Strategy for Resolution
In the last few decades Nigeria has experienced violent conflicts and antagonism rooted in religion, ethnicity, and economics. communal conflicts in Tiv land area of the Middle Belt region of Nigeria are not an exception. This paper (1) examines the causes of communal conflict in Tivland (2),challenges,as well as the(3) strategies of resolving and managing conflicts in Tivland and society in general. Introduction The African continent has been, and continues to be engulfed in one conflict after another.
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Over the last 40 years, nearly 20 African countries, or about 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), have experienced at least one period of civil war (Elbadawi & Sambanis, 2000). They further estimate that 20% of SSA’s population now lives in communities which are constantly at war. As the most populated African nation with over 140 million people, Nigeria has not been spared its share of violent conflicts, particularly communal conflicts.
Some of these conflicts have been characterized as crises of identity (Isa, 2001), or competition for control of the political space whatever its form and nature, Egwu (1998), reveal that communal conflict pose a fundamental threat and challenge to the state, and erode current attempts at institutionalizing virile and durable democracies in Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Since conflict prevention has not taken sufficient root in Nigeria, communal conflicts have now become pervasive.
As Isa (2001), aptly notes thus: “communal conflicts in Nigeria have attained a situation of pervasive phenomenon; it has turned Nigeria’s rural communities into battlefields and killing grounds”. The sheer number and challenges as well as the attendant socio-economic challenges of communal clashes, have attracted a number of study into the phenomenon with the aim of identifying the causes and ways of preventing them. Alubo (2005), thus provide us with some examples of communal conflicts.
The Ife-Modakeke communal conflicts of Oyo/Osun States 1999, Hausa/Fulani and Kataf of Zangon Kataf in Kaduna State, 1999; Ijaw and Istekiris of Warri in Delta State, 1999; Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba ethnic conflicts in Oyo and Lagos States respectively, 1999/2000; Jukun/Chamba and Kuteb, Jukun and Tiv in Taraba State, 1998/1999; Igbakwu-Omor, Aguleri and Umuleri communal conflicts of Anambra State, 1999 (Isa, 2001). In Tivland, some of the most notable conflicts include the following: The 1947 chieftaincy riots in Makurdi, Ushongo-Iharev, Isherev-Utyondu, Tiv-Jukun, Tiv-Udam.
According to Ayua (2006), currently there are low-grade conflicts within Tivland that have not received any media attention. Key questions with profound policy implications could therefore be asked: (1) what are the causes of the high incidence in communal conflict in Tivland? (2) What are the challenges that these conflicts pose to development? (3)what are the strategies that can be used to reduce the incidence of conflict in order to sustain peace in Tivland? Conceptual Considerations
Communal conflict: communal conflict is a conflict in which groups that define themselves using ethnic, national or religious criteria make claim against each other, the state or other political actors. (Utsaha et al 2000). According to Horowitz, (2000) communal conflict refers to the situation where violence is perpetrated across ethnic lines and victims are based on ethnic group’s membership. To Horowitz communal violence may also be called ethnic violence. To Tadjoeddin, (2002) communal violence may be defined as a violence that occurs between different communal groups.
Groupings in the community based on religion, tribes, sect race and others. In his own contribution, Varshney, (2002) argue that all communal violence are based on ascription (birth based) group identities including race, language, religion, tribe or caste therefore can be called ethnic conflict. According to this understanding, communal violence ranges from Muslim-Christian conflict in Northern Nigeria, Black and White conflict in United State and apartheid struggle in South-Africa, Anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia, Tiv-Jukun crisis in Nigeria and Shia-Sunni troubles in Pakistan.
The Tiv people The name Tiv according to Makar, (1994) has a dual meaning. Tiv is a cultural group of a people,who by 1963 census numbered one and half million. Tiv is also a name of the father of all Tiv people. The Tiv people are said to have migrated from central Africa to where they are now found in what is generally described as the Middle Belt of Nigeria, but specifically some 150 miles east of the confluence of River Benue with River Niger. They settled on both sides of the River Benue, also known as the Upper and the Lower Benue River Valley.
Other accounts trace Tiv origin to the Bantu tribe (Bohannan & Bohannan, 1953). The Tiv are mainly subsistence farmers, dispersed in seven states of Federal Republic of Nigeria-Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa, Plateau, Niger, Kogi, and Kaduna States. The Tiv can also be found in the Republic of Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbor to the east. The population of the Tiv people, according to census figure 2006, is 3,687,000and continues to grow. (Ethnologue 2010). Thoerical Framework Marxist Theory The Marxist theory has its roots from the works of Karl Mark and his friend Frederick Engels.
