According to Nigerian sources, the Fulbe bandits were also in possession of G3 assault rifles. Symbolic image: Edmond HUET. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Heavily armed Fulbe gangs have dismissed Boko Haram as a major threat
On 26. During a visit to the residents of the Sabon Birni district on May 1, the governor of the Nigerian state of Sokoto personally ared them that the situation was under control. Only hours later, heavily armed men on motorcycles attacked five villages in the district, killing 74 people.
The perpetrators are believed to be members of gangs living in camps in the Isah forest. These camps were cleared by the Nigerian army yesterday, leaving nearly 400 bandits dead, according to its Major General John Enenche. They are compared to about 550 people who died in raids and kidnappings in the region in May 2020 alone, according to International Crisis Group figures. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International, thousands of people have been killed in Nigeria in recent years.
The gangs that commit these acts are recruited from one ethnic group in particular: the Fulbe. According to the former head of the district government, Idris Gobir, the representatives of the robbers who terrorized Sabon Birni from the Isah forest also spoke Fulfulde or Hausa with a clear Fulbe accent and were easily recognizable by their appearance as members of this ethnic group.
Not without political and economic power
The Fulbe, despite their overall rough numbers of up to 25 million, are in the minority in all 18 African states where they settle. However, especially in Nigeria, they are not without political and economic power. Among others, the current president Muhammadu Buhari and the former heads of state Shehu Shagari and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua come from the Fulbe aristocracy.
This is one of the reasons why the Nigerian media sometimes accuse the Fulbe gangs of not being dealt with decisively enough. Amnesties, which were ied in large numbers last year, did not meet with undivided approval, nor did the ruga settlements, with which the government sought to defuse land disputes. Ruga stands for "Rural Grazing Area", but is also the Hausa word for the Fulbe cattle breeders for whom these settlements are established.
The dispute between farmers and herders, which has been known since the Bible, is considered an important cause of conflicts and massacres committed by the Fulbe in recent times, not only against Christian ethnic groups such as the Berom (cf. Fulbe genocide against Berom), but also against Muslim groups such as the Hausa (cf. Nigeria: Fulbe dead at least 69 Hausa).
The ethnic and economic conflict also has a religious component: The almost exclusively Muslim Fulbe cattle breeders spread throughout the countries of the Sahel in the 18th century. and 19. The Fulbe Jihad, as it was called, spread in the nineteenth century, during which they founded several empires, including the Sokoto Caliphate in Nigeria, Massina, which stretched from present-day Mali to Burkina Faso, Futa Jalon in Guinea, and Futa Toro in Senegal and Mauritania. The awareness of once being the religiously legitimized masters in all these areas still lingers today.
Not only in Nigeria, but also in Mali, where in addition there is a jihadist Fulbe preacher named Amadou Diallo alias "Amadou Koufa" who conquered the north of the country in 2012 with the Ansar Dine terrorist group (dominated by Arabs and Tuareg). When the Salafist state of God established there disappeared again after the invasion of the former French colonial power in 2013, Koufa turned increasingly to his own ethnic group, among whom he found numerous new supporters (cf. When the state radio confuses the people). Meanwhile, Fulbe jihadists there are also massacring Imghad Tuaregs, whom they accuse of collaborating with the French.
Things are going a little better with the Fulbe in Senegal and Mauritania. Observers link this to measures such as compulsory registration of cattle herds, for which not the shepherds but the authorities select new grazing areas when old ones are grazed out. This is to prevent the Fulbe from going the way of their forefathers and simply taking the land of arable farmers.
Despite the openness of many Fulbe to Islamist ideologies, their relationship with the Nigerian Boko Haram is not free of tension. Last winter, the terrorist group even carried out a bloodbath against the ethnic group in the village of Fuhe on the border with Cameroon (cf. Nigeria: Now Boko Haram Massacres Fulbe Too). Although the jihadist militia has lost considerable importance in Nigeria, it has not yet been defeated: In mid-May, it killed 20 villagers in Gajiganna, Borno state. Unlike in the past, however, this massacre was no longer carried out with deportations, arsons and beheadings on the spot, but with missiles from afar.