World View: Killing of Two Priests Escalates Farmer-Herder Conflict in Benue State, Nigeria

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Killing of two priests escalates farmer-herder conflict in Benue State, Nigeria
  • News of revenge attacks by farmers criticized as fake news
  • Israel, Iran, and Syria exchange fire in first direct military confrontation

Killing of two priests escalates farmer-herder conflict in Benue State, Nigeria

Nigerian Police
Nigerian Police

A prototypical conflict between herders and farmers in central Nigeria has suddenly escalated in a sectarian manner with the killing of two Catholic priests, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, and other worshippers on April 24. The attack occurred in the town of Mbalom, just south of Makurdi, the capital city of Benue State in Nigeria.

I have written many times that many ethnic wars are based on fundamental clashes between farmer tribes and herder tribes. In country after country, there a classic and recurring battle between herders and farmers. I have described it in Central African Republic, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and even America in the 1800s. The farmers accuse the herders of letting the cattle eat their crops, while the herders accuse the farmers of planting on land that is meant for grazing. If the farmers put up fences, then the herders knock them down.

In Nigeria’s Benue State, the herders are mostly Muslims from the Fulani tribe. Farmers are mostly Christians from a number of tribes, including the Tiv, Mambila and Bachama tribes. The continuing tit-for-tat violence between herders and farmers in Benue State has already killed thousands of people and left tens of thousands homeless.

So the April 24 murder of the priests and worshippers was immediately blamed by the public and the media on Muslim Fulani herders, but to this day there is no solid evidence that the gunmen were Fulanis. In fact, the assailants took money, valuables and communion wine, suggesting that the motive was robbery rather than gaining farmland. Vanguard (Nigeria, 24-Apr) and Anglican News

News of revenge attacks by farmers criticized as fake news

Three days later, a Nigerian newspaper, the Daily Trust, reported on revenge attacks by Christian farmers from the Tiv tribe on ethnic Hausas in the Benue State capital city Makurdi.

A Hausa community leader was quoted as wondering why Tiv farmers would target Hausa people, since they were not the herders who allegedly attacked the priests:

Last Tuesday, we saw our people running helter-skelter in the city that they brought the corpses of Church priests that were killed at Dukwayango village and then suddenly Tiv youth started attacking our people. As I am talking to you they have killed over eight people, over 20 sustained injuries and several shops were razed while over eleven people were missing.

We are not farmers, we don’t rear animals. We are just traders. These things happened in villages and in the bushes. Why are Tiv youth killing our people?

The chief Imam of a mosque in Makurdi told the BBC Hausa service that he personally saw the corpses of 27 victims at the teaching hospital in Makurdi. He said while many were injured, some were burnt.

However, some community groups are condemning as lies the claims that Tiv farmers attacked Hausa people in Benue, and say that the purpose of the lies is to promote sectarian violence:

It is a tissue of lies and falsehood concocted to profile the Tiv youth in bad light.

We consider the said story as part of the well planned agenda by our traducers to change the narrative in the state. … The same report went on to claim that more than 10 Muslims were killed and 11 others missing in the state as from the reprisals following the attack on St. Ignatius Quasi Parish in Mbalom.


It is completely fake news. The statement by the Police further said such was nothing but falsehood, believably meant to cause break down of law and order in the State.

All that is really certain is that ethnic violence in central Nigeria, which has been growing for several years, continues to grow. Daily Trust (Nigeria, 27-Apr) and Independent (Nigeria) and Guardian (Nigeria)

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Israel, Iran, and Syria exchange fire in first direct military confrontation

As this is being written on Wednesday evening ET, there is news of missile and artillery exchanges in Syria and in and around the Golan Heights, as well as airstrikes by Israel’s air force.

Israel has struck Iranian missile depots and other Iranian military targets in Syria several times in the last few weeks, promising to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from building up a force capable of attacking Syria.

For several weeks, Israel has been stepping up its military forces on the border with Lebanon, in anticipation of a retaliatory strike on Israel by Iran. That Iranian attack has apparently happened, and there have been several hours of artillery exchanges over the Golan Heights that are continuing at this writing.

The Israeli attacks on Syria have been more intense than they were in the past. There are reports that the city of Damascus is without power. At least 20 heavy rockets have been fired from Syria at Israeli forces, but there are no reports yet of Israeli damage or casualties. Reuters and Washington Post and AFP and BBC

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Nigeria, Benue State, Makurdi, Mbalom, Joseph Gor, Felix Tyolaha, Fulani tribe, Hausa tribe, Tiv tribe, Mambila tribe, Bachama tribe, Israel, Iran, Syria, Golan heights, Lebanon
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