• Background Image

    News & Updates

June 27, 2014

Killings of Rural Communities in Nigeria: Where is the state?

On Monday night, my village came under brutal attack by Fulani pastoralist gunmen in the Sanga Local Government Area, Kaduna State, Nigeria. Attacks spanned a cluster of villages in the area, where at the last count there were over 90 dead and many more escaped to close by neighborhoods out of fear for their lives. Calmness has now resumed in my community and the mass murdered were buried yesterday, yet we know that this is not peace.

Since gunshots began, my friend’s elderly mother slept in the bushes, only returning to her home each morning. While many managed to take cover, some of the more vulnerable were killed in their sleep. My close cousin and her four young children are among those victims.

Unfortunately, this is a very familiar cycle.

Pastoralists come and kill at random in our communities, state troops arrive many hours later, impose an informal curfew until the violence calms and then nothing follows until another outbreak of killings in another village.

Quite often, arrests are made but it seems no meaningful actions are taken by state agencies. Many concerned citizens have accused the government of complicity, claiming that the military is deliberately not deploying its full capacity to tackle this violence. The history of conflict between pastoralists and agrarian communities is complex and fraught. It has been heightened in the last few years by the use of heavy and modern weapons and religious differences.

Complete failure and helplessness of state security agencies?

These serial attacks have been happening for two years in dozens of rural communities across most of North Central Nigeria – Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger and Taraba states, and even further North in Katsina and Zamfara states. Yet, without any new plans to address this constant and persistent threat, the Government of Nigeria and ruling party politicians would prefer to place blame on the communities and absolve the Federal government of any responsibility. The Government call for citizens to be more vigilant against threats of violence, and support armed forces, yet when we call for help it can take up to 24 hours for support to show up.  The inability of the state security agencies (military, police, secret police, etc.) to confront this violence is attributed to a diversity of reasons ranging from corruption to incapacity.

Even in the midst of the internal corruption and incapacity, many citizens believe there is complicity by the highest levels of the Nigerian state and ruling elite to allow these killings for a variety of political interests, particularly in relation to the upcoming election next year. The recent effective deployment of thousands of troops and equipment, including a number of hovering helicopters, to protect ballot boxes during the Ekiti State gubernatorial elections does support the idea of state complicity. Forces blocked opposition party members from campaigning before the election, yet did not apply similar support elsewhere within more fragile parts of the country.

Politicians subtly play up oversimplified divisions in Nigeria 

The complex dynamic of religion, locality and hierarchy in Nigeria tends to blur the issues and reduces everything to a competition between Christianity and Islam, or north vs. south. The governments at the federal, state and local spheres subtly play up these sentiments and exploit them for popular support from a divided citizenry. In addition, the majority of local elite also ‘tap-into’ this rhetoric to maintain their turf and position in the political and economic war-field.

The incidence of pastoralist-local community conflicts is not new in Nigeria, but it does not gain the same coverage as other issues such as Boko Haram killings, and city bombings. It has been neglected by nonchalant governments for far too long. Scholars like Jibrin Ibrahim have recently sought to bring these issues to the discussion. We are now, more than ever, calling for the Nigerian Government at all levels to take the lead in mobilizing stakeholders to take action and save rural communities from this trauma.

June 24, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Dilshad Othman

Meet, Dilshad Othman, our next Rotary Peace Fellow from Class 12.  He is based at The Rotary Peace Center which is anchored by the Joint Duke University/University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Program.   The Duke/UNC-CH joint program gives Peace Fellows the option to apply to either institution.  Dilshad is a medical doctor and, as a Peace Fellow, is associated with the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC, specifically in the Department of Maternal and Child Health.

Dilshad graduated from The College of Medicine at Al Mustanserya University in Baghdad in 2000 and finished his studies at Sulaimania University College of Medicine in 2007 in Medical Microbiology. He worked as manager of the Khanaqin Primary Health District in the Iraqi Ministry of Health from 2003 until 2008, after which he was appointed as Khanaqin’s General Hospital Manager by the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

In 2008, Dilshad was sponsored as a Peace Fellow by Rotary District 7710 and the Cary-Kildaire Rotary Club to attend the Rotary Peace and Conflict Resolution program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand and graduated from that program in 2009.  Following graduation he was hired by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a medical doctor.  At ICRC he has been involved in the development and implementation of two major medical training projects in Iraq:

First, “Strengthening the Emergency Services in Iraq,” the main goals of which are to train and educate the local community what to do in case of emergency, displacement, and/or epidemic threats.  The second program, “Supporting Selected Primary Health Care Centers in Iraq,” focuses on improving the quality of care and equality of care, ensuring that women and children have the same access to curative and preventive health care as men.

We asked each Peace Fellow two interview questions.  Here are Dilshad’s answers:

1.  What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next 50 years?

“Most people living nowadays in armed conflict zones believe that in the coming 50 years violence will decrease and more people will be engaged in creating peace and dialogue in all levels. Hopefully, this will happen even earlier since more people are aware about the destructive impacts of armed conflicts.  The Rotary International Foundation, Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, and other peace foundations and organizations will make peace possible and happen through their wide effective activities toward achieving that goal.”

2.  What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to fostering peace within and among nations?

“I believe that looking for and highlighting similarities always bring people and nations together and create a positive, sustainable, peaceful environment. The other factor will be education. I believe strongly that more education and literacy bring peace in the future for our world. Social and economic equality and good governance are other factors which together are very effective in fostering peace.”

Thank you, Dilshad, for sharing how you have built a life of service.  It is very important for people around the world who have not lived through tremendous upheaval in their countries to understand that there are courageous, determined people like you “arming” themselves with knowledge and skills for only humanitarian reasons.  Your experience also sheds much needed light on the efforts of people within war-torn countries who continue to actively work toward change that brings equality to all citizens, irrespective of gender, age, educational, or economic status.   Please keep us informed about what you observe in your studies and work as a Peace Fellow.  The whole arena of global health is of great importance and interest to us all.  We appreciate your gift of personifying how to live a life that, when joined with others who follow your example, will get us to sustainable global peace.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

June 3, 2014

The Shift – Envisioning a a More Socially Just and Peaceful Society

THE SHIFT Movie is a powerful new film being produced and directed by Rochelle Marmorstein that draws from luminaries, leading edge thinkers, evolutionary futurists, scientists and ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  THE SHIFT is the first feature film to reveal the proactive role we are now playing in the evolutionary shift of our collective consciousness. As it chronicles the faces, the stories, and the leaders assisting in this social transformation, the film reveals the phenomenon’s emergence and profound meaning.

The team creating the film aims to showcase those individuals who are already making a difference with passion and a commitment to positive change.  Through compelling interviews and stories, the movie illustrates how technology and innovation breakthroughs are rapidly advancing the capability of individuals  to make a bigger impact on the billions who  inhabit the planet.

After creating two critically acclaimed documentaries, Rochelle Marmorstein has now assembled a world class team of professional documentary artists, leading edge thinkers, scientists, culture innovators, social entrepreneurs, and digital artists to create THE SHIFT Movie.  The film has been 10 years in the making and is being funded by thousands of contribution.