, 08 August, 2020 / 11:22 PM
At a peace-building conference organized to seek solutions to the interethnic violence between the Tiv and Jukun communities in Nigeria, the Archbishop of Abuja in the West African country has underscored the role women can play to bring an end to the conflict, urging them to reach out to their “children, husbands or relations to drop the arms.”
“Dear Tiv and Jukun women, please tell your children, husbands or relations to drop the arms; they should avoid prejudices and stigmatization, and learn to forgive and see in one another the image and likeness of God,” Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said Thursday, August 6 during the Women Peace-Building Conference that took place at the Global Suite Hotel in Nigeria’s Nasarwa State.
“You women stand a better chance and have the moral and emotional advantage of talking to your husbands, children and relations,” Archbishop Kaigama further addressed himself to the women who were gathered under the auspices of the Foundation for Peace, Hope and Conflict Management (FPHCM) and described them “veritable peace instruments.”
According to a report published by The New Humanitarian, members of the Jukun and Tiv communities have been hostile towards each other for several decades with cases of violent confrontations reported in 1959, 1964, 1976, 1991, 2001 and 2019.
During the August 6 peace conference, Archbishop Kaigama acknowledged that “many efforts at peaceful resolution have been made.”
However, he said, “the tensed Jukun-Tiv relationship seems like a stubborn boil that refuses to go away."
“Destruction and killings seem to have become a constant! Suspicion, distrust and hatred are so strong that some Jukun and Tiv persons are allergic to the name of the other,” the Nigerian Archbishop said.
He went on to recall the “historic gathering on 16th January, 2019” that brought together some Governors and representatives of the two communities “to reflect on Tiv-Jukun relationship during which a book was presented by Mr. Joseph Bem Targema, titled, Tiv-Jukun Relationship: The Model of a Jukun Bishop and a Tiv Priest.”
“The book describes how the friendship between Rev. Fr. James Bature, a Tiv priest, and Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jukun extraction, has lasted for over forty years and could be a good and practical testimony that friendship between these two ethnic groups is not only possible but also very desirable,” the 62-year-old Prelate recounted during the August 6 conference.
He also reminisced the October 2019 meeting of Tiv and Jukun Bishops and Priests, convened following “the disturbing trend of violence leading to deaths, destruction of houses and means of livelihood involving the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in parts of Taraba State and the border settlements of Benue State."
During the October 2019 meeting, the Clergy made “a very passionate appeal that members of the two ethnic groups should sincerely understand and embrace one another.”
On the possible causes of the conflict, Archbishop Kaigama said, “Land disputes are a common feature among neighboring ethnic groups (and) arguments over boundary issues often result in serious breach of peace."
"These refuse to go away perhaps because of what may have become an unofficial policy in Nigeria that States or Local Governments are associated with particular ethnic groups, instead of emphasizing the citizenship of all irrespective of ethnic identity,” the Archbishop said in reference to disputes over land.
In his view, “A Nigerian should be able to live and work in any part of the country without the limitations of place of birth or maternal language.”
He called on government officials to “seriously check the recurring crises which instead of promoting positive viable agricultural activities in the area to attract investors, plunge the populations into greater and greater poverty.”
“There are many Tiv and Jukun people who have lived well as neighbors, intermarried for decades and still live happily. Friendships have been cultivated that have stood the test of time,” the Archbishop of Abuja observed.
He once again recalled his own friendship with a Tiv Cleric saying, "While some skeptics would think that a friendship like that of Fr. Bature and I would be near impossible and not to talk of it flourishing and improving by the day, the reality is that there has been by the special grace of God a sincere, honorable and edifying friendship spanning forty years and still counting.”
“It is our conviction that it is such friendships that can break down the walls of division and neutralize the poison of hatred, division and violence,” Archbishop Kaigama emphasized.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa