The US should appoint a special envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region to “focus like a laser beam” on the attacks by Boko Haram and other Islamic militants, according to one of the main architects of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Former Congressman Frank Wolf said such a move was necessary to stop a genocide of Christians in the region.
Mr Wolf was speaking to journalists during a press call on the situation in Nigeria sponsored by In Defence of Christians, a Washington DC-based human rights group.
Nigeria has had over 50,000 people killed since 2009 due to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has also displaced over two million people. More recently, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, which broke away from Boko Haram in 2016, has increased activity in the region.
In the country’s ‘Middle Belt’ – where the Muslim North meets the Christian South – Muslim Fulani bands have killed thousands of Christians.
During the call, Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Argak Kwashi of Jos described the attacks on Christians in the country.
“This thing is systematic; it is planned; it is calculated,” he said.
The archbishop said Boko Haram has almost succeeded in uprooting the Christian community in northeastern Nigeria, and added it is “very clear that their intention is to Islamise Nigeria”.
However, he said the government is ignoring the problem.
“Every time we have raised our voices to say to the governments that this is going on, they always produced a political narrative to say that it is farmers’ and herders’ clashes. That narrative is an evil narrative of cover up because honest people will be sleeping in their homes at night that will be massacred, but it will be said to be a clash. That is far from the truth,” Kwashi said. “These killings are specifically in Christian villages.”
Dr Gregory Stanton, chairman of Genocide Watch, said these attacks meet the definition of genocide: “It is the intentional destruction in whole or in part of a religious group.”
“This is not a conflict. These Christian villagers – these farmers – have no conflict with the Fulani. The Fulani now arrive with truckloads of fighters, maybe a hundred of their fighters, and they simply massacre a Christian village. They leave the Muslim village nearby completely alone,” Dr Stanton said.