Two days of violence between herders and farmers erupted on Sunday in Kajuru village, 50 kilometres (30 miles) outside the city of Kaduna, said state police commissioner Agyole Abeh. “A total of 33 people were killed in the violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers,” said Abeh.
“The violence started when some villagers attacked a young Fulani man and his father, which led to the death of the young man after he was admitted in hospital.” The victim’s kinsmen gathered from nearby settlements and launched a reprisal attack on the village, killing six men, said Abeh.
In response, the youths from the farming communities “mobilised and went into the bush attacking and burning Fulani settlements they could find”, he added. “Our men were contacted but before they could deploy, the attackers had killed 26 people, mostly women and children and injured several others.” Security personnel have since been deployed to the area to maintain peace.
Nigeria‘s Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has ordered reinforcements in Kaduna state following the clashes. He condemned what he said were the “needless deaths” and expressed frustration with the security challenges in southern Kaduna. Osinbajo promised to ensure that the “perpetrators of these dastardly acts” were identified and brought to justice, he said in a statement issued on Wednesday evening. Southern Kaduna has seen a spate of deadly clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herders, a historically nomadic people who graze their cattle on the land.
Originally, the clashes were over land and water rights disputes. But ethnicity and religion have been playing a larger role in the conflict after post-election violence in 2011 that saw hundreds killed and forced to flee the area. Without a national strategy in place to address the conflict, tensions between herdsmen and farmers have not subsided, and tit-for-tat killings have become common.
Experts blame a heavy-handed, militarised response by the government, and incendiary comments from political and religious leaders for fanning the flames of animosity.