The starting point for their analysis of the society is determined mainly by social production. i. e what is produced, how it is produced and how the product is shared. The theory therefore insists that society is composed of contradictions and conflicts over scarce resources by the various competing groups. These contradictions are as a result of the competition and struggle for power and economic resources. This competition and struggle over resources have made conflict inevitable in the society. Marxist theory emphasizes interest rather than norms and values as been central in the eruption of conflict in society.
This conflict is seen by marxists as normal aspect of society . Competition over resources is often the source of conflict. Three levels of theory are (a) society is composed of different groups that compete for resource (b) There is continual power struggle between social groups and they pursue their own interest. (c) Social groups will use their resources to their own advantage in pursuit of their goals. The perspective therefore sees communal conflicts as resulting from the contradictions inherent in the course of material production.
To understand communal conflicts, Magubane (1996) stressed the role of social structure and urges for special consideration to: The material basis of the society, the social relations of production. ie who owns what, who determines what is produced,and how much if it. The nature of the social system, the political organization, the structure of social consciousness, the ideological and socio-psychological orientation of the members of the society, is determine by members of the ruling class.
It is the contention of the Marxists approach that conflicts results when the bourgeois appropriate surplus as profit while paying workers peanuts for their labour. To the Marxists, ethnic formation is a historical entity which encompasses and penetrates all social formation including class structures. According to Engels in Idyorough (2008). The final causes of all social change and conflict and political revolution are to be sought not in men’s brain, not in men’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, both in changes in the mode of exchange.
It is therefore misleading to assume that communal conflicts operate independently. It is the product of social structure fueled by economic, political, religious variables. Keen (1997), asserts that economic motives are primary factor behind warfare and violence. To him, economic goals are central and conflict may be highly effective way of pursuing them. Drawing from above, communal conflict is cause by economic competition between ethnically or socially differentiated segments of working class or ethnically differentiated traders, cattle rearers, or farmers.
Horowitz (1998), asserts that elite competition and action of ethnic group entrepreneur who wishes to pursue their economic or political interest can also trigger communal conflict. Elites manipulate ethnic identities in their quest for power through construction of ethnic conflict. Causes of Communal Conflict Struggle over farming/grazing land: Ayua, (2006) asserts that farming as a major occupation of most tribes who inhabits Benue State has witnessed a number of conflicts relating to who controls which portion.
To him, the need to acquire and use land for farming purposes has therefore been at the root of several communal conflicts in Tiv land. The Fulani herdsmen who occasionally come into Tivland in search of grazing land have also added a twist to the nature and extent of communal conflict in Tivland. Ajiir, (2006) also added that, the Tiv are predominantly farmers and their survival depends largely on the utilization of agricultural products for consumption.
The Tiv people are obviously agrarian in nature and as such go at lengths to carve out virgin areas for the development of farmland which they till using rudimentary implements on a small holding. The peasant life therefore depends essentially on ownership of a piece of land. Again, he argued further that since the peasant farming does not involve improved methods of conserving soil fertility, the peasant resort to the use of fallowing as a method of farming which requires that each peasant farmer should have a fairly large piece of land at his disposal to accommodates this practice.
Ayua (2006) also maintained that communal conflicts take two forms, either with other agrarian tribes or as a consequence of competition with the Fulani who practice cattle grazing. Similarly, the Opene commission found out as a matter of fact that, the 2001 communal conflict in Wukari Area of Taraba state between the Tiv and Jukun/Fulani was sparked off by the action of Fulani herdsmen who led their cattle into the Beni-seed farm belonging to Mr. Iortim Unande on 13th May, 2001 and subsequently killed him following his protest of the invasion (Ayua, 2006).
The problem of land as a causative factor of communal conflicts in Tiv land appears to have been exacerbated by the ineffective nature of the land use Act in which the people are expect to hold all lands in the state in trust for the government. While the Act provides that all land and its resources belong to the government, the reality is that, traditional forms of land ownership, traditional forms of land ownership are still more recognize among the rural populace, thereby leading to often bitter and bloody conflicts between people in the bid to retain ownership and control of lands (Ayua, 2006).
