By Emiko Perea
Communities around the world have been heavily impacted, enduring health risks and economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of this unprecedented challenge, the people of Kajuru LGA in Nigeria also suffered guerilla attacks and kidnappings. In response to these recent attacks, Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Nigeria organized a dialogue meeting composed of 40 women and young leaders of diverse ethnicities and religious identities to explore peaceful coexistence to the area.
The peacebuilding dialogue meeting was held on June 16, 2020, with the support of the US Embassy with precautionary measures put in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Before the meeting started, each participant was given access to hand sanitizer, facemasks, and soap and water. The participants’ had their temperatures taken and adhered to social distancing guidelines.
A mutual desire to end the violence happening in the community drove the discussion. Sheikh Halliru Maraya, the GPF Nigeria Northern Coordinator, expressed sympathy towards the participants for the terrible attacks that resulted in the loss of lives and the destruction of property.
Rev. John Joseph Hayab, the Country Director for GPF Nigeria, called for unity in the community to create a peaceful environment that dissuades criminal activity. He reached out to the participants to get their insight as to what was happening in their community, including root issues and proposed solutions.
Several participants echoed the belief that people participating in the attacks were likely their neighbors attacking them based on their different beliefs or ethnicities rather than “outsiders.” The tensions between the Fulanis (a primary nomadic Muslim group) and the natives resulted in the attacks according to some of the participants. Furthermore, to create peace in the area, it was voiced that the people of the community needed to put aside their differences in religion and ethnicity and sincerely embrace each other based on shared values across their faith traditions.
The participants were concerned about the recent armed kidnappings and expressed their frustrations towards the government and community leaders’ lack of willingness to act to resolve the conflict. One participant emphasized that peace won’t come until they replaced their deceased chief, who was assassinated the previous year. The participant explained that a chief was needed to control the community and direct them toward peace.
Halima Dauda, a participant, thanked the Global Peace Foundation for helping curb the disaster that had befallen the community and appreciated the wake-up call it gave to the community to prevent further disaster in the future. The dialogue resulted in motivating the people of the community to actively work for peace and moved them to strengthen their Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) to protect the diverse people from different tribes and to fight the crime that threatens to take over the area.