Fulani Militia’s Terror: Compilation of News (2017 – 2020)

Please find the introduction from the original author below and download the full report here

Introductory Remarks

Nigerians are suffering widespread and systematic terrorist attacks by, mainly, Boko Haram, the ISIL-aligned Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Fulani militias and Ansaru1 . The Global Terrorist Index 2019 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, indicates that the primary driver of the increase in terrorism in the Sub-Saharan Africa was a rise in terrorist activity in Nigeria attributed, not to Boko Haram, ISWAP or Ansaru, but to Fulani extremists: in 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for the majority of terror-related deaths in Nigeria (1,158 fatalities), with an increase by 261 and 308 per cent respectively from the prior year. Most of Fulani attacks were armed assaults (200 out of 297 attacks) against civilians (84 per cent of the attacks). 2 Bandits and criminal gangs’ attacks are also part of the unfortunate reality that Nigerians have to face in their lives.

We have researched on the attacks in Nigeria attributed to presumably Fulani by mass media, NGOs and, in few cases, private sources, and this list is the result of that work. The listed attacks are sorted by date (of the attack, or if not possible to date it precisely, date of the report) from 2017 until 7th May 2020. Some of the news compiled refer to certain statements, reactions, events…which are connected to the Fulani attacks, that may be useful to understand better the complex situation.

It is difficult to know the exact number of victims of the attacks since the news usually, in particular when the attacks are massive, mentions a minimum number (“at least…”), or even refers qualitatively to them (“many”, “a large number”). This is particularly clear when it comes to the destruction of properties -above all, when the houses of the victims are destroyed-, as well as the number of displaced persons caused by the attacks, which are counted by dozens of thousands.4 Most of the victims are farmers (predominantly, Christians), but Fulani (predominantly, Muslim) have also attacked policemen, soldiers, etc. In some cases, media identify the religious denomination of the victims (for example, when the attacks took place during or after religious ceremonies), in particular Christian media, that have a better knowledge about the affiliation of their own faithful.

Two further difficulties to have more information on the attacks are, in one hand, the fact that the attacks often occur in rural areas, where there is no information structure to cover them in detail; and, on the other hand, the passive attitude by public authorities, including police, that do not provide complete, transparent and reliable information on them. In the news, media reports make evident this attitude, and when there are official statements of the attacks, they tend to limit their intensity and the number of victims, in contrast to the allegations by witnesses or even victims of the attacks.

 The present list includes only the attacks attributed to Fulani, without further double check, which is in process with some experts in the country. This does not mean that the sources are not reliable, as most of them are produced by professional mass media and experts. At the same time, large part of these attacks has been reported by more than one source, among the 45 sources used for this research, that are quoted at the end of the list. Every attack compiled has a link (or more) to these sources.

Fulani are approximately 15 million in Nigeria (numbers vary, depending on sources), and therefore, it would be unreasonable the misuse of this list of Fulani attacks to criminalize this ethnic (and religious) community as a whole. Certainly, the antagonism between Fulani herdsmen and farmers is historical, and it has been exacerbated in recent times by a certain number of factors, including climate change. But in the course of the last 3 years, as Sangare has expressed, “this antagonism has taken a dangerous turn of identity and religion between two communities that have become irreconcilable and have been governed by different legal systems since Islamic law was reintroduced in 2000 in twelve northern states. To Christians, the Fulani want to “Islamize” them, if need be, by force.”

In our view, we can’t remain blind to the reality of regular, systematic, targeted attacks carried out by a minority of Fulani groups that spread terror among (Christian) farmers to achieve their own purposes, using AK47s, too. The attacks of these Fulani armed groups that form militias fit with the commonly accepted notion of terrorism as intentional and illegal use of violence or threat of violence to intimidate a large spectrum of a society, in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological or social objectives,6 and with the description of terrorist acts by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1566 (2004) as:

 “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.”

 In annex I, statistics about the reported attacks specify the number of victims and the type of actions carried out by Fulani (killings, persons wounded, rapes, kidnappings, destruction of homes and churches). In the period researched, 654 attacks took place, with more than 2,539 people killed, 393 wounded, 253 kidnapped, 16 raped, more than 7.582 homes and 24 churches destroyed. Annex II includes the list of reported attacks.

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