The Power Of Women And Youth In Peace Building Processes – Barr. Rebecca Sako-John

Add a Comment 12 Views
17 Min Read
Barr. Rebecca Sako-John.

At the Northwest Regional Conference On Women, Peace and Security Issues, held in April 2024, in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, advocations were made for the participation of more women in sustaining peace and conflict resolution in northwestern Nigeria. It was also said at the conference that one of the measures to curb insecurity in the Northwest region of the country is to get communities to begin to take ownership of their own security and build their capacities. Most Nigerian northern states have been engulfed in several insecurity issues, disrupting daily activities of residents. At the event themed “Promoting Best Practices For Inclusive Security and Peacebuilding Processes in Northwest Nigeria”, Mediaage Magazine spoke to one of the panelists, Barr. Sako-John who spoke on the peace building processes carried out by Kaduna State, some other northern states in the country and international development agencies in the country. Excerpts.

Please, can we meet you?
My name is Rebecca Sako-John. I’m a trained Lawyer from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I have a Masters Degree in Law from the American University, Washington College of Law in the United States. I’m also a Hubert Humphrey Fellow that was awarded by the US government in 1987. I’ve been a human rights activists since 1990.

- Advertisement -
Ad image

Though, I began practicing law but, my activism took me off legal practice. I was fully involved in Civil Society Organisations. I formed an NGO where we are working on promoting women and children rights. We also drive towards promoting participatory democracy. It was from there I got appointed into the Kaduna State Peace Commission as a permanent commissioner where I’ve been in the last two years promoting peaceful resolutions of conflicts and promoting women’s participation in the peace building process.

What made you leave your legal profession for human rights activism?
I am an origin of Kaduna State and have been in practice throughout in the state. Actually, I was combining legal practice at the early stage of being a civil society rights activist. The workload became much. I began by providing free legal services/counseling for victims of human rights abuses.

I was doing the law practice and running an NGO together but, one had to give way for the other and because I was doing a lot of human rights cases and engaging with the government in promoting democratic processes, citizens engagement in governance processes, I had to let go the legal practice, even when it was in the same vein that I was providing free services for people. I had to incline more to civil society activism.

We would love to ask a seemingly controversial question, is it true that peace starts with a woman in the house?
Well, it depends on the circumstances but, I think everybody can be a peace maker and for there to be peace, both parties have to agree to understand themselves. There need to be a compromise. Women have been brought up in a way that they are expected to compromise at every instance but, we know that nowadays, it’s not always that way because, women are beginning to understand that they have rights and can also have a say.

Now, where they are expected to be submissive, it becomes the opposite . So, in that aspect, one may be wrong to say that peace begins with a woman at home. When a woman understands that she has a say, she has a right, and can say no, she must not always submit to what she’s been told to do, it becomes hard for her to compromise.

- Advertisement -
Ad image

So, everyone is suppose to be a peacemaker and it takes a lot of give and take. It’s not just the part of a woman to ensure peace, but, it’s a role for all parties.

Now, who’s a peaceful woman?
A peaceful woman is one who tries to understand. Like I said, there must be a compromise or agreement but, a peaceful woman is one who is ready to offer the olive leaf and say I’m willing to let go some things. The one that is not peaceful will always insist on her stance, unwilling to shift grounds.

I know the nature of women in the African society is always to bring peace, to always agree to things thrown their way but, that also is not a good way to go because, it means that you are always undermining the other party whose concerns are not always addressed.

This leads to a state where that party feels grievous. When that party is forcefully or psychologically compelled to agree, it means that peace may not be the desired.

Sometimes, silence does not entail peace. It may be a time bomb, ticking and waiting to explode. What am I trying to say? Sometimes, the peace may not be the desired one because of the way it was obtained.

Let’s get to the community level. We’ve been witnessing insecurity issues like banditry, kidnapping and I think you were the one that made that statement or the program manager that said if you check in the last one year, insecurity issues have reduced. Could it be attributed to the efforts of Global Rights? Because, what they are doing is really commendable.

At the community level, more persons are beginning to work in the space for conflict resolution. So, there are a lot of activities going on, lots of awareness created in terms of having platforms that accommodate solutions to conflicts are there. As more persons are getting aware of those platforms and turning in for resolutions, we are beginning to see less of those types of violence in communities because, the trained CDCs are the ones that people reach out to and quickly act to resolve issues.

They’ve been trained to monitor the communities and where they see signs (we call them indicators or indices) that what is going on might lead to a conflict, they act fast to see how they can get it resolved by calling the parties involved and facilitating dialogues.

When they notice any suspicious movement like motorcyclists who may be bandits and where they are coming from or a group of persons arguing which could possibly lead to a fight or conflict and people getting killed or maimed or properties getting destroyed, they alert the law enforcement agencies.

If there is a need for arrest or resolution, it will be done. And, because the community people are aware that these kind of persons trained to keep an eye on the society exist, they draw their attention immediately to issues or signs that may trigger violence.

Conflicts that had existed previously are beginning to reduce because of the establishment of these structures, trusted by the community residents and it’s paying dividends.

These community structures you talked about, are they just in Kaduna State?

The whole project focuses on Kaduna and Sokoto states. Global Rights is implementing this project in collaboration with other stakeholders like the Kukah Centre, PWAN (Partners West Africa) and International Alert. Though, there are other states implementing similar intervention programmes, all these are in respect to promoting peaceful resolution of conflicts and peace building.

