Africa farmlands are becoming conflict zone: a war caused by the wealthy political elite for the poor local farmers and nomad herdsmen. This deadly conflict has rendered thousands and communities displaced. Lives have been lost and millions of properties destroyed. Herdsmen are becoming what one could only but imagined watching war movies.
How do you explain when herdsmen are moving with AK 47 assault riffle in local communities? Sometimes I begin to reason why? If cowboy in America translate to herdsmen in Nigeria, so I can relate to some movies I did watched. But I have watched America movies and saw how cowboys at ranches behaves and relate. Noticed that those ranches are private businesses and not Government. Then I am wondering what is taking Nigeria Government into proposing of making ranches for herdsmen?
The immediate question on your mind I know is, where and how did nomads-herdsmen got AK47 assault riffle from? You will ordinarily say it is out of proliferation of small arms especially in West Africa: where war and violence is characterized for years. Could it be out of porosity of our borders? Or that ECOWAS are not serious about what is happening in their region? Ask them and not me, ask them where did herdsmen get money to purchase guns and riffles across the coast? Or don’t they know those involved in black market armory? It will amazed you that no body will answer you. You know why? Those that suppose to give answers to your questions are the owners of the cattle, herdsmen tend to. They are called strong men by our society. You see, owners of cattle's in West Africa coast are wealthy elite, and mostly political office holders. Herdsmen are the pipers and take orders from those that pays them to tend. Can’t you see herdsmen attack as script play out? And if you care to know the author of the script? I’ve just told you. That is why you see the boldness herdsmen have in carrying out attack and deadly retaliation in communities they barely know. That is why attack is always successful without arrest and prosecution. They are covered up by the powerful and owners of cattle’s. This I wouldn’t lie.
Taking a look at the conflict curve in West Africa zone, and to determine the root cause of this conflict, when herdsmen tend for their animals, moving from place to place in search for grazing zones. These grazing zones are green vegetation in forest and farmlands. And farmlands are where farmers plant their crops in anticipation for yields. And as herdsmen migrate with their cattle’s they trampled knowingly or unknowingly and graze on farmer’s crops. And because of their illiteracy, they are unable to identify crops from grass, and or control the movement of their animals. Therefore, this is a challenge to food security. I see this conflict threatening Goal 2 of SDG to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture if allowed to continue. What I do know is that nomad herdsmen are poor, peaceful and majorly illiterate shepherds. Their actions are directed by poverty and nothing less.
Local farmers on the other side are poor too, yet peaceful and majorly rural dweller and illiterate too. Their livelihood is depended on farm yield. Their actions are guided by poverty. Farming in local Africa setting is laborious. Laborious to the extent that anything that threatens crop yield is enemy for attack. So therefore, whenever herdsmen destroy farmlands, farmers react dangerously and attack any available or seen herdsmen as if he’s one responsible for the farm destruction. When farmers attack herdsmen, they usually manhandled herdsmen and loot their cattle’s away as compensation.
To herdsmen, losing a cow is far better than killing him. One cow’ value means much more than a thousand lives. And because of their affinity to animals, herdsmen don’t know how to forgive anyone who carts away his flock. When they are on search for recovery of lost flocks, it is usually led as retaliation on farmers. They mobilize and attack communities within the farmlands where their cattle’s was/were looted. The attack usually happens at midnight or at dawn. The attack is always deadly, as they kill any and I mean any living thing within the targeted attacked communities. And burn down the communities.
It doesn’t end there, at unannounced intervals will they re-attack the communities again and again at their whim and caprice without any security resistance, counter, arrest or prosecution. This senseless attack has left poor farmers helpless. Farmlands in rural communities in West Africa are becoming the most fearful zone to go to. Farmers have begun to fortify selves with guns in self defense.
Herdsmen are mainly Fulani’s, predominately found across West Africa and Central Africa. In Nigeria, they are from the Northern part of the country migrating to the southern part. Fulani herdsmen were known with staff/sticks as guiding tools to control their animals. But lately, they have gone fortified with guns, and claim that the reason is for self defense against wild animals as they migrate, and otherwise against farmers who attack them.
Though in Nigeria their Association/union have disassociated themselves from all the attacks/atrocities carried out by herdsmen, and lay it on migrating herdsmen from West Africa countries. They have assured Nigerians that they are not terrorist group. But that is hard to believe to my mind. According to 2015 Global Terrorism Index, Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria are rated 4th deadliest group in the world. But somehow, the last time I visited a community attacked by Fulani herdsmen, I had believed the report.
Nigeria Government has shown concerned about this conflict without knowing exactly what the solution is. They have put in place machinery to buy and plant grasses as ranching areas. But is that not misplacement? Cattle rearing are private business and I wonder what Government got to do with it? Or is it because the owners of these cattle as rich men within themselves? Why wouldn’t the owners of cattle be responsible enough to provide a ranch for their businesses? I ask if these cattles were owned by the poor, would Nigeria Government have been this speedy and willing to provide ranches for the cattle at all cost ? I tell no, they wouldn’t. But they are, because of their interest and that of the ones that own these cows. It is still hanky panky game. I weep for Africa!