I am pleased to share this important message from American civil society groups regarding Buhari’s meeting with Trump.
On the occasion of the visit of President Buhari:
The Nigeria Working Group is made up of diverse organizations who work in advocacy, human rights, direct humanitarian relief, peacebuilding, and various other technical sectors committed to supporting a fruitful and constructive relationship between the United States and Nigeria to promote development and peace. Nigeria is a strong ally for the United States with social, political, and economic influence across the continent. We are concerned with the current state of conflict in Nigeria and look forward for the opportunity for President Trump and President Buhari to strengthen their commitment to preventing and ending violence in Nigeria.
On the important occasion of President Buhari’s official visit to Washington, DC, members of the working group urge that he and President Trump discuss the following issues including:
- Safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons: To ensure safe return of displaced persons requires access by humanitarian actors, clear reporting on the security status of the area of return, and measures to support adequate food and medical provisions for the returning populations. Individuals who have returned or escaped abduction should be provided with necessary care and have access to family members during this process. Alongside and incorporated into humanitarian assistance, there needs to be specific attention paid to reconciliation and reintegration efforts. Limited attention to rebuilding community relationships risks reversing successes made in the fight against Boko Haram and creates conditions for the escalation of social conflict in this fragile context.
- Robust and effective response to the ongoing violence of Boko Haram: A multifaceted response that includes accountability and a commitment to the practice of good governance is critical for defeating the insurgency and rehabilitating communities in crisis. Deradicalization, reintegration, and rehabilitation of former Boko Haram combatants must be coordinated, strategic, and locally-led, with a clear vision for long-term success. These efforts should also go beyond focusing on individual fighters and also focus on community and economic stability and resilience.
- Addressing root drivers of inter-communal conflict in the Middle Belt: Violence between farming and herding communities in the Middle Belt continues to escalate, with over 170,000 people displaced from Benue state alone since December. Increasing attacks and high-level calls for Nigerians to ‘rise up and defend themselves’ threatens to intensify violence in other states and export instability to other regions of the country and to bordering countries. The Middle Belt is the food basket of Nigeria and continued violence not only threatens human lives, but the food production and security of the country. There needs to be support to local platforms that link up to state and national level responses to address conflict drivers and triggers and to manage conflicts in their community. At the same time, there needs to be a coordinated effort to lessen inflammatory rhetoric around attacks, build trust between communities and the government, and promote messages of peace.
This meeting comes at a critical time for Nigeria’s future and we welcome the opportunity to discuss many important issues for the future of the partnership between Nigeria and the United States. Many significant gains have been made in combatting Boko Haram and building community platforms for peace, but there must be continued engagement to sustain and expand this progress. As we look at promoting development, growth, and peace in West Africa, Nigeria and the United States must jointly promote a holistic strategy to prevent violence within its borders. As a working group and individual organizations, we stand ready to assist in promoting this strategy and welcome further engagement on these and other issues of great importance for both Nigeria and the United States.
Senior Director, Partnerships and Engagement
Search for Common Ground
Nathan Hosler, PhD.
Convener, Nigeria Working Group
Director, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
Church of the Brethren