Work in Progress
Hunted: The Herdsmen Crisis
Location: Southern Kaduna, Nigeria.
Category: Documentary Photography, Research
This on-going documentary work is a quest to understanding and telling the story of the crisis which involves alleged killings by Fulani herdsmen in the southern Kaduna region. There is no denying the crisis is multi-layered and not devoid of religious, political and economic influences. I have instead turned my gaze to re-imaging the story by engaging the survivors of the attacks, the victims and community members in collecting individual accounts and using this as a point of peeling the complex layers built like a shell around the situation. The crisis could also be traced to other areas in the middle-belt zone of northern Nigeria like Benue, Plateau, and other parts of Taraba, and Nasarawa states.
On one hand, the crisis is often simplified in some quarters as mere misunderstandings between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers in host communities, while others have viewed it as part of a larger campaign and agenda for land grabbing and establishment of grazing reserves across the country. At the same time, some citizens postulate there is an agenda to Islamize the country by the northern oligarchy and the herdsmen are seen as ground troops in this crusade. While all of these schools of thought are seeking validity for their positions, what cannot be neglected is what those directly affected by the crisis are saying.
The project is research based and my methodology has a parallel with a saying by the Takad people, one of the over 50 ethnic tribes in southern Kaduna, “Achio tu’wu wa liyen ufu dan tu’wu Ntiyong’l” which loosely translates as “a problem can only be known by the person affected”. I began my data collection process via conversations with royal chiefs, district heads, village heads, and members of the communities, families of victims and survivors of the attacks. I also collected archive images from the communities and the level of destruction and the barbaric nature of the killings, rape, slaughtering, arson, robbery, seen in the images of the corpses, gives some insight into the mindset and playbook of the attackers. Over a thousand people have been killed since the crisis got escalated in 2013 with hundreds of properties, schools and churches also destroyed. Without any internally displaced camps in the crisis zones, most displaced people have had to be accommodated by friends, and people from neighbouring villages.
As the identity of the perpetrators of these attacks remain unknown and with no visible solution in sight, the people are now left with mental scars from these crises. Though tensions have reduced from the level of the 2013-2014 episodes, self-organized local vigilantes by members of the communities on the hills and in the plains have played a significant role in providing some level of security and defense for the people which has helped in de-escalating the crisis. Despite all of these, there still exists pockets of attacks that pop up periodically in different neighborhoods and the people of southern Kaduna still remain hunted.