Poor boundary delineation. The issue of land has been earlier identified as a cause of conflict in Tivland. The competition for land has been aggravated by the inadequate position of boundary and states. The boundary between Nasarawa and Benue State offers a good example of the fluidity which has attended the movement of persons between both states due to the lack of precise boundary delineation which has consequently led to the increase in tribal tension and violence particularly in the last decades (Alubo, 2005).
In respect of the problems arising along the boundary between Benue and Taraba State, the Opene commission revealed that: The adoption of the policy of circumvention in the delineation of the border line between Benue State and Taraba States has aggravated the indigenedship questions between the people of the two states and created a high level of disaffection which has boiled over into intermillent spates of violence. (Alubo2005)_ Explaining further, Ajiir, ( 2006), argued that another factor that ccelerates communal dispute is the use of outdated survey maps and data to verify land claims. In many cases, the survey maps use dates many decades back that the landmarks like rivers, trees, settlements, identified as boundaries may no longer be in existent. Chieftaincy disputes. This has also been identified as a dimension of conflict in Benue State and other parts of Nigeria. According to Ayua, (2006), disputes over chieftaincy have form a very significant proportion of conflict in Benue valley.
Disputes of this nature to Ayua, (2006), come in two broad categories. The first of which is disputes between contenders from the same ethnic group, while the second usually involves inter ethnic wrangling over chieftaincy issues. Ayua, (2006), for instance observed that, one of the grievances of the Tiv people in Nasarawa state is the denial of their fundamental human rights to have their chieftaincy institution. This denial of cultural and political rights is also a distinctive trigger of violent conflicts.
In addition chieftaincy related issues arise often due to the traditional linkage between chieftaincy stool and suzerainty over land, political patronage, economic benefits and cultural identity respectively. The quest to access these benefits therefore leads to competition and ultimately conflict when not properly managed Religion has also being identified as another source of communal conflict. According to Alubo, (2005), Nassarawa State offers the best example of the role religion has played in throwing up social conflict in the Benue valley.
The communal conflict in Nassarawa state, are known to have being fueled by this factor. Best (2006), say most conflicts in the Benue valley always have a religious undertone to them with attendant emotional backlashes. In explaining the phenomenon, Ayua (2006) quoted the IOCE report (2003) as thus: The North central is religiously as well as ethnically diverse. However, religious differences in themselves do not appear to be central to conflicts rather, religious differences in some cases (e. g Jos) can reinforce ethnic divisions particularly once a conflict has begun.
Relatedly, at the time the Opene commission sat between 2002 and 2003 in consideration of the situation in Jos Plateau state, it found that no single mosque was standing in Lantang North and South, and no church remained in Wase either, due to the destruction carried out by both sides (Best 2006). This is a clear indication that religion is a strong factor that fuels conflicts in Nigeria. Communal dispute can also arise from political considerations. Its a well known fact that some highly placed politicians use political leverage to obtain titles to land which was not theirs.
Ajiir (2006), submits that, when such people subsequently attempt to utilize such land ,they always face popular resistance from the rightful owners of the land . Utsaha J et al (2000), put it succinctly that political difference between individual or group may undermine the cooperation and understanding in the utilization of communal land and hence exacerbate crises. They argue further that in Tivland, elites have and continue to play a central role in fuelling conflicts. They are often motivated by opportunities for private accumulation and use shared ethnic/clannish ties and discrimination primarily for their own achievement of power.
In some cases, ethnicity and ideology have been used as instruments by leaders to pursue political goals. Additionally, others who profit from conflict (e. g. , business opportunists or criminals) may prefer continued conflict to peace, thus erecting obstacles to, or spoiling attempts towards resolution. Prevention or resolution of conflict must address private incentives of leaders and followers in order to be effective, as well as remove potential spoilers from the equation. Utsaha et al (2000). The challenges of Communal Conflicts to Development
Communal conflicts have serious challenges in relation to access and availability of food. Since agriculture is the main preoccupation of rural population, the production of crops and rearing of livestock becomes the main economic activity of the people. Communal conflicts thus pose a serious challenge on food security. Often, warring communities or parties tactically resort to manipulating access to food and livestock. Thus, food security is threatened during communal conflict (Messer, Cohen, 2004). There is also reduction in production and income hence income of farmers.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (2004) communal violence costs Africa over $120 billion worth of agricultural production during the last decade of the 20th century. In conflict prone areas of Africa not only has communal conflicts limit production of food, it has the propensity to deny people access to food and availability of food supply. According to the Food Research Policy Institute (2004), most conflicts and post conflict zones in sub-Saharan Africa are home to substantial numbers of mal-nourished people.
