News / Africa

Sectarian Violence Flares in Nigerian 'Middle Belt'

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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid