The crisis in Northeast Nigeria is now in its tenth year and 7.1 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance. The violent crisis is the result of ongoing armed conflict between state actors and non-state armed groups, which has produced widespread unrest for civilians. As of January 2019, an estimated 1.8 million people are internally displaced and more people are displaced each day due to the ongoing conflict.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) with its specialist unit, the Danish Demining Group (DDG), and financial support from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) are helping some of the most vulnerable communities affected by this conflict in Borno and Adamawa States. Through the “Promoting Stability in Nigeria’s Northeast” project, DRC/DDG is strengthening community resilience and safety, empowering at-risk youth, and fostering positive behavioural change in order to reduce the risks related to mines, explosive remnants of war (ERWs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Under the Armed Violence Reduction (AVR) component of the program, DRC/DDG is partnering with communities to support local conflict resolution through mediation and dialogue. By focusing on participatory and inclusive practices, the program encourages local ownership of decision-making and improves trust between community members.
The program builds on existing local conflict resolution mechanisms and traditional community leadership structures. DRC/DDG staff trains community members in alternative and inclusive dispute resolution techniques, specifically impartial mediation and dialogue facilitation. The training also includes topics like conflict analysis and effective communication. This provides the community members with additional skills and tools for resolving conflicts peacefully and a model that encourages parties of the conflict to find mutually acceptable solutions.
Historically, even minor civic disputes between community members were reported to the police or brought to the court. Very often, this worsened the situation by forcing the involved parties to spend huge amounts of money on legal fees and giving decision - making powers to authorities that did not understand the context of the conflict. This training encourages community members to seek the support of their local mediators to resolve disputes. As the network of these mediators grows, the number of conflicts that are resolved confidentially, safely and cost-free will grow as well.
Between February and April 2018, DRC/DDG carried out trainings on mediation and dialogue facilitation for community leaders in 18 communities across six Local Government Areas (LGA)s in Adamawa and Borno States.
As Alhaji Yuguda Samaila, the Village Head of Betso Community (Mubi North LGA, Adamawa State) said: “We have seen a lot of impact from DRC/DDG’s work in the community since my people – the elders and youth – received the training on Mediation and Dialogue Facilitation. With the support of mediators, the youth now resolves conflict among themselves and family conflicts have declined. As the village head, I hardly receive cases on my desk anymore because they are being handled by the mediators trained by DRC /DDG. We thank you DRC and DDG”.
Through leadership trainings that include basic conflict management and mediation skills, youth have also gained capacities to resolve conflict at an individual level. To date, 18 youth leadership trainings have been carried out and 724 youth have been trained.
Sunday Musa, a youth leader in Kwa community (Mubi North LGA, Adamawa state) attested to the effectiveness of the training he learnt in his discussions with the DRC/DDG team. “This training (Youth Leadership, Basic Mediation and Dialogue Facilitation) is already impacting my life. After the first two days of training, I went back home and asked my wife and children to tell me what makes them sad, angry or happy in the house. They didn’t know that I was test-running my newly acquired leadership skills on them. They opened up to me and talked about what had been bothering them. This information helped me to understand my family better and comprehends how some of my actions trigger and upset them…now I can be an effective leader that can manage conflict properly.”