46 Christian villagers lost their lives in two attacks on villages, allegedly carried out by Fulani herdsmen. The local bishop sees it as a “deliberate plan to unleash evil against Christians.”
The rivalry in the state of Kaduna, located in the center-north of Nigeria, is twofold, but superimposable. It opposes a Christian population in the south, of agricultural tradition, to the Hausa-Fulani herders, of the Fulani ethnic group, who are predominantly Muslim. The cow against the hoe, and the Muslim against the Christian.
A local name embodies this opposition. Indeed, the state of Kaduna is divided by the river of the same name, which passes through the city of Kaduna: the northern part of the state is nicknamed “Mecca,” while the southern part receives the nickname “Jerusalem.”
A Deadly Escalation
According to the information that has come out, the massacre took place in three stages. First, Fulani herdsmen killed a farmer with an ax in the village of Kpak, because he was defending his crops against the invasion of cows. This was on December 13.
Three days later, the same group killed three other farmers, also with axes, the latter having had the misfortune of finding themselves in the way of this group already drunk with the blood of their first murder.
And on December 18, groups of Fulani attacked two villages, shooting at the inhabitants and burning the houses: some of the victims were burned to death and at least 100 houses were razed. The story told by the survivors is terrible.
According to witnesses, a group of around 100 armed men, dressed in army fatigues or black tunics, arrived in Mallagum – one of the martyr villages – on motorcycles and trucks.
“At first, we thought that the soldiers driving on the main street had come to town to provide security, because the rumor of an attack had been circulating for days,” Emmanuel Allau Dominic, an eyewitness, told CNA in a text message.
Believing help had arrived, many residents rushed towards the men, who opened fire, he said. “Those who were running around looking for help saw them and ran towards them, and that was the end of their journey on earth,” Dominic said.
The current toll is 46 people killed in four villages in three days. But searches continue around the villages to look for possible other victims, as there are a number of missing.
The villagers accuse the army of having abandoned them, despite the first murders committed. General Timothy Opurum denied it. He said his soldiers killed or injured some of the attackers, but he believes their bodies were removed to cast blame on the authorities.
The situation of the Christian agricultural populations is critical, because it is currently the harvest season, and these terrible attacks discourage farmers from harvesting in such conditions. But it is their survival that is at stake.
Hope for a Peaceful Christmas
The Bishop of Kafanchan, Diocese of Southern Kaduna State, Msgr. Yakubu Kundi told CNA, “We had hoped this Christmas would be better, but this recent attack has chilled our spirits, and we are just trying to inspire people to hold on to faith and hope for an end to this calamity.”
In a text addressed to the same agency, the bishop did not hesitate to affirm: “The motivation for these attacks, as far as we know, is part of a deliberate plan to unleash evil and terrify our people, because that we do not profess the same religion or because we oppose their violent activities on our land.”
Back in their village, Mallagum residents are too traumatized to sing Christmas carols this year, a witness told CNA. “People are still crying. The atmosphere is tense,” he added.
Since 1980, around 20,000 people have died in the violence in Kaduna State.
Let us remember to pray for these poor people on the occasion of the feast of Christmas, so that the Savior and his Mother may bring them consolation and help in the terrible ordeal which has struck them, a week before the feast of the Nativity, when, like everywhere else, they repeated hymns to celebrate the Child Jesus.