Communal conflicts have the propensity to directly and indirectly negatively influence the socio-economic activities among communities in the warring camps. Osinubi and Osinubi (2006) assert that in Kenya, communal conflicts related to multi party elections resulted to 1,500 deaths between late 1991 and late 1993. Additional deaths had occurred in connection with the elections in 1997 including the post election recriminations against non-government voting areas in early January 1998. Similarly, South Africa lost 14,000 people due to racial and communal violence which was part of the transition to majority rule between 1990 and 1994.
In Sudan, civil conflict stretching back to four decades has pitted the Arab-Muslim North against the non-Arab Christian in the south. The most current phase which began in 1993 resulted in the deaths of about one million people either directly due to the war or indirectly due to starvation. (World Food Forum 2001). According to Yeicho, (2005), schools are burnt, hospital vandalized, markets are closed, commercial activities grounded for days. Sources of water for humans and livestock are blocked or destroyed.
Similarly, Alubo, (2005), submitted that communal conflict could also have negative implication on the health of the people. Apart from the refugees situation which communal conflict creates, there is also the danger of life threatening disesases like HIV being transmitted and other air and water borne diseases. To feed themselves and their family members, young women sometimes offer their body for sex in exchange for food and protection. (Alubo, 2001). Similarly, there is constant sexual harassment and incidences of rape and criminal activities in refugee camps.
Furthermore, the major challenge pose by communal conflict is that of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. According to Samber, (2013) no community goes into communal conflict and come out the same. The mutual suspicion and distrust that is inflicted on the people makes rebuilding very difficult. Strategies for Prevention and Resolving Communal Conflict Most strategies particularly, formal mechanisms to prevent and resolve conflict have often failed to address the roots of the problems, and hence fail in maintaining and restoring durable social concord.
Inter-communal tensions have frequently become protracted, and the response to violence has often focused on short-term solutions. The response is mostly being at the security and legal level (World Bank Report 2000). This has proven inadequate at preventing further occurrence of conflicts. Prevention through the police has not been successful, partly because it suffers from poor coordination and gathering and use of intelligence. The formal response to the eruption of violence has often been slow, even though the government can call on an additional mobile police force and the army to restore law and order.
Thus, violence has time to escalate (Best, 2011: 72). In some instances, such as in Benue state in 2001, the involvement of the military and the police has had disastrous consequences. In retaliation to the killing of several military, the forces attacked ten villages and towns, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians and destroying homes, shops, public buildings and other property. In other cases, such as in Jos, in 2001, the military played a positive role in preventing the conflict from degenerating further (Okpeh, 2008: p. 64-65).
In their study on the role of traditional authorities in conflict prevention and mediation in Nigeria, Blench et al, (2006) recall that during colonial era, the response to riots and civil disturbances was usually military. Responses to civil disorder leading to losses of lives and properties in the years that followed independence have been different: in several instances, a Commission of Enquiry would established to find out causes and effects of communal violence, worked for a few months and produced recommendations that are not realistic.
From 1995, conflict resolution became a popular topic and the Government was encouraged to create an Institute for Peace and Conflict resolution, which has been made ineffective due inter-communal political disputes (Blench et al, 2006: 9). The mass killing of people in Zaki Biam in Benue and Udi in Akwa Ibom state among other example is a clear indication that using law enforcement agencies and other formal strategies to resolve conflict is counterproductive. Conclusion In some parts of the country, traditional authorities/rulers play a significant role in community coherence and traditional justice systems.
In some areas, especially in the North and Middle Belt, they have been more effective in conflict resolution than official mechanisms. Due to their familiarity with different sections of the community, they have also been able to take pre-emptive action, while the government has a tendency to be reactive (Blench et al, 2006: i). Their role is most prominent in settling family matters, cases of witchcraft, land disputes and religious disputes, notably because taking such cases to the courts and the police is more expensive and can turn them into protracted disputes with no greater chances that a fair judgment will be reached in the end.
However, the creation of new chieftaincies to reinforce ethnic agendas or reward political donors in most communities have undermined the power and legitimacy of traditional rulers and councils, Despite this, they are still better at communal conflict resolution than any other group. It is the submission of this paper therefore, that the use of traditional institution in resolving communal conflict in Tiv land and by extension, Nigeria remains the most realistic and workable strategy.