Nigeria: Kaduna State peace talks forge ahead but COVID-19 is slowing action

By Mohammed Ibrahim

Communities in Kajuru, a region in Kaduna State in north-west Nigeria, recently held peace talks despite COVID-19 challenges but are concerned for the timeline of implementing plans.

Adara , Gbagyi, Hausa and Fulani tribal communities have recently seen fighting between groups along farmer/herder and religious divides, despite relative peace in the past. Clashes between Fulani, a majority Muslim and herder group, and Adara, a predominantly Christian and farming group, prompted the state government to hold a stakeholders meeting on April 26.

The meeting, chaired by state commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan, included high-level security officers and ‎community leaders. Religious leaders from Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and youth leaders also attended.

Religious tolerance was a key theme of the discussion, as well as each group's need for support from other tribes in the area.

Benjamin Yuhana Maigari, a peace advocate and Adara tribe member (pictured right), told his kinsmen about the need ‎for all communities to form a joint local team across tribal divides to enhance security in the area. He said a joint team will help build trust among all the tribes living in the area.

"‎The other idea encouraged at the meeting was going to same local markets, because our markets are divided along ethnic lines, except for Kasuwar Magani market," Maigari said. "You hardly visit other markets located in the surrounding villages and see traders and buyers of different tribes mingling together. So, we encouraged people to buy from same markets so as to build trust among themselves."

"We have also discussed how farmers will be free to go to their farms without being attacks vice versa."

Maigari said so far the challenges of Coronavirus has affected the timeline of implementing action plans but they are determined to continue peace talks.

"We still felt that we could meet using social distancing to discus the involvement of the principal actors in the crisis which are the youth because they need to be involved in the peace talks," he said.

It will, however, mean that no further meetings are planned as they brace for the pandemic. Maigari said as a rural community, holding meeting through Zoom or video conferences in Kajuru is not possible because the local groups lack access to the technology needed.

One initiative put on hold because of the pandemic is a sports program aimed at bringing youth together. Maigari said he had hoped a soccer competition, dubbed the "Cup for Peace" could bring youth together without considering their tribes or religion to play a league match that would promote unity.

The communities are also looking at a possibility of forming a community association comprising all ethnic groups as members.

Fulani youth leader Yusufa Ahmadu said this was not the first meeting held to address misunderstanding between his group and the Adara tribe. He appealed to government representatives to ask that anybody arrested causing problems in both communities be punished to serve as deterrent to others.

Aruwan said the government they had met with Adara and Fulani leadership at several meetings to appeal for peace and restraint.

"When you promote violence, remember you are riding on the back of a tiger, and it will consume you someday. In a nutshell no one is exempted, eventually,’’ Aruwan cautioned groups in a statement.