In Nigeria alone, one must distinguish between three types of incidents.
1. The conflict over land between nomadic herders and farmers. However, if the Fulani’s cattle destroyed farmland, this would usually be resolved locally.
2 Gang Criminality. There is also the possibility of gang criminality. “This is a crime, which must be regarded as such,” says Tilde. “If a state cannot enforce its laws, that’s a problem.”
The third type is the most problematic
In the struggle for political supremacy in Nigerian states, local rulers would often strengthen their own ethnic groups and agitate against minorities.
The consequence of this, says Tilde, is essentially “ethnic cleansing.”
For example, the Fulani recalled a bloodbath in Taraba state in June 2017, where around 200 people were massacred. For Major General Benjamin Ahanotu, there was no doubt that the goal was to wipe out the Fulani population.
In January it was announced that the Ministry of Justice had ordered the release of all suspects following the massacre. At the end of April, Governor Aminu Yaminu‘s assistant was arrested in neighboring Benue. Aminu, who is allegedly linked to the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, is accused of distributing thousands of rifles to the population.
The duty of states
Current approaches to solving the problem often target the state level. Tilde names Senegal and Mauritania as positive examples in this regard. “Such conflicts now do not exist because of the implementation of legal factors in place between the two countries,” says Tilde. Cattle herds have to be registered and cannot cross the border unnoticed. Alternate areas are designated for the cattle, so that they do not graze on farmland.
In Cameroon, the Fulani herdsmen have a better deal, says Usman Shehu, with full rights and obligations. The state receives taxes from the shepherds — but heavy penalties are imposed if their cattle are robbed or killed.
In Mali, action has begun with announcements. The government in Bamako condemned the incitement to ethnic hatred and threatened criminal prosecution accordingly. In Nigeria, a commission has been set up to deal with the conflicts. But experts still remain skeptical as to whether an improvement on the ground can really be achieved.