THE ETHNO-RELIGIOUS DIMENSIONS OF THE PLATEAU CRISIS

Plateau State, over the years, has been a hotspot for ethnic-religious conflicts due to various religious and cultural identities. These conflicts result from societal imbalances between groups like the Berom farming localities and Fulani herders. Territorial possessions in this fertile zone emerged as conflict grounds driving rivalry among locals. Various ethnic groups, consisting of Berom, Fulani, and Hausa largely fraternised under religious groupings majorly Christianity and Islam.

Ethno-religious Dynamics

The majority of the violence recorded in the state is mostly attributed to either religious or ethnic dimensions and at times a combination of both This includes recurrent attacks between groups leaving hundreds displaced. Conflicts over resources such as land and water fueled by perceptions of marginalization and the quest for power and control have exacerbated these issues. The turning point was the massive violence in the state capital Jos in September 2001 (commonly referred to as the Jos crisis) which claimed around 1,000 lives. 

Challenges Associated with the Violence

Identifying the perpetrators of the attacks poses one of the most challenging obstacles in addressing the violence. Currently, there are no established groups or militias with a recognized organizational structure. No individual or entity has come forward to openly claim responsibility for the violence. While various organizations representing diverse political, economic, and social interests exist across the state, they do not publicly endorse or advocate violence.

The Christmas Eve massacre of 2023 in Bokkos and Mangu attests to the conflict’s enduring brutality. During the attack, more than 160 Villages (44 in Bokkos, 11 in Barkin Ladi and 109 in Mangu LGA respectively) were overrun by unknown attackers, resulting in over 409 houses burnt down, 335 deaths, 171 injured with an estimated 18,275 people fleeing from their homes to seek refuge in other parts of the state and neighbouring environs.

A density map highlighting local government areas where Ethno-religious violence has been recorded in Plateau State from January 2022 to January 2024 Source: Bulwark Intelligence Database

Way Forward
To tackle the challenges arising from ethnic and religious differences in Plateau State, it is important to adopt a comprehensive approach. This includes facilitating dialogue among diverse groups, promoting mutual respect for different backgrounds, and effectively resolving conflicts. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens, improve governance, and promote inclusive growth.

Guidance from religious and community leaders, along with support from advocacy groups committed to the well-being of the community, plays a pivotal role in establishing trust, promoting tolerance, and cultivating a peaceful atmosphere. Joint initiatives that bring together government agencies and civil society organizations are essential for creating a setting conducive to open dialogue, mutual understanding, and reconciliation.

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