HOW DO-NO-HARM MITIGATES SECTARIAN VIOLENCE

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A Premium Times report by Joshua Olufemi and Richard Akinwumi, published on November 16, 2015 showed that despite spending an unprecedented N1.488 trillion on armaments between 2011 and 2014, the coefficient of correlation between military spending and death toll caused by violence is +0.54. According to the Nigeria Security Tracker, deaths caused by crime and violence in Nigeria, rose from 29 in May 2011 to 41,619 in September 2015. A lot of these deaths were linked to terror groups, violence among ethnic groups, farmers, and herdsmen, Niger Delta militants and even police extrajudicial murders. In addition to this number of deaths is the recent sectarian killings in southern Kaduna, which has claimed about 1000 lives within few months. About 45% of these deaths were caused by sectarian violence.

Though there has been significant improvement in the fight against insurgency, the same cannot be said about sectarian violence. Nigeria’s economy is heavily threatened by ethnic and religious violence and has restricted foreign investors. Expatriates are closing their businesses and moving to other countries where the safety of their lives and businesses are guaranteed for investment. Many women and children have been mostly affected by communal clashes which is believed to be political, religious, and ethnically-motivated, while hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, with their sources of livelihood worth billions.

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Conflict at all levels of Nigerian society is mostly driven by intolerance for other ethnic groups, religion and values. The unwillingness for peaceful coexistence, misrepresentation of group interest, poor distribution of resources by community and political leaders and increasing competition for land, plays significant role to increase tension and violence in communities. Most clashes centre on land disputes and encroachment, cattle grazing between nomadic cattle herders and resident farmers, allocation of oil rich lands, and resource control.  This is a trend playing out along ethnic and religious lines.

Government agencies, individuals, international and local CSOs, NGOs, serving as intermediary and peace building agents, must improve on their understanding of peace keeping and intervention. The approaches to initiate peaceful coexistence and reconciliation among indigents and settlers involved in conflict must be systematic. Deployment of military troops, arrest of extremists, incisive statements by society leaders, rather than effecting crisis prevention mechanism, have not fully yielded the desired result for community peace in Nigeria, as issues of conflict get worse by the day.

The DNH template is an important principle of conflict sensitivity (structured to reduce sources of tension and increase peace, during intervention and distribution of relief materials to conflict communities/victims) which can be used for conflict analysis, adequate project planning by interventionist agencies for impact assessment of programme on conflict. It is primarily targeted at humanitarian organisations, but is also applicable to development and peacebuilding programmes for communities. It offers opportunities for various parties to utilise peace building options, promote Local Capacity for Peace (LCP), and create conflict sensitivity awareness in communities where there is violence. These units of the DNH template eliminate incidences which do not encourage transparency and accountability, but increase opportunity for non-interference during distribution of relief materials to victims of violence.

In early 2014, the office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) conducted a cross-sectoral conflict assessment focusing on USAID programs and the risk of violence during the 2015 presidential elections. The Mission sought guidance on how to implement programs in a conflict sensitive manner, emphasizing DNH principles, and maximize peacebuilding opportunities. Part of its findings include the fact that conflict at all levels of Nigerian society is driven largely by competition over resources such as land, water and oil.

ANEEJ has been working with cluster organisations in the Niger Delta, to implement capacity building projects in host communities in the region. ANEEJ applied the DNH approach of conflict sensitivity in building the capacity of host communities for effective advocacy and engagement with policy makers (state house of assemblies and Niger Delta Institutions) to reduce sources of tension and support LCP. Journalists are being taught the usefulness of unbiased conflict reporting, using the DNH methodology. The outcome was successful as host communities engaged with some of the institutions who went as far as putting measures in place to improve on their effectiveness, embrace community participation, collective ownership, without need to heighten tension between host communities, oil exploring companies and NDIs.    

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Relevant organisations involved in aid provision and peace building interventions in communities in Nigeria, should understand that aid distribution can either do harm or strengthen peace, during conflict in communitiesWhere people are in conflict, transfer of resources such as food, water, health care, training of aid staff in managing aid resources, is a highly sensitive matter and represents power and wealth for those who manage them. Thus, aid agents can become an element of the conflict. Some private individuals and public office holders attempt to control and use aid resources to support their side of the conflict and to weaken the other side. There were allegations that public office holders have overestimated and diverted monies budgeted for IDPs and for the development of the North East. The transfer of resources can build on the connectors that bring communities together, and reduce the divisions and sources of tensions that portends greater danger to the common existence of Nigerians as a people and country.

Charles Iyare,

M&E

 

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