A critical look at the Southern Kaduna crisis

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Kaduna State is currently enmeshed in a humanitarian crisis. The southern part of the state has become the epicentre of deadly violence, most of it inflicted by herdsmen on farming communities. This is situated within two wider contexts:

Attacks by Fulani herdsmen on farming communities, and reprisals, particularly in the North Central region. Further into the past, the epicentre was Plateau State (mainly the Barkin Ladi area), then Nasarawa State, and finally Benue State.

In these areas, whole communities have been displaced, many lives have been lost, and many of the farmers unable to plant and harvest for years. The main theatre of this violence has now moved from these North Central states into a North Western state, escalating historic tensions in Southern Kaduna. In Birnin Gwari in the Kaduna Central zone, cattle rustling continues to be a major problem, but in the Kaduna South zone, things have gone several notches higher especially as the victims are people, not cattle.

The second context within which we must place the current escalation is traceable to a series of confrontations over property rights as well as the right to express and practice deeply held religious beliefs in 1981. In that year, a land dispute between Hausa traders and residents of Adara in Kachia local government area led to violent clashes which left at least a hundred homes destroyed. In 1986, a contest over the district headship of Lere in Lere LGA, when some locals were opposed to the candidature of a Muslim contestant, resulted in renewed violence. Fighting in the aftermath of a closely fought election among rival religious factions at the Ahmadu Bello University left at least 107 persons injured in Zaria. In 1992, a market relocation sparked two riots in Zangon Kataf which claimed thousands of lives. This figure has never been verified. Further ethno-religious confrontations in Kaduna North LGA which spread to Kafanchan and other towns resulted in an unspecified number of victims on the eve of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule. Protests in the wake of the State’s decision in 2000 to impose Sharia rule resulted in violence in Kaduna, Gwantu and Fadan Kagoma. Then Nigeria’s hosting of the Miss World beauty peagent in 2002 led to protests by Muslims across Northern Nigeria, violence in parts of Kaduna, and perhaps most infamously, politically motivated violence in Zaria, Kaduna, Zonkwa and Kafanchan in the wake of the 2011 presidential election led to the burning of churches, mosques, homes, the Kafanchan market, and a heavy death toll. In that year, there were at least thirteen separate reports of ethno-religious clashes in the state. In the half decade since 2010, there has been a steadily increasing number of violent clashes between the various groups in Kaduna.