Rebuilding Peace in Keana, one step at a time.
“Peace brings development, this is why young people like myself are taking steps to restore peace and unity to Keana,” said Abdul Ari, a young indigene of Keana who is deeply interested in the progress of his community. Keana Local Government Area (LGA) in Nasarawa is situated in the South-Eastern corner of the state where it borders the neighboring state — Benue.
Keana is characterized by evenly distributed plains and hills, scenic landscape as well as lush vegetation synonymous with the middle-belt region.
The major ethnic groups in the area include the Alagos, Tivs, Megeles (Koros), and Fulanis. Keana is blessed with stunning landscapes, natural resources such as fertile land for farming and open fields for grazing, there are also salt mines found within the area that the indigenes refine through local technology.
Over the last two decades, there has been a challenge affecting the LGA; farmer-herder clashes and inter-ethnic conflicts have impeded peace and development in the region. The region has continually faced clashes as recent as early 2019, however, the major crises experienced within the last two decades were the 2001/2002 inter-ethnic crises and the 2014 farmer-herder conflict. These crises have had devastating effects on the socio-economic development of the communities. A resident of Keana described the conflicts as setting the community back in terms of development.
“We have lost lives and properties — including farm produce and livestock. Many residents have fled the volatile regions to seek refuge in makeshift IDP camps in schools and other neighboring communities. Some of our children could not attend school as a result of the attacks and reprisal attacks.”
The community is looking inward and making efforts to restore peace with the understanding that external parties can only do so much. A Peace and Development Committee made up of representatives from the traditional ruling class, ethnic groups, religious bodies, and the security community is working to restore peace around the LGA. The committee’s goal is to restore peace and normalcy in the community through dialogues, mediation, seeking redress, and compensations where necessary. This has helped ameliorate the occurrence of violent attacks. The committee also works in addressing skirmishes arising from land disputes.
The youth demography is also playing an important role in promoting sustainable peace in Keana. Through community groups and civil society organizations, young people are championing peace initiatives through grassroots enlightenment campaigns. Abdul Ari, a member of the Youth Assembly of Nigeria, stated that “as well-meaning citizens, we have a responsibility to take the message of peace into the local communities in local dialects that the people understand — this we do by convening regular peace summits that brings all parties together. We also let everyone — both farmers and herders — know that the land which is a trigger factor to some of the conflicts being experienced can be managed and shared among all and bring economic gain to all.”
“It is only when there is peaceful coexistence that both the farmers and nomads can enjoy the gains of their practices.” — Abdul Ari.
Another young fellow, Mr. Julius Akwe, through volunteering with an NGO; Beacon of Hope Foundation, is lending his time and skills to help victims of past conflicts who have had traumatic experiences by offering to counsel and distribute relief materials to such persons. “Many young people are contributing to the various peace initiatives — some through engaging in door-to-door sensitization and by working with the local vigilante to check and report unscrupulous activities within their locality — many of which are yielding positive results across the board.”
“I am hopeful that together we can restore peace to our homeland, Keana.” — Julius Akwe.
This piece was commissioned by UNDP Nigeria under the Shifting the Narrative on the Herder-Farmer Crisis in Nigeria through Peacebuilding Initiatives: Youth Creatives and Media Engagement.