violence brought upon the Christians as tribal fighting over cattle. Church leaders are growing increasingly desperate, pleading for international intervention, particularly through the United Nations, to do something before the issue gets even worse.
“We are particularly worried at the widespread insecurity in the country where wanton attacks and killings by armed Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists have been taking place on a daily basis in our communities unchallenged despite huge investments in the security agencies,” the leaders noted, warning that President Muhammadu Buhari has washed his hands of the attacks. In one attack in June, farmers near the city of Jos lost over 200 people when “herdsmen” armed with AK 47s raided the city.
Two non-profits, Open Doors USA and International Christian Concern, are saying the media has mostly buried its head in the sand, writing off the attacks as “land conflicts” between groups with cultural differences despite Christians being the deliberate targets for slaughter.
“We reject the narrative that the attacks on Christian communities across the country as ‘farmers/herdsmen clash.’ The federal government has been so immersed in this false propaganda and deceit while forcefully pushing the policy idea of establishing cattle ranches/colonies on the ancestral farming lands of the attacked communities for the Fulani herdsmen as the only solution to the problem,” the groups said.
“How can it be a clash when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?”
“How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are the predators and the inhabitant/indigenous farmers are the prey? Until we call a disease by its real name and causatives, it would be difficult to properly diagnose the disease for the right curative medications.”
The exact numbers of Christians that have been killed is unknown due to inconsistent reports. The most modest estimate comes from the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, or Intersociety, which released a statement in July claiming the combine death toll of Christians and non-Muslims to be around 1,750. That number includes the body count left by the Fulani and the other terrorist war lords in the area, Boko Haram.
Intersociety, however, gave a chilling warning about Nigeria possibly being on a path to genocide. “Nigeria is drifting to [a path of] genocide through killing, maiming, burning and destruction of churches and other sacred places of worship, and forceful seizure and occupation of ancestral, worship, farming and dwelling lands of the indigenous Christians and other indigenous religionists in Northern Nigeria,” the group said.
Others, like the Roman Catholic Bishop William Avenya of Gboko, live in fear that the genocide will only get the world’s attention when it’s too late, telling Aid to the Church in Need, “Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda,” invoking the notorious massacre that left almost a million Tutsi people dead in 1994. “It happened beneath our noses, but no one stopped it. And we know well how that ended,” he said.
Must be the weather
The most powerful media outlets in the U.S. continue to tow the Nigerian government’s line that the Fulani jihadis are mere “herdsmen.” But the most brazen have gone a few steps further.
A report from June in the New York Times resorted to full-on victim-blaming, claiming the murders are retaliation for the Christian farmers stealing cattle and likening the bloodshed to a “conflict between herders and farmers for natural resources.” Buried 13 paragraphs into a CNN report readers only then learned the conflict was between Muslims and Christians, while the cable news network also propped up the Nigerian president’s “land dispute” narrative.
The Washington Post last month blamed the conflict on “climate change,” writing, “Herders in search of safe grazing land, and feeling the effects of climate change, have been forced south into more populated farming communities.” But a video on Facebook from April showed distinctly un-herdsmenlike, heavily-armed jihadis wearing the choir robes stolen from recently victimized people.
Nigerian Senator Jonah David Jang, representing Plateau, told the newspaper This Day “the killings as heinous crime against his people, genocide, and an attempt to forcefully take over and occupy the ancestral land of the Berom nation.”
A pro-Fulani group in Nigeria called The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) shrugged off the killings as “retaliatory,” with chairman Danladi Ciroma stating, “As much as I don’t support the killing of human being[s], the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on [a] revenge mission, ” adding, “Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks. … In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled.” Upon receiving backlash for justifying a massacre of human beings as a price for a stolen animal, Ciroma denied he ever said it.
Faith McDonnell, a Christian persecution expert at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told Breitbart News: “That is an appalling bit of moral equivalence … There have been cases where some non-Muslims (whether they are actually Christians or not, do not know, but from Christian areas) have stolen the Fulani cows because the cows are running rampant over the farmland, but there cannot be moral equivalence made or justified between stealing cows and mass slaughter of Christians.”
Nigerian Christians now say they “have no cheeks left to turn…” as they prepare to defend themselves in a country with about a quarter of Africa’s population.
Chadwick Moore contributed to reporting.
Pawl Bazile is Patriotism Correspondent for DANGEROUS and Production Director for Proud Boy Magazine. He tweets at @PawlBazile.