Since 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency and subsequent responses to it have ravaged northeast Nigeria and the border regions of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It has led to over 25,000 civilian deaths, displacement of 2.1 million people,* 5.1 million people facing acute food insecurity,** the crippling of the local economy and what the UN has deemed the 'worst humanitarian crisis on the African continent.'***
Conciliation Resources’ works in northeast Nigeria, supporting young people in this region to prevent and respond to violent conflict.
Whilst the humanitarian response is imperative, a durable peace in northeast Nigeria will only be achieved by building relationships and reconciling the people divided by the conflict - whether it be within or between families, communities, faith groups, political affiliations or ethnic groups. At the heart of the conflict has been youth – whether as perpetrators, defenders or victims of extreme violence – yet they are all too often excluded from formal and traditional response strategies to the violence.
Youth and conflict in northeast Nigeria
"The widespread suspicion of youth only serves to further ostracise them from society and make them more susceptible to being mobilised to undertake violence. It is vital that excluded youth are placed at the heart of peace initiatives so they have alternative, non-violent mechanisms for expressing their grievances and needs."
Conciliation Resources is working with local partner organisations - Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress in Borno State and Hope Interactive in Yobe State - to help young people from communities that have experienced repeated attacks or previously been under Boko Haram control to find their own creative, alternative paths away from violence.
The work focuses upon engaging at-risk and vulnerable youth, who are traditionally perceived as being the hardest to reach in society. Over the course of the conflict, these youth have been particularly badly stigmatised and marginalised by their communities - whether it be because of them being substance abusers, sex workers, orphans, victims/perpetrators of extreme violence or having familial links to Boko Haram. It is these youth who are excluded from society that are particularly susceptible to being both a victim of violence and exploited by all sides to undertake violence (again).
"This is unique for us. No one has ever come to ask us what we need and what our challenges are. Nobody comes here, nobody comes near us, nobody consults us, let alone help us. We are alone here. People think this place is evil and won’t come. The way you have come to us and spoken to us, gives us belief and confidence that we can change things and that you will help us to resolve our challenges."
Youth Peace Platforms: united for peace
Over 550 youth from eleven communities have been supported to form a network of physical and digital youth coalitions committed to promoting messages of tolerance. Through these Youth Peace Platforms young people are supported to rebuild their confidence, celebrate their resilience, process the traumas of their past, analyse conflicts and voice their needs and concerns. So far, over 3000 young people have received training, mentoring and support. By showing their commitment for peace and undertaking a significant transformation in their personal behaviour, these youths are beginning to challenge society’s negative stereotyping of them as the pioneers of the violence and laying the foundations for greater trust and understanding between youth, their communities and officials.
Whether we like it or not, youth have been at the centre of the violence, it is our brothers and sisters who were part of this group, have been killed, abducted, arrested or whatever. That is undeniable. But what I see now is that we youth also have the potential to end the violence and bring peace to communities.
Idris Abdullahi, Youth Peace Platform chairperson from Damaturu, Yobe State
This new project builds on over five years of Conciliation Resources’ work in the Plateau State of Nigeria, where a network of 16 youth platforms has helped over 400 young people work for peace in their communities. The work in northeast Nigeria is possible thanks to support from the German Federal Foreign Office.
**FAO (2017) Situation report January 2017. Available at: http://www.fao.org/emergencies/resources/documents/resources-detail/en/c/463759/