A Side Thought

I think the best intelligence gathering network in Nigeria is Miyetti Allah, the Fulbe cattle rearers association. With scores of thousands of Fulani cattle herders and their families moving all around the country as members of Miyetti Allah, these guys are the most reliable source of information on happenings in any area, no matter how remote for the news media it is..

Another advantage Miyetti Allah has is that its nomads usually can enter into places not even the Nigerian Army can. This is because Fulbe nomads are a close-knit society, you touch one and you have touched all. Thus usually no matter the issues the locals have with themselves, they usually leave the Fulbe and their cattle alone. Acting otherwise and attacking them usually unleashes an endless cycle of revenge with Fulbe nomads all the way from Darfur to Senegal mobilizing to come take revenge.

A good example is Jos. When the Hausa and the Beroms (backed by the Igbos) were busy killing themselves in the 2000s, the Fulani stayed aloof and neutral until some Berom who were Christian Evangelical fanatics attacked a Fulani settlement in Vom, Plateau State in November 2008 and killed over a hundred Fulbe women and kids. Then the Fulbe from all over, including places as diverse as Darfur and Guinea-Bissau began coming down to Plateau State, one clan or family at a time to carry out revenge attacks for that attack on their kin in Plateau State. Thus today the Fulanis who attack Berom villages in Plateau State are mostly those who just arrived in the state after migrating from such far away lands (Senegal, Darfur, Central Africa etc) to come avenge attacks by Berom on Fulbe settlements that occurred maybe 2-3 years ago (it takes time to trek on foot with cattle from Darfur). So normally you find nobody wants to mess with the Fulbe who when attack tend to keep taking revenge until they wipe out their enemy totally.

A second reason is that unless you want to stop eating beef, goat and ram, its advisable to not inconvenience or aggravate the Fulbe. They control the livestock trade in Nigeria because they are the only ones wiling to put up with the rigours of living a nomadic lifestyle..

So you find out that no matter the conflict, Fulbe nomads usually have access to areas otherwise closed off.

From what I know, Boko Haram has not attacked the Fulbe cattle-rearers and neither have they prevented them from migrating through routes inside insurgent-occupied territory. Apart from non-government employee/non-Christian indigenes of communities occupied by Boko Haram, Fulbe cattle rearers are the only ones who seem to be allowed to go in and out of occupied areas.

On another note, my next SITREP will be about the past failed advance by insurgent forces on Vimtim, Adamawa State.

I will also post a several part piece on Boko Haram organizational structure soon.

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19 thoughts on “A Side Thought

  1. Thank you for this truly insightful posting. Yes the true experts are those that are present and live with a reality we often struggle to comprehend. Boko Haram has not attacked “the Fulbe cattle-rearers and neither have they prevented them from migrating through routes inside insurgent-occupied territory”. Fulani hope you do mind me asking a few questions here:

    1) Which specific attacks are your referring to here: ” Fulanis who attack Berom villages in Plateau State are mostly those who just arrived in the state after migrating from such far away lands”
    2) Is the Fulanis acting in random attacks or are there any signs of an organised and planned campaign of violence? If the latter, is it possible to determine those taking lead in such attacks? and
    3) “Boko Haram has not attacked the Fulbe cattle-rearers and neither have they prevented them from migrating through routes inside insurgent-occupied territory.” – This is truly important – could there be collaboration at play like the Islamic State is using brigades to create a security vacuum and then only move in at the end to seize control? OR is this because of “fear”.

    jasmine

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    1. Jasmine,

      I will answer your questions one after the other.

      1. Any recent attack you hear of in Plateau State tagged with the Fulanis, know that it is not the local Fulanis or even Nigerian Fulanis that carried out such attacks. They have made temporary with the Beroms. Such recent attacks are carried out by Fulanis from far away lands who heard like a year or two or three ago that Jos Fulanis had been killed by the local tribes and simply began migrating with their clan and cattle to come avenge their kin in Plateau State. Like I said it takes time to trek all the way from Darfur or Kordofan to Plateau State. By the time they arrive the local Fulani and the Beroms have made their peace.

      However that peace doesn’t include the Fulani from other lands. Culturally it is the right of the Fulani man to take revenge for an action done against his kin anywhere in the world, irrespective if whether his kin and the attacker have made a peace pact.

      So usually you find if you attack the Fulani in an area and then you make a peace pact with them, the pact in reality only applies to them not attacking you, it doesn’t stop their kin coming from far off lands from attacking you in revenge for your initial attack on them

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      1. TinGirl

        I hope it’s okay to ask a few questions here.

        When the Fulani clans/families from distant places trek long distances (say a year or two) in order to attack a locale of a previous clash and arrive at the nearest Fulani settlement in order to get directions to the said locale, is the onus not on the nearby Fulani settlement leaders (families) to inform the newly arrived “avengers” that a peace pact has been made? Is it honorable in Fulani culture to sign a peace pact with your neighbor and still give his/her home address to a prospective assailant?

        As big, organized, connected and current as the Miyeti Allah is, is it impossible for them to be actively engaged in peace making in fulani/non-fulani clashes in such a way that previous locations of clashes where peace has been established will not be destabilized by avenging clans/families that are supposedly subservient to them?

        Lastly and more importantly, despite the fact that I think that the Fulanis should not be discouraged from the animal husbandry business that they are quite fond of, I am sincerely disappointed at the frequency and gruesomeness of Fulani/indigene clashes. (I happen to have witnessed a few lone incidents). As bad and widespread as this problem is, it is not without its solutions and I think the leaders of the Miyeti Allah are smart enough to know the solutions to such problems.In this age we live in, issues like these should not be occurring. Don’t you think so?

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      2. Miyetti Allah is just an association, it is more like a trade guild/political pressure group than an ethnic nationalist organization. It does not control the Fulani clans nor can it order them around. Fulani ties are based on blood and they place a big deal on helping one another and avenging their kin who have been oppressed. Whatever peace deal their kin sign doesn’t surpass the obligation on them to avenge the initial attack on their kin. Its a thing one may not completely understand unless one is a Ruga Fulani.

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      3. Well in the case of the herdsmen/farmers clashes, Miyetti Allah is doing its best to solve the root causes but it cannot do it all alone. The Federal Government pays lip service and makes speeches and press releases whenever such clashes erupt, yet lying in the files somewhere are plans for the establishment of National Grazing Reserves, developed since the 70’s and 80’s which no administration since then has saw fit to put into action despite promises to the contrary.

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    2. 2. When a war between the Fulani in area and a local community is hot, of course the fighting then is planned. But in the case of the attacks in Plateau State now, the attacks are not organized or planned in any form. Its usually a clan that arrives from one far away country after spending a year or some months migrating. They greet the local kin and obtain directions to where the aggressors reside, they attack them and kill as many as they can then their revenge concluded, they pick their cattle and head back to wherever they came from. Determining who they are is like trying to find a black needle in the darkest night in a haystack

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    3. 3. Boko Haram has no quarrel with the Fulbe nomads this is because the Fulbe nomads and travellers who are just passing through. The Fulbe in the towns e.g Michika and Bazza which in addition to the Higgi and Margi residents also have long established Fulani settlements , are a different matter as they are residents and fall under Boko Haram’s jurisdiction.

      Also, the Fulbe are simply not worth the trouble of Boko Haram attacking them. The only sort of collaboration is the buying of livestock that Boko Haram buys from Fulani herdsmen to feed their fighters in camps in the mountains. And this is because the Fulbe herdsmen have no bone in this Boko Haram War. It is not their war unless they get attacked by any of the parties. The Fulani nomads are neutral in any fight that flares up around them until they get attacked.. You don’t fight them they don’t fight you, you choose to attack them they will fight you until the last Fulani clan in the world has taken its revenge

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  2. How do you ascribe the safety of the Fulbe even in Boko Haram occupied areas to an intelligence network? You are only saying that EVERY ONE INCLUDING BOKO HARAM SHOULD FEAR A CLASH WITH THE FULBE IN BIEW OF CERTAIN REPRISAL SOMETIMES ENDLESS. I think differently. I think Miyetti Allah is a modern political organization of well informed Fulbe to which cattle rearers make contributions in return for such organized defence and reprisal. The Fulbe are dedicated in the payment of teamster dues hence Miyetti Allah is reach enough to raise mercenaries for a cause to any part of Africa.

