On the 10th of December 2014, the AU Commission's Chairperson's Special Envoy on Women Peace & Security - WPS (H.E. Mme Bineta Diop) and her team had an interactive session with CSOs in Abuja on the security challenges in Nigeria. I (Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa) was invited in my capacity as a distinct voice in the WPS sector in Nigeria. I attended the Press Conference as a notable blogger, whose niche is peace and security issues.
The focus of the interactive session was the abducted Chibok girls and the effect of insecurity on the lives of citizens (especially women) in the north-east and Nigeria as a whole. Mme Diop is also the Founder and Chair of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), a leading global NGO working on WPS.
Mme Diop's team comprised Justice Sophia Akuffo (Ghanaian), Amb. Diallo Amina Djibo (Nigerien Ambassador to Ethiopia) and Harriette Williams Bright (Sierra-Leonean and Acting Executive Director at Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS). Harriette is also a member of Gender is my Agenda Campaign - GIMAC).
Mme Diop made it abundantly clear that they were not in Nigeria to proffer solutions to the security issues in the country. They were here to listen to the problems first hand and distill "remedies" as prescribed by Nigerian citizens. It was a "solidarity" visit to give Nigerians courage in the midst of the protracted security challenges. It was quite a lively interactive session with CSOs. There was a press conference afterwards.
The major points made are enunciated below:
*The government has a preponderance of the use of force, and one of the major functions of the state is to protect the territorial integrity and life of the average citizen. How has the Nigerian state fared in this regard?
*Could it have been a better story if there was proactive action even before the Chibok girls were abducted in view of the fact that the level of insecurity was escalating prior to the abduction? Could the early warning signs (EWS) of danger be used to avert the disastrous abduction?
*More women, men, boys and girls have been abducted since the Chibok incident. So we are not just talking about 219? girls. We are talking about girls, boys, women and men abducted in north-east Nigeria on a weekly, nay daily basis. What figures are we talking about exactly? Maybe the Nigerian state could facilitate the process of producing exact figures of missing persons - when, where and how they were abducted.
*Schools remain unsafe in north-east Nigeria. Security needs to be beefed up in all schools.
*Rural banditry thrives because the level of governance in the rural areas is almost nil. The people feel unprotected.
*CSOs have the capacity to mount great pressure for more urgent action to end insecurity and the release of the Chibok girls and other abducted genres.
*Many conflicts tagged "religious conflicts" are indeed "political conflicts" in disguise. We therefore need to interrogate the root causes of conflict in order to transform/resolve them.
*Insecurity on the eve of the general elections is a bad omen. Steps need to be taken to curtail the level of insecurity in order to ensure peaceful elections.
*On a lighter note, the men present at the event were referred to as "honorary women".
*It is noteworthy that the interactive session was held on the last of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV),
*There are "conflict entrepreneurs" who profit by conflict and continue to fester the embers of conflict. The should be named, shamed and punished.
*There should be accountability as regards how the security vote of every Governor is spent. At the Federal level, all monies allocated for the purchase of arms and ammunition to fight insurgency should be accounted for.
*The implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in Nigeria needs to be sped up and closely monitored.
*A number of tasks were allotted to Nigerian women at the interactive session viz.,
-Participate in elections
-Facilitate peace processes
-Be interested in accountability & transparency
-Promote access to human rights & justice
*It was noted that 2016 has been designated as the year of human rights, with special emphasis on Women's Rights
What would the Special Envoy's team do with information gathered in Nigeria on WPS?
1) Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC), in which a member of the team, Harriette Bright is very active, has an advocacy outreach for the African continent between the 21st and 23rd of January, 2015 in Addis Ababa. The situation in Nigeria would come up for special mention,.
2) The WPS issues in Nigeria would also be brought up at the WPS Open Forum in Addis on the 16th of December, 2014.
3) GIMAC is a coalition of 55 organizations working to advance gender equality at the AU and in member states. The WPS issues in Nigeria would be widely disseminated within the vast GIMAC network.
4) At the level of the AU, there would be better understanding of WPS issues in Nigeria.
5) On the whole, the solidarity visit by the AU team would further put the plight of Nigeria's security sector, especially as regards WPS on the front burner of the AU and indeed Africa...