Taraba communal clashes: implication for 2015 elections

By Justin Tyopuusu

Taraba is in the news again negatively, this time around not battle for the soul of the state for who controls it or is in charge as was the case during the return of Governor Danbaba Suntai from medical trip abroad.
Today, Taraba is in the news negatively following killings, burning of houses, looting and maiming of Tiv people across south and central zones of the state. The carnage started in Ibi last year, then Takum took over and today all the four local governments in Taraba south as well as Gassol and Bali in the central zone are affected with grave consequences.

From then on, Tiv people wherever they are in the state became targets of the insurgents masquerading as Fulani herdsmen killing and burning houses of any Tiv man in sight.
From Takum to Wukari, Ibi to Gassol, Donga to Bali, thousands of Tiv people have been killed, displaced and their property looted in broad day light with little or no security intervention.

In what seems like a calculated attempt to destabilize the southern and central zones where Tiv people are the majority in Taraba State ahead of 2015 general elections, the Fulani who first seemed to be on a revenge mission on Tiv in the state after the federal government deployed soldiers in Benue to stop them from taking over the state, started attacking and killing Tiv people in Wukari and Ibi local governments.
While the state government was looking for ways of ending what the state Acting Governor, Alhaji Garba Umar, described as “a spillover of the crisis between Fulani herders and Tiv farmers in Benue, “the Fulanis extended their attacks on Tiv in neighbouringGassol local government, killing and burning their houses and invading their farms, opening their yam barns for their herds to feed on.

While these attacks were going on, there was no record of reprisal attack from the armless Tiv farmers and their Jukunneighbours whom they have lived peacefully with for quite some time now.
To the surprise of the Jukuns, Jibu was attacked, followed by Nwuko village near GidanIdi, seven persons were reportedly killed in Nwuko village attack alone while scores of others were injured.

The Nwuko attacked sparked reprisal in Wukari and four people were allegedly killed by Jukun youths who were said be protesting the killing of their people for no just course. The incidence was reported to have happened around Yam market area of the town.
Following this development in Wukari, the Fulani hired mercenaries in less than 6 hours, razed havoc on Wukari town killing and burning houses. But with the prompt response of government who deployed security and imposed a 24 hour curfew on the town, the situation was brought under control.

Following the imposition of a 24 hour curfew on Wukari, the assailants attacked GidinDorowa in Wukari local government before moving full scale to Bali and Gassol.
The final slap of attack on the Tiv community in Gassol that has went on record was the attack on Dinya on Saturday, May 10. No fewer than four people were killed in the attack.
Today, from what one sees when he travels through SabonGida-Dan Anacha, Chediya, Mahanga, Dorowa down to Wukari is to say the least inhuman and pitiable. Houses of the displaced Tiv people along the Wukari-Jalingo high way have been completely destroyed and their farms and burnt settlements’ taken over by the grazers.

In Bali, the situation is worst as people are being killed on a daily basis. The very day government forced a marriage of inconvenience on the Tiv, Fulani and the Jukuns in the palace of the AkuUka in Wukari, three people were killed in Jatau village of Bali local government by the Fulani herdsmen.
Two days on, nine people were killed at Kungana, six of them burnt alive in a house where they were taking refuge. On May 14, three people were killed in Maigoge and a Catholic Catechist macheted to death at Gazabu.
These attacks continued and Alagba, Igboor, Tavershima, UtsuaDaa and other villages came under heavy attack unchallenged.
Other settlements that came under attack were; BornoKurukuru, IgiyanRuwa and so many other settlements to mention just a few. Following the attacks, people taking refuge at Bali Legislative quarters have also deserted the quarters following security threats.
When these attacks will come to an end remains unknown as the attacks are growing more deadly and sophisticated by the day.
Implications for 2015 general elections and food security
It is expedient to note that the persistent killing of innocent lives and destruction of properties will not go down well with the social, political and economic well-being of the state.
For instance, it is not an exaggeration that the voting strength of the Southern and Central zones of Taraba state is the Tiv people and more than 50% of the food produced and consumed in Taraba is being produced by them.
But with the crisis in southern and central zones of the state, more than 90 percent of the Tiv populationhave left for safe havens, most of them taking refuge inneighbouring Benue state.
It is disheartening that the state government has turned a blind eye on the crisis and is doing everything possible to make the whole world believe that Taraba is peaceful.
Even though INEC has postponed distribution of permanent voters card and continuous voter registration exercise in areas affected by the crisis after stakeholders in the affected areas raised alarm, this will no doubt affect the 2015 general elections as it will take time for the people to return to their homes just as no one knows how soon the crisis will end.
This crisis is also coming at the peak of the planting season and obviously there is impending famine in Taraba as most farmers have fled their homes.
Agriculture experts say early planting of crops goes with better yields. In this wise, even if the crisis ends today and farming activities resume, which is still far from reality, they will never get a good yield this cropping season which is going to deal a deadly blow on the state in terms of food security.
The federal government should intervene by sending troops to the troubled spots in Taraba just as was done in the case of Benue when the Fulani were taking over the state to enable farmers and others return to their homes and continue with their normal lives.

Tyopuusu wrote from Jalingo