The advent of clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers across West Africa continues to be one of the most troubling security developments in the region alongside terrorist attacks and political violence. A sociopolitical consulting firm, SBM Intelligence, has recorded that over 389 clashes between herdsmen and farming communities between 1997 and 2016 has resulted in the death of thousands, with hundreds of others misplaced especially in Nigeria and Ghana alone.
Who are these Fulani herdsmen? These are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group which expands across West Africa tracing back to the Fulani jihad of Sheikh Othman Dan Fodio of the early 19th century.
According to news reports from Quartz Africa, these clashes, which used to happen mostly in these countries’ northern areas, are feared to have increased mainly due to the “desertification of nomadic grazing land in those areas which are traditional cattle-rearing territories, overgrazing and lower rainfall.” Such environmental factors have convulsed their livelihoods, prompting these nomadic herdsmen to migrate “farther and farther south in search of grass and water for their herd,” where they encroach on farm lands and property.
In Nigeria alone, pockets of attacks happen across major states – a development documented to be costing the nation’s economy $14 billion annually in addition to hundreds of deaths and displacements.
In Ghana, the question of whether or not to evict the Fulani herdsmen has not only become a diplomatic dilemma but also a political debate, especially as the West African state prepares for its presidential elections in November. In the wake of such executive indecision, indigenes of main farmlands at Agogo have not only resorted to the illegal trade in small arms but also resolved to brutalizing the said herdsmen.
“What is happening is that, because of climate change, the Sahel is getting drier and so this area where a lot of these herdsmen were, they are not able to get enough pasture for the animals so they have started shifting southwards and it is a problem that does not only affect Ghana, it affects Cote D’lvoire, it affects Sierra Leone, it affects Liberia, it affects Guinea,” President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana has maintained.