Smith holds hearing with State Dept., humanitarian groups on killings in Nigeria, alleged acts by Islamist radicals
December 17, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – The brutal atrocities and continuing threats to Nigerian peace and stability—especially to Christians under seemingly relentless attacks by radical Islamists in Nigeria—were at the core of testimony by U.S. State Department officials and human rights organizations at a hearing today, “Conflict and Killings in Nigeria’s Middle Belt,” held by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
“Our Middle Belt region has truly become a vale of tears, a region where mass burials are very common. It appears as though what is happening here is part of a grand conspiracy. Our national government has not shown convincing signs of real commitment to ending the menace,” said Bishop William A. Avenya of the Nigerian Roman Catholic Diocese of Gboko in his testimony. “The mass slaughter of Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, by every standard, meets the criteria for a calculated genocide from the definition of the Genocide Convention as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as well as the available facts. This has inflicted deep mental, psychological, physical and economic injuries to the affected families and communities.”
Smith, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee, has chaired seven previous hearings on human rights violations in Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa.
“The largest, dominant driver of conflict in the Middle Belt region is committed by Fulani extremists, who appear driven in large part by ethno-religious chauvinism, against mostly Christian farmers – though I do note that elsewhere Shia Muslims are also victims, and that intra-Sunni conflicts also exist within the Muslim community as well,” said Smith. “The United States and the international community must do more to mitigate the violence because the dire situation on the ground warrants it and because the people of Nigeria deserve to live in peace and freedom with their fundamental human rights guaranteed and because Nigeria is the largest country in Africa and what happens there has an outsized impact in West Africa and in Africa as a whole.” Click here to read Smith’s opening remarks.