Bandits, herdsmen: Euphemisms for terrorism, war and insurgency

In the field of strategic studies, securitization is key. Communication and language choice are so important that what something is called may determine how it would be tackled by even those who name it so. Now, the mere choice of words which liberalize the extent of carnage a group churns out and makes the weight of criminality light in the ears of people can have a psychological effect on people; the way they view this group and the way they decide to treat this group, less deadly as they ought.

It is quite scary calling people bandits and herdsmen while their mode of operation, style of funding, weapons caché and ideology directly oppose such names and expands their scope and style to what all should see as terrorism. While we must agree that mutation, evolution and metamorphosis takes place in different stages, we must not be stuck in old definitions and name tags when situations have long left how it started and metamorphosed into hydra-headed monsters. Also, conflict handling, analysis and resolution require tact, in-depth knowledge and a sense of commitment. Just recently, a piece of news came out from some verified news outlets, claiming Sheikh Gumi and the NSA helped in the “successful operation” that saw to the freedom of abducted children. It went on to say N800 million was paid to secure their release. This definitely wasn’t an operation, let alone a successful one but mere trade and exchange. Every economy is based on funding and can only thrive through adequate funding. The terrorism business that guarantees large sums of payment only aids the dark economy of the terrorists who amass wealth for more sophisticated weapons and wider network. They also get emboldened by their spoil and carry out more serious attacks and demand higher payments to fund their operations.

To handle a conflict, as much as you do well to draw all parties to the conflict out and find a lasting solution that goes beyond force, you are never to hand to either party what will continue to engender such conflicts and expand its face to make it more difficult to tackle. The way someone or people who are a million naira rich will respond or talk to you will be different from if they are almost a billion naira rich. If the payment of N800 million is false as some government sources have claimed, it still does not remove the fact that they have admitted to paying ransoms of such magnitude in time past. The words ‘herdsmen’ and ‘bandit’ have meanings. The term ‘terrorism’ best defines their action.

Handling such conflicts cannot be done locally but must be supported by allies even outside the country. Such allies cannot take the country seriously if there are dinners being organized in the forest with bandits wielding AK47s in front of camera; if they are being said to need pampering by leaders; if they are being absolved of having assault rifles which some leaders say is necessary for their protection or if they are being put up to receive blanket amnesty. The plaster around terrorism in this context are the words “herdsmen” and “bandits”. This plaster should be removed and these evil groups perpetrating these evil acts must be called out for what they are and treated as such. Only such designations can have certain security apparatus take the strong steps needed and necessary than they are taking right now.


  •  Omowon is Executive Director, Wide Gate Initiatives.


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