Hugh Fitzgerald: Beyond Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Other Genocide (Part One)

While all eyes seem to be elsewhere — on North Korea, on Iran and the attack at Ahvaz, on the U.K. floundering over how to settle its Brexit affairs and the U.S. floundering over a Supreme Court nomination — in Nigeria there is an ongoing jihad against the Christians. It is not that of Boko Haram. This genocide — the deliberate killing  of men, women and children because they are Christian, and the destruction of their dwellings, the stealing of their cattle — has accounted for many thousands of victims, with hundreds in the last two months.

We all remember how, when Boko Haram first kidnapped 276 Christian girls from the village of Chibok in 2014, that their return became the celebrity Cause of the Week, with Michele Obama lending her prestige to the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, and assorted Hollywood celebrities joined in. The hashtag was great fun, of course, and allowed Celebrities To Show They Cared, but nothing came of it. During the last three years, almost 2/3 of the girls have been returned, in small batches. But at least 100 of the Chibok girls are still being held. And during this period, other girls from other villages have been seized. In February of this year, for example, Boko Haram kidnapped another group of girls — more than 100 — from the village of Dapchi, but in late March they were freed. It is still not known whether any ransom was paid.

On April 13, 2018 Unicef released a statement claiming that Boko Haram had kidnapped many more girls than those taken from Chibok and Dapchi: “The terror group Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in Nigeria since 2013.” Of course Boko Haram did not, and does not, limit its activities to kidnapping girls. It has attacked police stations, army posts, and Christian villages, massacring many.

The members of Boko Haram are from the Muslim Hausa tribe. In the last year, members of another tribe, the Fulani, who are mostly herders, have become much more active in attacking Christian villages. In September and October they killed hundreds of Christians. The Nigerian army seems helpless, or incompetent, or perhaps — because so many of the military  are Muslim — uneager to pursue Boko Haram with the required relentlessness.

Here is the latest example of Muslim-on-Christian attacks:
Around 30 people have died following attacks by Fulani militants on five predominantly Christian communities in northeast Nigeria.

According to World Watch Monitor, between September 13 and 16, the villages of Gon, Bolki, Ndumusu, Yotti and Yanga, in Numan local government area (LGA), Adamawa state, were under attack by Fulani militants who pillaged, murdered, chased, kidnapped, and burned down the houses of villagers.

According to Amnesty International, this area is the same place where 3,000 homes were destroyed last December after fighter jets, sent by the Nigerian Air Force, allegedly fired rockets at villages where Fulani herdsmen were attacking Christians.

In regard to the current attack, a local pastor told World Watch Monitor that 27 people had been confirmed dead. He added that, when residents heard gunshots, many fled into the bush or the river. Many who fled to the river, he said, drowned because they could not swim.

Though 27 people have been confirmed to have lost their lives, the local pastor, who chose to remain anonymous for his protection, said ten people are still missing, four from Yanga and six from Bolki.

He said, “Nobody knows the whereabouts of these people missing. Since their dead bodies are not found, it is too early to declare them dead. We will give them the benefit of doubt; maybe some of them may return home to their families.”

According to World Watch Monitor, an additional 45 people were injured during the attack, their houses were pillaged, cattle were stolen, and the villages were set ablaze.

Rahab Solomon, a survivor from Bolki village, said the attackers began the assault around 3 pm, shooting the residents indiscriminately.

“My husband and I went to Numan to my pick up our children around 2 pm. At about 3 pm, while we were on our way back home, we heard that our village was under attack and that three persons were killed,” she recalled.

“We couldn’t go back home because we were told that our house was burnt. So we came to stay in this camp.”

She continued, “the next day we called my husband’s brother and he told us that the Fulani chased our people and killed so many of them. Those who tried to run through the river were shot and many who tried to escape through the river, but could not swim, died as well; those who could swim were able to survive. We heard that over 25 bodies were recovered from the river. The exact number of people who died in the attack is yet to be known as the place is still under attack.”

“We were told that the Fulani militants burnt down all our houses, and some women and children who hid in the farms were abducted by the Fulani. We no longer have a place to call home. Right now we are helpless,” she added.

Another survivor, Jading Igiya, told World Watch Monitor his experience during the attack. Igiya recalled, “On Sunday, we were home with our families; we did not know that the Fulani were coming to attack us.” He said the town had heard rumors of other villages receiving threats of attack, so they assumed that because they had not received a warning that they would not be targeted.

This turned out not to be the case, and around 4 pm the villagers heard gunshots, he recalled.

He said, “Everybody in the village sought cover and began to run for safety, as the Fulani were shooting and burning houses.”

“The Fulani burnt all our houses. No house is standing right now and we cannot go back to our villages. The Fulani also moved from our village to Ndumusu, from Ndumusu to Yanga, from Yanga to Bolki, and continued their attack, killing more people and burning more houses,” he added.

Igiya also recalled that the villagers attempted to call for help, but law enforcement never came. He said, “during the attack, we tried to call security forces but none came to our rescue. We managed to put our families, children, women and old people through the bush and that is how we were able to be saved.”

He continued, “right now we are all scattered. Some of us are still in the bush, taking shelter around Gon north, while some of our families are in Numan and others in other villages.”

Bishop Stephen Mamza, the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, commented on the attack noting that innocent Christians were being “killed by these so-called herdsmen on a daily basis, without security forces responding appropriately to stop them from hurting Christians.”

He lamented the “incessant attacks on Christians has led to hunger and starvation”, adding that “if these Christians are not aided many will die of starvation.”
The world appears to have lost interest in the continued series of massacres of Christians by Muslims in northern Nigeria. It was fun to use that hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, and over the last few years, 2/3 of the girls kidnapped from Chibok have been freed in batches, leaving the impression that things are improving, and that eventually all the Chibok girls will be released. It isn’t true. Some of the 100 still being held have been converted to Islam and married off to members of Boko Haram. Others are being kept, for use as sex slaves, or as hostages, useful in case of a trade for captured Boko Haram members. And as Unicef says, a total of 1000 girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, which means that even if Boko Haram has kept only 100 of the girls from Chibok, it has 700 others it kidnapped from elsewhere. But, as noted above, there is another group of Muslims who turn out to be even more dangerous to Christians than Boko Haram.
END OF PART ONE

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