MasterwebNews 28/11/16: Herdsmen - short fiction by Odimegwu Onwumere

[ Masterweb Reports ] - There had not been such illnesses in the history of Konto Community, a history spanning over one thousand five hundred centuries, as it was experiencing in recent times. The community was rife with acute bronchitis, asthma attacks, and other respiratory illnesses. Apart from these illnesses, unpredictable rainfalls were everyday occurrence. There were continuous rise in temperature, water supply shortages, agriculture and food decline, erosion taking over landscapes, and many other environmental anomalies. These started when herdsmen from Bito, in the Nomadic Region, came to the community with their goats, sheep and cows for the purpose of grazing. The name of the Bito herdsmen’s leader was Babu. Konto Community was in the Southern Region. Both regions were in a country called Zelmuna.
Zelmuna favoured Bito over Konto Community in the sharing of power, justice and fairness. Konto Community was overgrazed and frightened. Its women were raped and maimed in the farm. Some of the Konto men that faced the herdsmen in the farms, telling them to stop their cows from eating up their crops, were killed or left with machete cuts. The Konto people were afraid.
The herdsmen burnt the bushes during dry season for the purpose of triggering new vegetation. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases saturated the atmosphere, contributing to the unnatural warming of Konto Community with grave consequences. The community became increasingly inhabitable. The bush burning destroyed economic trees and dislocated the ecosystem. The animals became imperiled species. 
Before this time, forests in Konto Community were left uncultivated for four years and without burning. But this healthy practice was no more since the Bito herdsmen came. The soil which was replenished by the practice of shifting cultivation in the past became infertile. The Ministry of Environment, society leaders, health officers, forest guards and other stakeholders got fed up. They, too, were threatened and killed by the Bito herdsmen, when they frowned at the bush burning. Bito herdsmen became a big threat.
Ebi, an environmentalist from Konto Community condemned the activities of the herdsmen. He maintained that they contributed immensely to the climate change that was destroying the environment. He wrote a lot of articles as regards to this issue, but the authorities did not pay heed to his words. Ebi saw the authorities as Bito herdsmen’s accomplices.
Whenever the Konto Community complained, the Bito herdsmen would attack them and would kill scores of Konto people and leave many houses torched. The authorities would not do anything. The herdsmen usually attacked Konto Community in the wee hours, when good men should be in the land of dreams. The once peaceful Konto Community hence lost its serenity.
Babu did not like Ebi, because he disturbed their consciences with the truth he kept saying.  
The youths of Konto were furious. They detested what Babu and his group were doing. Whenever they regrouped for a battle against the herdsmen after any attack, the police would arrest them. This did not go down well with them given that Konto Community had made several complaints to the police: That the herdsmen moved around with their animals, well armed with machetes, AK-47 and other dangerous armaments. The herdsmen also kidnapped villagers. The police never arrested any herdsman and had never shown up in any of the attacks. They never came to the rescue of the distressed people of Konto.
There was a raging animosity going on between the two tribes, although the Konto people had to pretend to be at peace with the herdsmen.  They were actually looking for urgent remedial actions to take. The herdsmen made them to be experiencing poor land use planning, inter-communal wars, bush burning, unemployment and poverty. Their socio-economy was destroyed by the herdsmen. They experienced high temperatures and tremendous dryness. Their land suffered the impacts of loss of many species of flora and fauna. Ebi wanted this to stop. But there was no willing government agency to aid him. Babu wanted him dead. Many assassination attempts were made on his life, but he escaped.
Konto people were dying of hunger. The population of their livestock was diminishing while the herdsmen’s were becoming too many. Everywhere one turned were cows, goats and sheep, heaping faeces indiscriminately, followed by unprecedented ants and insects that patronized the huge deposit of fecal matter. Pollution was rife in the community.
The Bito herdsmen moved their cows from one village in Konto Community to another. They did not fear. They now owned the land. No one could protest as these animals fed not only on grass, but, also, on crops such as cassava, being the mainstay of the economy of the Konto people. A bag of garri sold for X3, 000 previously, but after the invasion of the herdsmen, it sold for X9, 000. Cows destroyed practically everything the people planted. Cost of living was on the increase.  
Ebi was deeply pained. He could see the end of this madness. It spelt doom for his community. He told his people that they had to initiate stringent measures to checkmate the activities of the herdsmen. He wanted environmental laws to be enacted against the herdsmen’s practices. While he was thoughtful of how to stop the herdsmen, Babu led his people into a game reserve in Konto, reserved as sacred. When Ebi confronted them, they threatened him and he ran away.
“You are saboteurs and instruments of destruction!” Ebi shouted at them as he ran. Babu and his group became chief causative factors to the negative climate change that became Konto people’s new reality. The Konto people had not celebrated new yam festival for years due to poor harvest of yam caused by cattle grazing. Yam was the people’s king of crops. It was distinguished in marriage ceremonies, naming ceremonies and funerals. The people did not joke with yam cultivation, but not anymore.
Ebi lamented the neo-colonialism they were facing in the hands of the herdsmen who saw themselves as outlaws. These people destroyed the socio-cultural heri
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