Clashes Between Nigerian Farmers and Herders Have Killed Thousands, Amnesty Says

(Bloomberg) -- Clashes between Nigerian farmers and herders killed at least 3,641 people in the past three years, with more than half of the deaths occurring in 2018, Amnesty International said.

The London-based human rights organization blamed the escalation in the conflict on the authorities’ failure to investigate the violence or prosecute perpetrators, according to the report on its website. The study was based on 262 interviews and 230 documents, including medical records and military reports, it said.

“The authorities’ lethargy has allowed impunity to flourish and the killings to spread to many parts of the country, inflicting greater suffering on communities who already live in constant fear of the next attack,” Amnesty’s Nigeria director, Osai Ojigho, said in the report released on Monday.

The army condemned the report and accused Amnesty’s Nigerian branch of trying to destabilize the nation. A presidential spokesman said he was still studying the report.

“Nigerians should be wary of Amnesty International (Nigeria) because its goals are to destabilize Nigeria and to dismember it,” army spokesman Sani Usman said in an emailed statement. “The Nigerian Army has no option than to call for the closure of Amnesty International offices in Nigeria, if such recklessness continues.”

The conflict has worsened in recent years as the Sahara desert advances southward, pushing herders who traditionally grazed cattle in the semi-arid Sahel zone into central and southern Nigeria to find pasture, where they clash with farming communities. Most herders are Muslim and ethnic Fulanis, while farmers are predominantly Christian, adding an ethnic and religious dimension to the conflict.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.