Systematic violence against Nigerian Christians by Fulani herdsmen constitutes genocide, according to a leading Catholic bishop who stressed that Muslims are also falling foul of the violence.
Following the kidnapping and deliberate execution on July 23 of five aid workers by Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he believed the recent violence was genocidal in nature.
When asked whether he agreed that that Fulani killings of Christians can be categorized as genocide according to international law, he said: “I believe so.” He added that Muslims were also victims of the violence: “These killings are not to be narrowed down to Christians because they have been far worse in the predominantly
Muslim north in such states as Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara.”
ISWAP released a video of the five aid workers being executed, three of whom were reportedly Christian, as a warning to “all those being used by ‘infidels’ to convert Muslims to Christianity.”
Nigeria: an epicentre of terrorism
Bishop Kukah said “there is no dispute at all” that Nigeria is a largely failed state. “It has been an old secret. It has failed its people but the oil companies are still making a kill on the carcass,” he said and then continued “the evidence is there for all to see” – Nigeria is an epicentre of terrorism in the region.
Bishop Kukah suggested the government is complicit in the violence. “There are multiple levels of funding and, with time, terrorism has been able to fund itself by criminality, violence, kidnappings and it is feared that government may be funding these groups inadvertently largely because they have penetrated the security agencies,” said the bishop. “Governments have also paid huge sums of money for ransom and also ostensibly placate the terrorists, rescue kidnapped citizens, and so on.” He added: “The inefficiency of the military has made the terrorists bolder and there are also issues of the complicity of the various levels of the military.” Bishop Kukah criticized Western powers that have not done more to help Nigeria. “We hear promises from the United States and Europe and they all come to nothing,” he stated.
Bishop Kukah’s remarks echoed the findings of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief’s report called “Nigeria – Unfolding Genocide?’ released in June.