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Project December 11, 2018

Building Peace in Plateau State, Nigeria

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Media file: hahn_wapo_nigeria_vigilantes_03-2.jpg
Barkin Ladi, Jos, Nigeria- The remains of a church in Garwaza Village in Barkin Ladi, Nigeria on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. Villagers were warned of the attack by Fulani members of their community before the attacked on June 23, 2018 by masked gunmen speaking in Hausa, leading many in the community to believe that they were Fulani. Most of the 2000 villagers fled to neighboring Tenti-Babba town where they remain displaced.Over one thousand people have lost their lives this year due to an ongoing conflict between farmers and herders. The current crisis reflects the country's woes from over-population, poverty and climate change to religious division and ethnic favoritism. Growing animosity between ethnic groups coupled with a lack of security has fomented this increase in violence in recent years. Despite the divisive chaos engulfing the Middle Belt of Nigeria, a group of multi-ethnic men and women, part of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, are providing much needed security and trust to all groups affected by the conflict.

A decades-long battle over territory between herders and farmers in Central Nigeria has escalated exponentially with more than 1,000 deaths since January 2018. Growing animosity between ethnic groups coupled with lack of security has fomented this increase in violence in recent years. Inaccurate and biased reporting by local media has created a public frenzy against the predominantly Muslim Fulani herders. This media fervor encourages people to call the crisis a religious war against the mainly Christian farmers and to politicize the crisis ahead of next years elections.

Despite the divisive chaos engulfing the Middle Belt, a small group of multi-ethnic men, including those from the clashing Fulani and Berom (largely Christian) tribes, have joined together to form the 'Vigilante Group of Nigeria'. Together they are intermediaries for all victims—no matter their creed—as trust between different ethnic groups and security forces is non existent. These men, who have received training and equipment from Nigerian security forces, are a prime example that all ethnicities and religions can work together to find peace countering dangerous narratives that have engulfed not only Nigeria, but also the world.

The current crisis reflects the country's woes from overpopulation, poverty, and climate change to religious division and ethnic favoritism. To what extent can these men succeed in stemming this worsening crisis? Can they stand as an example to others that people can rise above their differences and work together towards peace?

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