January 6, 2014 | Massacre in Nigeria

Sometimes being terrorised is worse than being victim of a terrorist attack.

We humans are a tribal lot, aren’t we? Group identification is important to us, whether that group is defined by our skin colour, or the god we believe in, or the language we speak. To us, being in is far better than being out.

Sometimes we will kill to maintain that status.

I suppose this all made sense at some point in our collective histories, before we established societies driven by the rule of law. After all, if you could not rely on the state to protect you and your family, you had to resort to those who looked, or sounded, or thought, like you.

Image result for group differences
My group is stronger than your group
Despite our ‘advancement’ over time, group differences still matter.

Terrorism is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of this opposition: I hate you because you have mistreated me and mine based on some level of otherness. And I have the right to kill you because of that.

On January 6, 2014, a massacre took place in a village in Nigeria’s Plateau State. Thirty-three people were slaughtered by men wielding guns and machetes and there were reports that soldiers tasked with protecting the residents joined the attackers in firing on those fleeing for their lives.

Asing Alamba, 70, sustained bullet and machete wounds in the Shonong attack. (Morning Star News)
An elderly victim of the attack (Photo: Morning Star News)

The assailants appeared to have been Fulani herdsmen, the victims were farmers. These kinds of attacks are becoming more and more common as climate change and land disputes are on the rise in Nigeria. In fact these acts of violence were estimated by the International Crisis Group, a very well respected think tank, as having been ‘six times’ deadlier in 2018 than attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram, a well-known terrorist group.

I am not so sure we can label these ‘terrorist’ incidents as there does not appear to be any well-defined ‘ideological’ underpinning to them. That herdsmen and farmers are different and have different goals is not up for debate. But the motive behind the attacks is not consistent with what we normally see as terrorist in nature.

For the victims it does not matter. These people were terrorised beyond comprehension as men with machetes and guns massacred them. To those who survived, debates over whether the perpetrators were or were not terrorists is beyond the point.

A woman cries as she consoles a widow during a funeral service for people killed in clashes between cattle herders and farmers on January 11, 2018 in Nigeria's Benue state.
Mourners after another Fulani attack

Maybe we need to bear that in mind when we envelop ourselves in academic-style arguments over what constitutes terrorism (I am using the term ‘academic’ not as a dichotomy between town and gown but rather in its other meaning as ‘not practically useful’).

No one deserves to be killed for who they are or for living their lives in a certain way. No one.