Bishop labels killing of Christian farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt ‘calculated genocide’

IN A STATEMENT presented at a Dec. 17 hearing on Capitol Hill, Bishop William Avenya of Gboko—in  the heart of Nigeria’s Middle Belt—told members of the House  Foreign Affairs Committee and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that the ongoing “mass slaughter of Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt” by Fulani herdsmen “meets the criteria of calculated genocide” in accord with the “Genocide Convention as ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’” He also condemned the government’s failure to stem the violence, which has killed thousands of Christians.

A Fulani herdsman

“Since the consistent attacks began some five years ago, there has hardly been a single day gone without killing in one part of the region or the other,” Bishop Avenya told the hearing on “atrocities and mass killings in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.” With the Fulani being largely Muslim, the bishop spoke of the “high probability that the killings have a religious undertone,” saying that “the targeted victims give a clear index to the religious connotation of the carnage.”

The bishop added that “interestingly, no one has ever been arrested or questioned or prosecuted or convicted of any charge relating to this spree of killings. Yet, these killers are not invisible, neither are they unknown. Instead, these atrocities are made to look as though they were ethnic or communal clashes.”

He charged that the “absolute impunity and unchallenged audacity with which these acts are committed creates a feeling that it is a premeditated and pre-planned onslaught on the targeted populations and regions.” The bishop continued: “It appears that the system has not only permitted but it is also aiding the enthronement of supremacy views of one religious group against the others.

“It appears as though what is happening here is part of a grand conspiracy. Our national government has not shown convincing signs of real commitment to end the carnage. In fact, its complacency makes it additionally difficult for any critical mind to exonerate it of any possible involvement.”

The bishop called on US lawmakers to “project the reality and degree of our groans to the world. Even if nothing is done, at least it will be on record that we cried out for help but the world was negligent of our  groaning.”

—Joop Koopman