Dan Azumi moved back home to Sanga in Kaduna in 1994 with his parents. Some of his siblings are married and reside in Fadan Karshi. His late sister, Ande, got married to a Gwandara man and they had five children.

According to Dan, his village was attacked by some Fulani who the villagers claimed had a week prior, sent a letter informing the community they would be carrying out a raid of the community. Men and young adults formed a vigilante group. At about 10pm on the appointed day, a market day, the vigilante were outside while Ande was sleeping with her 3-month old baby, while her other kids, aged 13, 10, 8, and 5 were sleeping elsewhere. When the gunmen stormed the community, the youth who were keeping guard scampered to safety. The gunmen shot Ande in the head. She died immediately. Her baby didn’t cry so he wasn’t seen.

When the other kids heard the gunshot, they ran from the other rooms into their mother’s. They were all shot. Being a community compound where other members of the extended family lived, thirteen persons were killed that fateful night, all related to Azumi.

The attackers went into other houses in the community and killed scores in Kabamu settlement in Fadan Karshe village. They also attacked Karshin Daji, Ningishe, Unguwan Pa, Kobin. Since that incident, there have been killings and reprisals. Some silently, others open attacks like the prior, planned one.

According to Dan Azumi, in the 1980s, his grandfather would reserve remnants of his harvests for his Fulani friend. When they play under the full moon, Both communities shared visits during festivals. Along the line (like in Sanga) the three traditional rulers (four chiefdoms) the Nizom traditional ruler was Muslim; Numana was Muslim; Ayu Village chiefdom was also Muslim. All are second Class chiefs. The relationship between the Hausa, Fulani and the Christian indigenes was cordial until recently. The Sharia Crises and the Miss World crisis didn’t affect Sanga.

Things changed only after the post election violence in 2011 when they started hearing that Fulani herdsmen were being sighted around their communities bearing assault rifles while they reared their cattle. They eventually started using those guns on the locals. This story is almost similar across the region.

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.

When viewing the current Southern Kaduna crisis, it is important to differentiate between the current violence and the previous historical incidents. The first critical difference is in the duration of the incidents. Most of the violent incidents prior to 2016 were either single incidents or closely related incidents, occurring within a short space of time. This is not so with the ongoing violence. The violence has occurred in several separate incidents over a period of time much longer than any other in the history of Southern Kaduna.

The second difference appears to be in the motivation. Prior to 2016, specific incidents, most of them localised or religious, were the motivating factors for the violence. Many of those involved in the violence were locals and could trace their grievances to those specific issues. The current violence however, is clearly retribution over lost cattle and for grazing land by the Fulani. The Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Elrufai, has also said that many of the perpetrators are not locals but Fulani herdsmen that had to be tracked down to other West African countries. The Northern Governors Forum also repeated this claim in January 2017. Clearly, this is different from the previous incidents.

The third difference is the wider context of attacks by Fulani herdsmen following similar patterns in Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states. In all these locations, while there were historical local tensions amongst the ethnicities living in those locations (as with Eggon against Alago in Nasarawa, or Tiv against Idoma in Benue), the herdsmen related violence in these areas was clearly delineated from those historical conflicts, and decimated the populations in these areas. The historical conflicts introduced complexities to the situation but they were different. Hence, it is important for observers and policy makers delineate the ongoing killings in Southern Kaduna from the historical violence in planning aid to the victims, response to the violence, and the dispensation of justice.

It is vital to get a handle on the security situation in Southern Kaduna because of reasons of geography, economics and demography.

Kaduna is Nigeria’s third largest state by population, and is geographically contiguous with Plateau, which became stable in recent times. Plateau is in its turn, geographically continguous with Taraba. The combined population of these three states is greater than that of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, which are the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. That insurgency has displaced millions of people, and Nigeria is still reeling from the refugee crisis that has created.

There are lessons to be learned from the conflict in Plateau, and how it entered hibernation. As a result of the Nigerian state’s inability to bring a satisfactory end to the crisis in that state, elements among the Tarok, who are found in Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba, and the Eggon, who are found in Benue, Nasarawa and Kaduna states, formed militias, that have been responsible for multiple attacks on Fulani communities at least since 2013. There is evidence that the Tarok militia have collaborated with another ethnic militia, the Junkun, in Taraba state, to carry out reprisal attacks on Fulani communities, many of whom knew nothing of previous attacks.

Furthermore, the Tarok appear to be intent on creating a buffer zone between themselves and the Fulani. This has led them to attack Fulani herdsmen, and communities, both in Taraba and Nasarawa states. The situation in Taraba and Plateau, just like in Southern Kaduna, was exacerbated by the government’s inability to mediate between warring parties and punish the culprits. Seeing that perpetrators were hardly ever brought to justice, communities took to arming themselves.

From an economic perspective, it is important to note that as the government attempts to resuscitate the Nigerian rail service, both of the major rail lines, the Western Line linking Nguru (Yobe) to Lagos, and the Eastern Line linking Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, intersect via a link line from Jos, in Plateau state, to Kaduna. This link line, passes through Kafanchan. It is vital to the economic interests of Northern Nigeria, that an acceptable solution is found to the Southern Kaduna crisis, before other people, go the way of the Tarok and Junkun.

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