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?