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ECOWAS, UNOWAS and ISS to Resolve Farmer-Herder Conflicts in West Africa

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) are charting the part towards the resolution of Farmer-Herder conflicts in the region.

With the support of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a two-Day Workshop on the subject matter began on the 10th of February 2020 in Abuja, Nigeria. The exercise which brings together regional, continental and global experts, is meant to project best practices learned from traditional dispute resolution mechanisms while sharing country to country experiences in order to prevent and resolve farmer-herder conflicts.

Gen Francis Behanzin, Commissioner, Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commission, represented by Dr. Remi Ajibewa stressed the need to identify the structural causes and dynamics of the conflict between farmers and herders in West Africa that is spreading across countries like Nigeria, Niger, Ghana and Burkina Faso amongst other states.

He encouraged the stakeholders to come up with constructive ideas and a roadmap for resolving this conflict currently ravaging West Africa and the Sahel. Maintaining that the ECOWAS Commission is ready to work with its partners and will table all the recommendations emanating from the Workshop before the Management for collaboration and necessary implementation.

UNOWAS Representative Ms Ngozi Amu stressed the need for collective action as conflicts between farmers and herders have spiked in West Africa in recent years, a situation where the tensions between both groups have become even more deadly, recurrent and alarming given the cross-border nature of transhumance.

According to her, the way forward rests on a strong focus on conflict prevention, exploring integrated approaches that take into consideration both security, political, economic, humanitarian and climate change as well as linking local, national, regional and international responses to ensure greater coordination, impact and policy implementation.

The Senior Regional Adviser for ISS Dr. Paul-Simon Handy stressed that the multiplication and intensification of the lethal dimension of local conflicts have in recent years pushed ISS to undertake research on local conflicts such as between herders and farmers

He opined that the herders-farmers issue manifests itself at local, national, regional and international levels and has to be understood as something of a local issue with transnational consequences, the reason why ISS has developed tools to understand that issue in its different dimensions while addressing them accordingly.

The Workshop which is featuring panel discussions of stakeholders, concerned groups and presentations, also had good will messages from the government of Denmark through its Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) as well as the International Crisis Group among others.

At the end of a two-Day workshop, a best practice document that could inform national and regional approaches of raising awareness and promoting conflict prevention and resolution of herder-farmer conflicts, drawing from existing local dialogue mechanism, is expected to emerge.

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