The 2nd edition of the Abuja Dialogue opened on Tuesday with a call for reform in the agricultural sector in West Africa and the Sahel as solutions to curbing insecurity in the region.The theme of the dialogue is “Migration and Inter-community Conflicts in West Africa and the Sahel: Which endogenous solutions for security for all”.
The event was organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Co-financed by the European Union to establish a diagnosis of the current security situation in West Africa and the Sahel and proffer endogenous solutions.
Mr. Nnamdi Obasi, Senior Adviser on Nigeria, International Crisis Group, said insecurity was fuelled by some major conflicts across the region ranging from farmers and herders crisis to conflict between extremist groups among others.
The crisis escalated overtime due to competition over diminishing resources by various user groups, climate change, change in transhumant migration by pastoralists, but increasing availability of illicit arms have changed the dimension of the violence.
The absence or weakness of the state in providing protection for communities and the exploitation of inter-community divides by extremist groups have also escalated the insecurity.
The conflicts, he said, had killed many and rendered others homeless, therefore, undermining agriculture and rural livelihoods threatening food security.
“To curb this, we need to embark on developmental issues, our long method of agriculture whether livestock or crop farming, though the methods were good at a certain stage, but they have to evolve with the way the society is evolving.
“So we need agricultural reforms to make them less conflict prone as they are presently, there is need to reform agricultural practices in the region by overhauling both the pastoral and crop farming,” he said.
Obasi added that security agencies in the region needed to cooperate more closely and the military in the region also required a comprehensive reform to tackle insecurity and disarmament.
“We have to deal with poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment because these are issues that are creating a large army of uneducated, discontented and alienated persons vulnerable to recruitment by criminal and armed groups, ‘’ he said.
Dr. Emile Ouedraogo, Senior Peace and Security expert, African Centre for Strategic Studies from Burkina Faso, said that the insecurity in the region if not checked would lead to migration issues .
Ouedraogo said that the region was marked with multiple crises with compound issues, adding that the increase in inter-community crises had led to humanitarian crises affecting almost every country in the region.
He called on countries in the region to begin to look inwards to use endogenous solutions to achieve long lasting peace to avoid regional humanitarian crises.
Mr. Ulrich Thum, Resident Representative, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), said that the organisation had been promoting the values of social democracy in Africa for over 40 years.
Thum said that the programme was part of the EU’s Security for All project to provide inclusive security and democratic governance through the participation of CSOs in Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon and the ECOWAS region.
“It looks specifically at the cooperation and interaction of traditional security actors and civil society in the field of security because real security provision is not the exclusive responsibility of security agencies.
“It needs an inclusive approach, taking into account various stakeholders and the roles and needs of various actors because only if there is a good interplay between stakeholders can real human-centred security be provided,” he said.
Thum said the project combined a set of regional West Africa wide activities and recommendations would be made to policy makers to better reorient their actions and strategies to achieve sustainable peace.