Getting it right in crisis response and conflict-related information management requires the application of modern-day technology such as satellites and geographic information systems (GIS) for analysis and reporting. I’m a firm believer in the huge potential of technology-driven information and communication strategy as a means to improve crisis response, manage early warning signals and post-conflict peace building. If properly managed, it would provide access to critical, real time information for crucial decision-making in crisis situation.
Kaduna state, the former capital of northern Nigeria, has since 1982, witnessed series of violent conflicts with some lasting several days leading to loss of lives and property worth millions of Naira. These conflicts are traceable to historical grievances bordering on ethno-religious factors, politico-economic struggles over limited resources and access to power, mismanagement of resources and massive unemployment, which continually provoked violent crisis in the last three decades such as the Kasuwan Magani riots of 1982.
Other such conflicts include the Zagon Kataf crisis, which was ignited by a controversy surrounding a local market between the Hausa and the Kataf. There were also the Kafanchan College of Education Muslim-Christian riots and the Kaduna Polytechnic Muslim-Christian skirmishes (1981). In1999, the Christian population in Jema’a rejected the award of a first class chieftaincy title to the Hausa/Fulani emirate council, sparking off a violent confrontation, which came to be known as Jemaá Emirate Tussle.
One of the drivers of conflicts in Southern Kaduna is the constant clash between farmers and Fulani herdsmen over decline and marginal natural resources. For many years, the federal and state governments have established various committees of inquiries with the aim of addressing the causes of such lingering conflicts. So far, the government’s effort has only achieved negligible results. However, some of the key stakeholders in the affected communities identified lack of synergy and coordination between different institutions of government at all levels, lack of political will in the implementation of inquiry recommendations and ineffective management of early warning system as the main reasons why these crises persist.
In southern Kaduna, the struggle over control of economically viable areas causes more tensions and violent conflicts among communities. As pastoralists and farmers have coexisted for a long time, the complexities over the land-use system have dramatically changed, thus become the dependent variable in conflicts between these groups.
Demographically, it has been observed that, as the population grows, more land is being cultivated and less is available for pasture; forcing Fulani to migrate with their cattle trampling on crops cultivated by farmers, which results in violent confrontations. In order to develop an effective, efficient and acceptable system for managing these conflicts, there is the need to entrench sincere commitment, transparency, open communication and accountability in the process of resolving conflict between farmers and the Fulani herders.
In promoting peaceful coexistence among the farmers and Fulani in agrarian community of Kaduna state, there is need to have a good understanding of the peculiarities of the three geopolitical zones in the state. For instance, the ‘Southern Kaduna’ is mostly inhabited by indigenous Christian communities, and in comparison to zones one and two, it has a fertile environment for cultivation and food production. Over the years, thousands of migrants and businessmen, including herdsmen and pastoralists have migrated to the southern zone, looking for greener pastures and a better environment for cultivation.
The entrenched value that the Fulani herdsmen attach to the survival of their cattle coupled with the desire of the farmers to protect their plantation makes violence between the two groups almost inevitable . However, something needs to be done in order to shift the paradigm. For instance, for better coordination and management there is need for the state to map-out how many ‘Rugga’ (Fulani settlements) are in the state according to the three geopolitical zones and establish local and zonal grazing lands. The ‘Rugga Census’ should be done annually for the sake of having a clear picture of trends in population and locations.
Secondly, the state needs to establish a Technology-Driven Peace Situation Room – TDPSR, to be managed independently by a neutral body deploying the use of modern technology for reporting and managing information with GPRS/GIS from the affected and vulnerable communities. This would make it possible to send early warning signals to the central coordinating unit of the situation room for further immediate action. This is quite possible to urgently implement given the pervasiveness of information technology and its easy accessibility.
The challenge faced by previous initiatives in bringing an end to the farmers-herders clashes was lack of synergy and coordination between different institutions of government at all levels and lack of political will in developing strategic framework in understanding and mitigating different types of conflicts between the Fulani pastoralists and farmers in Northern Nigeria. It must be stressed too that conflicts on access and control of natural resources varies in form and intensity from one community to another just as other social and economic factors continue to provoke violent conflicts among the Fulani pastoralists and farmers.
As Farmers continuously encroach into grazing routes, they leave the Fulani with no other choice than to seek every possible alternative to ensure the survival of their cattle including herding their animals into farmlands. However, partnership and inclusiveness is a source of strength in peace building and conflict resolution. Also, the openness and commitment of community members to jointly discuss problems of common interest and develop action plans towards resolving conflict is paramount.
Mr. Mohammed can be reached at [email protected]