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    1. When I said Miyetti Allah is (like) an intelligence network sir, I meant they are part of the few groups of persons in Nigeria who can say what is the true situation of things in areas where the average Nigerian, the average journalist or even Nigerian intelligence cannot easily have access to. I think if you should ask Saleh Bayeri today what’s the situation of things in Gwoza for example, he should have more information than most other sources because his members still take their cattle through their routes there. An intelligence network is an information network and like every association that has members including the NMA and NUJ, Miyetti Allah’s member see things and hear things in the course of their daily activities and they discuss amongst themselves which is only normal.

      I only included the part of traditional Fulbe kinship and brotherhood that makes them take endless revenge if one is touched, to explain why despite the conflict everyone considers it best to leave the Fulbe and their cattle alone

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  3. Fola

    What incentives can the government offer to groups like the Miyetti Allah or even the Fulbe group for timely Intel on Boko Haram activities? Presumably, the Miyetti Allah/Fulbe group would want a victory for Nigeria in this fight as a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria enhances their own economic interest.

    At this point, I believe all options, constitutional though, should be considered to end this war. Perhaps an embargo on the Fulbe activities in BH controlled areas aimed at denying BH access to livestock and accruable revenue from such activities.

    What practical steps can government take to contain/end the endless cycle of “revenge killings”?

    Your thoughts will be appreciated.

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    1. Again.. Trying to force the Fulbe to give up their good pasture routes must be in return for provision of even better grazing lands… If not it would be unnecessary trouble making against the nomads who have made it clear they have no bone in this fight

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  4. abbas

    Fulani

    I hope you speak hausa and if you do, consider the following piece that was culled from a BBC Hausa report on 10 July 2014:

    “wani jagoran al’ummar fulani ya shaida wa BBC cewar wasu ‘yan bindiga sun sace matan Fulani 40 a wata ruga da ke kusa da garin Chibok na jihar Borno a Nigeria. Shugaban wanda baya son a bayyana sunansa, ya ce ‘yan Boko Haram ne suka sa ce matan a ranar Asabar.”

    I am not aware of any reprisals against Boko Haram since then.

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    1. Toh. I remember seeing a report some time back in August I think, about Fulani hunters killing some Boko Haram fighters in the Sambisa Reserve area..

      Again probably the Fulani and the Boko Haram sect responsible came to an understanding ensured by the Boko Haram paying compensation and apologizing.

      Remember after the Vom attack in their kinsmen, the Fulbe made a list of demands Plateau State Government and the Berom should meet to prevent them declaring internal vengeance for the unprovoked attack on their settlement. This included the payment of billions of naira blood money compensation for their thousands of cattle and their family members that were savagely slaughtered. Jonah Jang refused to apologized and retorted with a “who the hell do they think they are” speech. The Fulbe went to war and now Jang is begging the locals to stop their far flung kinsmen from coming to exact the painful revenge that they promised if they were not compensated and apologized to for the unprovoked attack.

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  5. abbas

    Indeed, I agree. Whoever touches one Fulani person should prepare to contend with every member of the population on earth. They are the only people I know, who will distribute “goron fada” to every mature male, from Guinea Conakry to Sudan and from the deserts of Algeria to Central Africa. And, if you do not honour the invitation, you are classified with the highest crime among the Fulbe, cowardice, which means you will not get a wife and have become the object of ridicule. The Shekau faction may therefore have chosen a sensible path.

    Revenge among the Fulbe is however, not for ever as the Kanuri and Tiv people will attest to. Perhaps in time, the Berom will become playmates.

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  6. fullo

    I am a proud fullo lady who westernization has painfully cut me out of my heritage.
    But as I will always have to explain to my colleagues that if only the Nigerian government would try to see to it that the rights of the fulani herds men were were not over looked. Nigeria will b 1 of the most peacefull places in Africa.
    It is 1 thing to b a fullo but upholding d virtures of pulaku and also although a little bit cut out with our cultural values we still support d stand of who ever touches a fulani person should b ready to contend with the whole clan @ large.
    With the tiniest contribution of awareness we try to give on our part and more of prayers. More grease to our elbows for ” bandigu kawtal pulaku denbo tiddo yiddaa do”
    Allah wallu en do khairu…Amina.

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