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Peace is priceless

31 March 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

Building peace, holding negotiations and dialogues, forgiving and accepting penitent insurgents back into society were the key messages of a two-day workshop organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) held this week in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

Critical stakeholders – including civil society groups, community, youth and religious leaders, traditional rulers, as well as women’s and children’s rights activists – were among those who attended the workshop held on Monday and Tuesday, March 27 and 28, at the El-Kanemi hall at Ramat Polytechnic.

The theme of the workshop was “Sulhu Alheri Ne”, a Hausa expression that means “negotiations and dialogues are important and good”.

One of the attendees summed it up perfectly when he said: “Peace is priceless.”

Victor Pious, a CDD member and an organiser of the workshop, told RNI that the aim was to discuss and brainstorm ways to get all people – but particularly those who were victims of the 13-year insurgency – to forgive and accept the very people who had caused them so much harm and loss back into their communities.

“We want to promote a culture of forgiveness, one that fosters the values of peace and unity.

“During the insurgency more than 35,000 people were killed and more than three million were displaced, forced to flee from their hometowns because of persistent and deadly attacks by insurgents. Countless women and girls were raped, kidnapped and abused under intolerable circumstances. Many were forced to marry their attackers and have babies with them. Schoolgirls and boys were kidnapped. Properties worth billions of naira were destroyed.

“It is no wonder that many of the victims are suspicious of the thousands of repentant insurgents who have surrendered. Even though the penitent fighters have to go through stringent deradicalisation and rehabilitation processes, many victims find it extremely worrisome to have their former attackers living next door to them or in their communities.

“Many fear that the repentant insurgents are just pretending to be sorry. They have no certainty that the former fighters will not go back to their old ways.”

Pious said tens of thousands of penitent insurgents had already surrendered and every day more were coming out of the forest, laying down their weapons and realising that their actions were vile and treacherous and went against the teachings of Islam.

“We know how hard it is for victims to forgive and accept them back into society. We know that we are asking a lot of them. But for real peace and unity to return to Borno State and other northeastern regions, it is imperative for the victims to forgive and accept them; to believe that they are truly sorry.

“Some of these men were forcibly recruited into the Boko Haram [Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS)] sect. Many who escaped from the forest were rejected by their families and the community. This rejection has seriously affected their mental health. That is why, once the repentant insurgents have been deradicalised, rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, we are encouraging our citizens to be patient and kind. It is the only way to stop the war and to achieve sustainable peace and stability.”

Ahmed Shehu, a participant in the workshop and a coordinator of the Peace Ambassadors Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Empowerment, said: “We focused on a transitional and traditional justice system, discussing and brainstorming ways to play a collective role to end the war and to promote peace and unity.

“Now that we are witnessing an influx of insurgents coming out of the bush to surrender, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to work together to chart the way forward and to promote peace and unity by informing, enlightening, educating and encouraging ordinary people to forgive and accept the repentant insurgents.

“I urge the public to accept the insurgency as being destined by Almighty Allah and to accept that only He will judge us. We must accept everything that has happened with good faith. Violence and war cannot bring about peace but negotiations, round-table discussions and dialogues will unite us. Everyone should know that peace is priceless and there is nothing like peace in this world.”

Shehu said the government needed to come up with appropriate and legal channels through which victims of the insurgency could lay complaints and be granted justice. This would discourage victims from retaliating or taking revenge on repentant insurgents.

Participant Abba Aji Kalli said: “We would like the government to adopt and focus on giving traditional rulers, local government authorities, community and religious leaders and other key stakeholders the power to get victims and penitent insurgents to have a dialogue about the issues in a fair and honest way.”

Participants at the workshop agreed to continue encouraging people to accept repentant insurgents. They said this should be promoted at all public gatherings, including in mosques, churches and market squares.

“We want to ensure that we build a bridge between the locals and the penitent insurgents.

“Everyone knows that Almighty Allah forgives His servants and therefore we must develop a culture of forgiveness. If we forgive and accept repentant insurgents, it will encourage insurgents who are still committing these treacherous crimes to come out of the forest, lay down their weapons and surrender. This will put an end to the war and there will be sustainable peace, security, unity and stability.”



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