The Oasis Reporters
October 4, 2018
By Amina Umaru Miango
I have tried in this article to summarize the different aspects of the conflict on the Plateau. Kindly search online for more information. Do not allow people mislead you that the Plateau troubles are one long unending crises. Truth is, some ended and others started, different actors, different places.
The Yelwa/Shendam crisis for example. It ended and that area is very peaceful now.
Therefore when you hear that something is happening in Plateau State, the tendency is to say Jos, the tendency is to also assume it is herdsmen killings, truth is the Plateau people (I use this loosely to include indigenes and settlers) have inflicted as much violence on each other as the killer herdsmen have on villagers in Plateau State. But joining this conflicts into one big box is a disservice to the innocent people that have died and are still dying.
I realize that a lot of times the wrong information is given about the Jos crisis. Herdsmen attacks are lumped together with the ethno-religious crisis Jos has faced since 1991. I am going to try and shed some light on the issues without necessarily blaming anyone.
I am not here to blame anyone, I just want to shed light on an issue that has plagued my home State for most of my life. I want a solution to the problems, hopefully, this will be a beginning.
In 1991, the General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida military government created three local governments out of Jos. Jos North, Jos South and Jos East. Historically, the indigenous groups in Jos are the Berom, Anagutas and Afizeres. The balkanization of Jos into three was seen by the indigenous people as trying to give the Hausa and Fulani community who are considered settlers an upper hand because they had a large population in Jos and by extension, Jos North when the division happened. The indigenous ethnic group protested against it and that was the beginning of the problem.
Now, let me talk about the crisis that I can remember clearly, in 1991, I was too young to remember anything. But the facts I gave above are verifiable. In 2001, crisis broke out in Jos, truth is, the different sides will tell you how the other side is the villain.
Crisis broke out in September 2001. It was the Hausa/Fulani Muslims on one side and the indigenous Christians, Igbo, Yoruba and other ethnicities that were deemed Christians on the other side. For days, each side tried to outdo the other in violence.
As a result of the failure of government to carry out effective peace building and other projects like that, there were on and off crises in Jos from 2001 until around 2010 when things calmed down. A period of 10 years of fear and strife.
So, while this conflicts were going on in Jos mainly, there were times it extended to local governments around Jos but this ethno-religious crisis was mostly in Jos. Therefore while this was going on, a different crisis was brewing in the local governments in Plateau State.
Jos had a period of “peace” until last weekend when it started again. However, you must have heard of the herdsmen killings. That is another dimension to the crisis.
In my opinion this is different. I consider it a different conflict.
The herdsmen attacks have spanned beyond Plateau State to Kaduna, Zamfara, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu and a host of other States. That is why I consider it a different crisis. And merging with the ethno-religious crisis in Jos is not doing justice in the matter.
With visitors or settlers and we can’t allow you hold political power too, kind of mindset. Truth is, the solution to the problem is somewhere in between.
Now back to the herdsmen killings.
The herdsmen killings have been given so many dimensions by scholars. With some saying it’s as a result of climate change which has affected the north and so with continuous movement of their cattle to better, greener pastures, the herdsmen get into conflict with farmers and so on.
This could be possible seeing as the Governor of Kaduna State once said he had to pay some mercenaries to dissuade them from attacking villages in his State. If we accept this explanation, and the climate change explanation, then we can see clearly that these two conflicts cannot be the same.
The Plateau crisis is multifaceted.
On one side is the ethno-religious crisis, while on the other side is the Herdsmen killings, and thirdly, the Boko Haram Islamist problem added to the mix. While they may all be interrelated, truth is, they are mostly different actors, or same actors in different circumstances.
Or different environments. The coin denominator is that it is all happening or has happened in Plateau state.
So what is the solution?
Solutions: Government needs to stop mouthing peace and actually start working on getting peace. Government needs to implement the series of reports on the Jos crises that has been gathering dust. A real process of conflict resolution needs to be started by the government.
It’s not going to be easy forgiving the person that killed members of your family, friends and neighbors but that may be the only way. But before the peace building efforts start, government must do one thing.
Prosecute offenders on all sides. This lack of consequences for actions has been the bane of deterrence and reconciliation.
There can never be peace without justice. May the souls of those lost in all the violence rest in peace. May their loved ones be comforted. May there be genuine peace in Plateau again. Amen.
The Human Rights Watch report on the 2001 crisis is a good place to start for any researcher on the Plateau crises, but I must warn you, It is a scary report, brace yourself if you ever get to read it.
Written by Amina Umaru Miango.
She’s a lawyer, peace advocate and human rights activist. She hails from Plateau State, North Central Nigeria.