Ranchers & farmers clash in Igboland

The Mothers’ Union of the Diocese of Enugu North marched on the state capital in the Southeastern Nigerian state demanding the government protect rural women from an epidemic of rape and violence. A statement released by the diocesan press officer said women “whose main occupation is subsistence farming, can no longer venture into distant farms alone for fear of being raped and/or killed by Fulani herdsmen who have virtually taken over their farms.” Historically farmers and pastoralists enjoyed a symbiotic relationship in Nigeria, with settled patterns of cattle migration through agricultural areas. However the growth in land put to the plough coupled with an influx of herders escaping deteriorating environmental conditions in the Sahel, a semiarid belt of territory stretching from Senegal to the Red Sea, has led to confrontations between the Muslim Fulani cattle herders and the Christian farmers. The breakdown of law and order in rural Nigeria has also led to the Fulani arming themselves in response to criminal gangs targeting the herds. According to Nigerian media reports thieves stole 60,000 cattle from the Fulani in 2013. The tensions between ranchers and farmers has turned increasingly violent. Human Rights Watch reported that from December 2013 to mid-April 2014 over 1000 people were killed in the clashes, and over 10,000 killed in clashes since 1992. On 20 Oct 2015, several hundred members of the Mothers’ Union led by the wife of the bishop, Mrs. Achogaonye Eze, marched upon the state legislature in Enugu demanding the government protect women. She told the rally: “Women are daily being molested, maimed and raped while their farmland and livestock are routinely destroyed … unless the government at state and federal levels rise to the duty of protecting defenceless citizens, the herdsmen will continue to put women in Igboland in grave danger”.

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