News / Africa

Sectarian Violence Flares in Nigerian 'Middle Belt'

TEXT SIZE - +
Heather Murdock
— The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says more than 100 people have been killed in religion-related violence since March this year in Nigeria's volatile "Middle Belt" region.  Some local leaders say the violence may be along religious lines, but it is politically motivated.

The American commission, an independent body appointed by the U.S. president and Congress, says dozens of properties have been destroyed in Nigeria since March.  Overall, it says, more people have been killed by sectarian violence in recent years than by Boko Haram - a militant group that has been waging an insurgency against the government since 2009.

It says since 1999 about 14,000 people have died in sectarian violence but only one percent of the perpetrators have been prosecuted. 

Local leaders in the Middle Belt, a region that roughly divides Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north from its mostly Christian south, agree that the increase in sectarian violence in recent months is driving many people from their homes. 

Although the fighting may be along religious and ethnic lines, they say, it is often a result of deeply religious and impoverished people being used or ignored by politicians.

"Religion as gone deep into people and politicians have used religion to put a line in between Muslims and Christians.  And, unfortunately if you look at the economic situation of the country, a lot of people that have no jobs to do, they have turned to drugs and other things.  You realize that politicians can easily use them," said Modibbo Aliyu, the national leader of the "Kautal Hore Fulbe" association, an ethnic Fulani group that means "Living Together."

Fulani people are generally cow herders and generally Muslim.  Aside from political, religious and ethnic differences, the Fulani often fight with groups like the mostly-Christian Berom over land disputes.  The Berom, as one might suspect, are farmers.

In the meantime, Mallam Umar Dare Babba, one of the leaders of Pastoral Resolve of Nigeria, a Fulani rights group, says the economy of the entire region is in danger as the nomadic cow herders stray farther away, sometimes into neighboring countries.

"Certainly it will affect the economy of the country. Milk, cows, meat will not be there.  Certainly the government must look into to the situation," said Babba. "There is need for the government to call the nomads and the communities where these problems are to sit on a round table.  Dialogue and look at where the problems are."

Analysts say if the problems are not addressed, disputes can set off a series of attacks and reprisal attacks that can drive casualty numbers especially high.

For example, clashes between herdsmen and farmers last month in Plateau State led to more than 20 deaths and spurred reprisal attacks over Easter weekend.  The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations says at least 50 died in the reprisal attacks, adding that the number could be five times as high.

Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna, Nigeria

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: george from: mali
April 19, 2013 10:12 AM
Using religion and ethnic sentiment to achieve political goal is like planting thorns in the market square. The planter could no doubt be a victim.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid