Violent clashes between Muslim Hausa-Fulani and the predominantly Christian Taroh ethnic groups in Wase, Nigeria, left over five thousand people dead and a hundred thousand others displaced in July 2002. As women and children of the worst-hit Kadarko district fled their homes, many were abducted and sexually abused by militias. Some were killed after being raped. Few survived to tell the story.
By RNW Africa Desk
….“We wanted to follow the boys, but soon realised there was a group of Fulani men on their tail carrying guns, machetes and other dangerous weapons. We quietly hid in an abandoned farm hut and watched. That is the most horrifying sight I have ever seen.” Tears stream down Sarah’s cheeks. “We watched as the Fulani men caught up with the boys and with their sharp glittering machetes chopped them down one after the other.”
The Fulani, or Fula, she refers to are one of Nigeria’s principal ethnic groups and are considered Africa’s first converts to Muslim. The nomadic people are often seen as missionaries of Islam, having created Islamic states throughout the continent, notably in West Africa at the turn of the 19th century.
The ugly scene
On the first day of the crisis alone, an estimated five thousand Taroh people were killed in Kadarko, Wase and other surrounding villages. Over 50 villages were sacked. About a hundred thousand women and children were rendered homeless.
Watching the ugly scene from the tiny window of a farm hut, one of the girls whose brother happened to be among the attacked, started wailing loudly. “We tried to stop her, but we couldn’t. The noise caught the attention of the Fulani men, who turned and started coming towards us. We ran out of the hut as fast as we could.” Sarah wipes her face with one end of her worn clothe. “I heard them laughing as they chased us. Unfortunately, they soon caught us, one after the other. It was only one of us that escaped.”
“I was raped”
The armed Fulani men took the girls to a deserted nearby village. “It was a big house and we were kept in different rooms,” Sarah says. “Later in the evening, I heard the door open and a man came into the room. He started undressing without saying anything to me. I was very afraid because I was only sixteen years of age at that time.”
“I stood on my feet and begged him to leave me alone. He jumped on me and pinned me to the bare floor. That was how I lost my virginity. After him another man came in, but when he noticed I was bleeding, he slapped me on the face and left.”
The next day I was served ground nuts by a woman. I asked her for water, which she brought. I drank it even though it was dirty, then washed myself with what remained. About two days after I was raped, the man that slapped me came back. He raped me again. After him, two other men came in. I fainted. When I woke up, I couldn’t stand. I was raped every day until I finally escaped about a week or so later…