On Saturday, June 23, 2018, conflict broke out in Plateau State, Nigeria, where I live and work. More than 200 were killed in attacks by herdsman on farmers, a deadly conflict that rarely catches little global attention. The next day, at 4:00pm, I headed out from Rayfield to visit my brother and his family who live around Bukuru-Lowcost in Jos. I was unaware that the local men had created groups to retaliate against the herders. A group of young men stopped me.
They were harsh. As they questioned me about what I was doing in the area, I wondered if they were under the influence of alcohol or other substances as their behavior was irrational and abnormal. They asked me why I was in their neighborhood and were dissatisfied when I said I was visiting my family members. They started speaking in Hausa and told each other that they think I am a Fulani. One of the men said: “If he is a Fulani, we should take him to the police.” The other men objected and said, “We should just kill him here.”
Before I knew what happened, they started hitting me with sticks. They pushed me to the ground and I hit my head on a piece of concrete. I was so shocked and confused because the violence started abruptly. A crowd gathered around us. A woman from the crowd recognized me and told the men to stop hitting me. She testified that I was indeed there to visit my brother. The men stopped beating me and left me there, bleeding on the street. I was in a lot of pain. My head, arms, and shoulders hurt the most. My left shoulder was dislocated. I felt sharp pains in my back. I was taken to my brother’s house by the woman and her friend who had also witnessed the beating.
The next day, I was able to go to the hospital to attend to my physical wounds, but I was deeply traumatized. I couldn’t sleep for days because the whole incident kept on playing each time I tried to. I was just there- shocked and stuck in a moment in time. It took me days before I started coming back to myself. I saw a counselor who helped me through the immediate shock.
Nearly two months have passed since this incident, but I still have fears. I work as a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant for Women for Women International in Jos. My daily work requires me to visit the organization’s program in remote areas, sometimes three hours away from Jos. We travel on roads that are not properly built and the security is unstable at times. Because we work for women survivors of conflict, the areas we serve are impacted by conflict or are home to displaced women and communities. Traveling to the neighborhoods and interviewing women to gather data is not free of risk. Following the attack, we had to suspend all of our programmatic work for more than a week to ensure the safety of our staff, but when violence takes over a community and the fabric of trust is broken, it is hard to feel safe anywhere.
I hope that we’ll experience calm and peace in Plateau State once more, but I don’t know if the security situation will improve. The threat of violence seems to always lurk in the shadows. It is difficult to be a humanitarian in this context and continue to do your day to day tasks when there are threats to your life. What inspires me to continue is that I am able to contribute to creating peace through women’s empowerment so that no one has to experience the violence I faced.