Peace may return to Plateau as Fulani, Berom meet; pledge forgiveness

The meeting held at the instance of a present senator.

After years of devastating communal bloodbath with heavy casualties on both sides, the Fulanis and Beroms in Plateau North say they have forgiven each other and resolved to co-exist peacefully.

The usually guerilla-fashioned violence had been characterised by deadly midnight attacks, killing of farmers and herdsmen on the fields, destruction of farmlands, as well as the killing and rustling of cows.

Thousands were reportedly killed in the bloodbath that persisted, in spite of heavy military presence, the declaration of state of emergency in the affected areas, as well as military-organised peace and security meetings.

The Special Task Force(STF), maintaining peace in Plateau had also initiated various measures including medical outreaches, sports competitions and other social fora to promote togetherness and foster peace, but to no avail.

The peace resolution in the early hours of Sunday in Jos, followed series of meetings during which leaders from both sides voiced out their grievances, resolved their differences, and agreed to bury whatever hatchet.

The peace talks, uniquely initiated by the warring communities and supervised by Senator Gyang Pwajok (PDP, Plateau North), witnessed frank discussions, revelations and ended with a resolve for peace after both sides decried the devastating effects of the violence and opted to return to the past when they communed peacefully.

Mr. Pwajok, while setting the tone for the final talks, had described the session as “unique’’ as it was the first time both sides called out each other on their own volition, without being forced to do so by security forces.

“We resolved to hold this session so that we can listen and understand each other because the STF and the police have failed in enforcing peace on us; clearly, it is only we that can agree to live in peace,’’ he said.

The Senator pointed out that the STF was equally frustrated over the persistence of the violence, and advised the people to fish out from among themselves, the individuals responsible for the crises.

“There are complaints about the killing and theft of cows. There are complaints about the destruction of farmlands and killing of farmers. It is not communities that commit these atrocities. It is individuals. We must identify such individuals and expose them.

“Again, we cannot kill because a cow has been stolen. We cannot take up arms because a farm has been destroyed. We must resolve here to place a high premium on human life and good neighbourliness,” he said.

Mr. Pwajok called for concessions from both groups, and pointed out that there will always be farming and grazing “whether we like or not.”

Haruna Boro, Chairman, Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association, who led the Fulani team, urged both communities to forgive each other “from the bottom of our hearts’’, and declared that his community had forgiven all and was prepared for peace.

“We have resolved to forgive and forge ahead. The only thing that remains is to take the message to the rural dwellers so that they can equally key into the new resolve,” he said. “We want the Beroms to demonstrate equal forgiving spirit by allowing our grazing cows to move peacefully because we have resolved never to attack anyone any longer.’’

Dauda Choji, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Riyom, who also declared that the Beroms had forgiven the Fulanis, emphasised the need for mutual respect among the communities and advised all groups to take that message home.

He advised the Fulanis to keep faith with the new resolve and cautioned against provocative statements, especially the reference to the Beroms as infidels.

Moday Dalyop, a Berom elder, who also spoke, described the elders from both communities as the “devils’’ in the society as they were responsible for poisoning the minds of the youth against each other.

“Our parents taught us to love everyone. In fact, my own father built a house for his Fulani neighbour. But we teach our children a different thing and that is why they take up arms against each other,” he said.

Mr. Dalyop also advised both communities to be wary of the activities of “crises merchants’’ who would always seek to instigate violence so as to gain from it, and also advised Fulani elders against giving guns to their pastoral youths to use against farmers.

A traditional ruler, Davou Manjang, blamed the crises on the haphazard grazing routes that often cause clashes between farmers and herdsmen, and suggested a return to the old routes that were clear so as to ease the movement of cows.

He also called for the clearing of more farmlands to help Fulanis that had lost their cows and were fully engaged in farming activities for survival.

The ruler also reminded both communities of the presence of cow thieves from both sides, noting that they usually connived to steal.

A Fulani leader, Matoh Ardo, noted that there were “mischief makers’’ in both communities, and advised leaders to be resolute so as to identify any stolen item and insist that it be returned to the owner.

He said that farm destruction by cows was usually not deliberate and suggested that those affected should amicably resolve the matter instead of involving the entire community.

Gyang Tinjang, the chief or Rahoss, advised against the situation where Fulanis and Beroms no more cohabit and called for mixed settlements so as to minimise mutual suspicion and distrust.

Former Minister of Agriculture, Jonah Madugu, in his contribution, commended the warring communities for resolving to settle the feud on their own, and described that as “just wonderful’’.

“The governments at all levels have tried. The soldiers and the police have done their best. But none of these outside forces can force us to cohabit peacefully if we do not resolve to do that. I am happy we have realised that and decided to do so,” the former minister said.

Also contributing, Mohammed Bello, Fulani leader in Bachit, challenged the people to show a genuine love for Plateau State and resolve to make it peaceful so that all could progress.

“”We must work toward peace and be committed to that from our hearts. That way, we shall not continue to distract our senator from pursuing what is due to use from the federal purse in Abuja,’’ he said.

The meeting resolved to replicate the meeting at the district, village and ward levels in the next two weeks, with a resolve to collectively monitor the situation to measure progress.

Other participants at the peace parley included the Local Government Chairmen of Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi and Riyom, National and State Houses of Assembly members, youth and religious leaders, and many other stakeholders.

(NAN)

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