Some organisations like International Alert and PWAN are looking at areas like access to justice. Others have taken roles on the aspect of gender based violence, human rights abuses. They are working with either the law enforcement agencies and legal bodies, such that if there are conflicts or violation of rights, one will be able to access justice timely. This helps to avert people taking laws into their hands.

When you have people working with law enforcement agencies, ensuring that case diaries are compiled quickly and in a good way, taken to the Ministry of Justice for advice on if to go ahead with prosecution or not, it helps to reduce the extent to which people take decisions by themselves. Like I said, these are being done by different partners like a consortium.

Sokoto and Kaduna States are doing quite similar things. If you go to other partner consortium like Lawyers Alert, International Alert and PWAN is working in Katsina and Niger States, while Global Rights are not even in Niger State, that’s why they are making a case that the project be extended to Niger State.

So, it’s not just Sokoto and Kaduna. They even have aspects of the projects that are being implemented in Kano. They also had partners that came from Kebbi State. All these are aimed at trying to get other states and communities to be involved and take up some of these approaches to implement in their communities.

The Kaduna State Government has done so well in creating the Peace Commission, in like manner, how can it translated to the federal level?

Well, at the federal level, we actually have the Institute For Peace and Conflict, and it’s been doing a lot since it was established. They are at the point of launching a digital situation room like the Kaduna State Peace Commission has. But, before then, they had chain monitors in every local government area in Nigeria who give early warning signs or information to be acted on.

They work mostly at the federal level and are under the Foreign Affairs Ministry or so. They work with structures at the national level. Because we operate a three tier government administration, they are more effective looking at it from the top going down, while at the state level, we have structures like the peace building agencies in Plateau, the recently established one in Benue, Adamawa, and other states like Katsina, Niger, Kano, Nasarawa e.t.c.

We are working to see that they have a well structured peace building committees that can work with the people at the local and state levels to ensure that they deal with the type of conflicts on ground. I know there’s been efforts to get all the established peace building agencies and I also heard that meetings will be held with governors because, they’ve gone round the states for advocacy and supported by the United States Institute For Peace to set up these peace building agencies.

I also know of a process that will convene a meeting very soon but, this time, it is with the northern governors on the need for these structures to be established which I believe they will.

For Kaduna State, I think it has really helped to some extent to tame religious crisis, the farmers – herders clashes have reduced a bit but, it’s still not totally curtailed because, it’s a contestation. We are beginning to see communities come to the peace building commission for mediation to find peace. The more residents understand the role of the peace commission, the more they come for mediation that will help in resolving their issues.

The peace commission has helped in stabilising some of the issues that cause tension and conflicts.

International bodies that have come to support peaceful conflict resolution, what word do you have for them and their partnership with the Nigerian government? Has it been effective?

It’s been effective because, in the first place, they’ve made the Nigerian government understand the need to take decisive measures on insecurity. Already, they have this framework like the Women, Peace and Security Agreement, the one on youth, peace and security, all promoting the participation of youth and women in peace building processes.

MediaageNG The Power Of Women And Youth In Peace Building Processes - Barr. Rebecca Sako-John At the Northwest Regional Conference On Women, Peace and Security Issues, held in April 2024, in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, advocations were made for the participation of more women in sustaining peace and conflict resolution in northwestern Nigeria. It was also said at the conference that one of the measures to curb insecurity in the Northwest region of the country is to get communities to begin to take ownership of their own security and build their capacities. Most Nigerian northern states have been engulfed in several insecurity issues, disrupting daily activities of residents. At the event themed "Promoting Best Practices For Inclusive Security and Peacebuilding Processes in Northwest Nigeria", Mediaage Magazine spoke to one of the panelists, Barr. Sako-John who spoke on the peace building processes carried out by Kaduna State, some other northern states in the country and international development agencies in the country. Excerpts.
Barr. Sako-John said more persons are beginning to work in spaces for conflict resolution.

Because Nigeria has agreed to be part of the world bodies promoting peaceful resolutions and peaceful societies, the country is obligated to domesticate those frameworks. Some of these bodies have supported Nigeria in terms of implementing – we have the National Action Plan. The states localise it into state action plan. So, we have State Action Plan for Women Peace and Security, we have State Action Plan for Youth, Peace and Security.

In Kaduna State, we are coming up with a second action plan. The first one has elapsed, it was a three year action plan. What the state did was to implement some of the commitments in terms of prevention, protection, participation of women in peace building structures.

Like the project from Global Rights, it’s through the support of these international agencies, else, the government alone cannot do it.

So, you can see that all these projects are supported by development agencies like the FCDO, the UK Government, United States Institute For Peace, USAID – it’s also on early warning transformative response project supported by USAID. There are other projects supported by several development agencies, apart from those with bilateral agreement with the Nigerian government.

There are lots of agencies such as Mercy Corp, Action Aid, Christian Aid, including agencies that don’t have offices in Nigeria but, supportive of processes that build peace in communities. All these are in support of filling the gaps found in the peace building resources Nigeria have.

NGOs are also putting in their best because, most of the work done at the community levels are by local NGOs. They are the ones helping those development agencies to create awareness, data collection, analysis and all the advocacy work that is happening is by other agencies and civil society organisations at various levels.

These international agencies are doing eighty percent of the work, while what the government at all levels is covering is not more than 20 percent.

Thank you for your time Ma.
It’s my pleasure.

Share This Article
Leave a comment