By: Kingsley Omonobi – Abuja
A consortium of humanitarian partners led by Mercy Corps on Wednesday completed the implementation of a unique initiative to improve security, reduce support for violence and build the capacity of citizens of Borno state to hold government accountable in communities hard hit by the insurgency in the State.
The initiative, Northeast Conflict Management and Stabilization (NE-CMS) programme responded to local level conflicts that are driven by the insurgency and supported target communities to become more peaceful and resilient to the drivers of conflict and violence, including recruitment into the insurgency.
Other consortium partners were, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) and Okapi Consulting/Radio Ndarasan International, Women in Nigeria and Christian Association of Nigeria
The initiative was successfully implemented in twenty one (21) of the most at risk communities as well as five Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Damboa, Dikwa, MMC, Jere, Gwoza and Konduga.
Speaking at a dissemination and learning event to share impact and share insight on approaches and challenges with implementing peace building programmes in violent and highly volatile contexts like the Northeast Nigeria, Mercy Corps Country Director, Ndubisi Anyanwu noted that there are several complex issues fueling the prolonged crisis in the region, from unsatisfactory relations between citizens and government as well as traditional systems of exclusion.
Speaking on the situation in North East, Anyanwu noted that there are several complex issues fueling the prolonged crisis in the region, from unsatisfactory relations between citizens and the government.
On Borno state in particular, he said, “Our pre-implementation assessment observed deep tensions from social and political conflicts within local communities, including inter-ethnic, inter-generational, and IDP-host communities’ conflicts resulting in economic exclusion.
“In order to ensure lasting peace, we worked closely with key stakeholders to strengthen and establish several channels for discourse between the government, the military, community leaders and the people towards improving the security situation and protection for the people of Borno state”.
Programme Manager, Paul Enude explained further: “Committee members are representatives of various communities, trained by the NE-CMS programme, empowering them with the skills to better advocate for their needs, carry out conflict resolution and civilian protection. Initiatives led by the groups have provided new community infrastructures for those in need and improved the relationship between the military and civilians”
“To address specific community needs and proffer solutions that were community structures were established across all the 21 communities, including the Good Governance Committee, Conflict Management Committee, Youth Support Networks, Women Councils, Psycho-social Support Groups and Community Protection Committees.
“Committee members are representatives of various communities trained by the NE-CMS programme, empowering them with the skills to better advocate for their needs, carry out conflict resolution, and civilian protection.
The Country Director, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Mujidang Sitdang on his part said initiatives led by these groups have provided new community infrastructures for those in needs and improved the relationship between the military and civilians”.
“It is significant that despite the challenges of relationship building with government institutions in Borno, along with the particular complexities occasioned by the insurgency, Mercy Corps has generated meaningful buy-in from representatives in the House of Assembly, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and Directors of Planning.
“These stakeholders have noted the uniqueness of Mercy Corps’ approach in treating them as partners in programming, rather than as a means of attaining official authorization.
“As a result, government actors have demonstrated clear commitment in activities. Approximately 95% of invited government representatives turn up at all dialogue sessions with community members, traditional leaders, the media and civil society representatives”.
Leveraging on the expertise of the consortium partners and inclusive community groups, the programme executed several successful conflict sensitive interventions, which had produced positive outcomes.
For instance, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NE-CMS observed increased myths and low acceptance of COVID-19 messaging due to weakened trust between the communities and government, some reasons being but not limited to how COVID containment and palliatives were handled.
The programme learnt that intermediary approaches such as advocacy through community volunteers is proving to be a veritable tool in helping communities’ combat COVID-19 misinformation.
“During the pandemic, we adapted our approach to support Borno state COVID-19 task force to review its COVID-19 Prevention and Response Plan (PRP) to ensure both community and government level participation in ensuring effectiveness in its response,” said Joy Aderele, NE-CMS Programme Consortium Manager, Mercy Corps.
“The programme worked to influence policy at the state and community levels using alternative narratives that provided tools for a continuous dialogue for brokering peace not just in Borno state, but as a blueprint for the entire northeast region,” added Millicent Lewis-Ojumu, Country & Programme Manager for Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
The NE-CMS programme is anchored on the UK Government’s approach to peace building and managing fragility, as articulated in its Building Stability Framework for Conflict Resolution Mechanisms, which involves supporting social cohesion through dialogue and stabilization through engagement with armed actors.