Since the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria in April, and the rebellion in northern Mali by Islamist separatists in 2012, the normally sleepy region of the Sahel, just below the Sahara desert, has attracted international attention and intervention. This month we are pleased to announce that we have launched a new section of our peacebuilding website Insight on Conflict, to showcase for the first time the local peacebuilding sector in this now volatile region.
Over the past couple of years, several developments have moved the Sahel region up the priority list of the media and internationally policymakers alike. The rebellion and coup in Mali in 2012 led to French military intervention and fears for the stability of the country. Neighbouring Niger also suffered a coup in 2010 and faces continuing challenges over claims from the Tuareg community and establishing the role of religion in the state. Above all, the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, with their high profile atrocities and kidnappings, has drawn attention to instability in the Sahel and the rise of militant Islamism in the region.
In response to rising concerns about the situation in the Sahel, we want to establish what local peace groups are doing there. Our experience is that in any conflict, there will be local people devising their own solutions to counter violence and build peace. So far we have mapped these for Insight On Conflict in three countries of the Sahel – Nigeria, Niger and Mali – which you can find there now. In the coming months we will be adding Chad and Burkina Faso.
Already we’ve managed to profile important groups such as the Africa Women Welfare Committee, who are working for female involvement in conflict prevention in Mali; and L’Association pour la Redynamisation de L’Elevage au Niger, who build trust between farmers and pastoralists in Niger, where land is often a key source of conflict. Although international attention has focused on the role of radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram, many groups are working based on an in-depth knowledge of the diverse range of factors driving conflicts in their communities.
In order to carry out this mapping, we’re pleased to be working with local experts such as Michael Femi Sodipo, a peacebuilding expert from Kano in northern Nigeria, and Oumarou Gado, a leading journalist in Niger. Funding has been provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Insight on Conflict is the leading online source for information on local peacebuilders, with over 800 groups across the world already profiled.