In recognition of the role youths and women play in engendering peace and conflict resolution, the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation, CBAAC, recently held a training in Imo State. Writes Chiemelie Ezeobi
It is often said that no nation, notwithstanding its level of civilisation, can thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and civil unrest. This is because any environment coloured with hostility and political instability will consequently shift government’s focus and channel the society’s resources in executing war programmes instead of developmental initiatives.
This means that resources that should ordinarily go into implementation of viable economic policies and programmes for the good of all will be used to finance conflict to bring about peace.
Understandably so, because peace is so vital in the development ladder to the extent that developed countries spend greater percentage of their national budgets in maintaining peace and order.
Thus, development, which means the gradual and steady increase in the overall wellbeing of a society, can only take place in a peaceful and political stable atmosphere devoid of conflict. Peace, as some have argued, is not the absence of conflict but justice. Because where injustice reigns supreme and there is no justice system to bring culprits to book, the society will degenerate to the Hobbesian state of nature.
Ironically, women and youth are always at the receiving end during crisis situations. Youths are used as canon fodders to fester and exacerbate crises and women are usually the victims of most conflicts. Interestingly, both have serious roles to play in eschewing conflicts and engendering peace and tranquillity for the good of the society.
As mothers and wives, women have enormous potentials which could be utilised to promote peace and development particularly in rural areas. With their influence in the society as culture purveyors and opinion moulders, women can galvanise themselves to promote peace if given the much needed support. This is also true of the youth that represents the productive capacity of a society.
Regrettably, greater percentage of youths are involved in one crises or the other. But, instead of channelling youthful energies to unproductive and destructive ventures, youths could be empowered through capacity building to make meaningful contributions to societal development.
In recent times, Imo State, particularly the Imo West Senatorial District has been the hotbed of some of the most frightening crises that has resulted in huge loss of lives and property.
It is in recognition of the important role which women and youth could play in ushering peace and engender conflict resolution that the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) partnered the Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha to organise a training for Women and Youth on Peace and Conflict resolution in Imo West Senatorial District.
CBAAC is an agency of the federal government, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. The centre was established shortly after the very successful hosting of the epoch making Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC’77).
As a foremost Pan-African Agency for cultural advocacy, the centre is charged with the responsibility of promoting, preserving and propagating the rich cultural heritage of Black and African Peoples for enhanced understanding and appreciation.
The centre achieves this by organising Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Symposia and Roundtables that further knowledge and understanding on the contribution of the Black and African peoples to world civilisation.
Thus, the rational for the training was to interrogate the concept of peace as an index of development; examine the causes of conflict and its effect on the lager society; analyse the role of women and youth in a peace building process; reflect on the place and importance of women professionals in conflict resolution; and examine the cost of progress in relation to peace and conflict management.
This was done under the scope of the theory of Peace and Conflict as an academic discipline, Historicising the concept of Peace and Conflict; Peace and Conflict Management in a developing nation; Causes and consequences of conflict; Equity, Justice and Fairness as an instrument of conflict resolution; and The role of gender in conflict management.
So for the participants, the training was tailored for them to understand the meaning and causes of conflict; key approaches to conflict resolution; cost of conflict and its implication for development; cost of peace and its significance to development; Onion / Tree approaches and other Models in conflict management; and theories of peace and conflict management, etc.
Participants, who were largely women and youths from all local government areas that constitute Imo West Senatorial District in Imo State, had professionals on Peace and Conflict Management, Security Experts, NGOs, and women professional bodies in attendance.
Prominent among dignitaries that attended the programme were Hon. Peter Clinton Ihejiagwa, a former Transition Committee Chairman of Orsu Local Government Area and Dr Chris Ekwueme, former Special Assistant to Imo State Governor on Orlu Zone. The lecture at the training was delivered by Prof Aloy Ojilere, a Professor of Human Rights Law at Imo State University, Owerri.
In the welcome remarks by Hon Olubunmi Amao, CBAAC’s Director General, who was represented by Mr Adesegun Dosumu, Deputy Director and Head, Research and Publications Division of the Centre, she welcomed everyone to program, thanked the Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, for the partnership and encouraged all participants to take advantage of the training so that the much needed peace for growth and development can return to Imo State.
The program was declared open on behalf of Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha by Hon Barrister Ijeoma Igboanusi. She welcomed participants and thanked the Director-General of CBAAC Hon Oluwabunmi Amao for organising this laudable programme designed to promote tolerance and peaceful co-existence in Imo West Senatorial District.
In her address, Igboanusi expressed concern about the atmosphere of hostilities in Imo West Senatorial District which she said halted economic activities. This according to her, has serious consequences on the overall well-being of the people.
She decried the attitude of some youths who allow themselves to be used as tools by some elements for their own selfish ambition. She encouraged them to eschew violence and channel their youthful energy and zeal to more productive ventures that will better their lives and those of their communities.
That peace undoubtedly is an indispensable vehicle of development as no nation whether rich or poor can succeed in a hostile and violent environment devoid of tranquillity.
She also thanked Senator Rochas Okorocha for facilitating the programme as a way of promoting peace in Imo West Senatorial District, while encouraging women to play active role in ensuring that peace reigns. As women are usually at the receiving end in every crises situation.
On his part, the chairman of the occasion Hon Peter Clinton Ihejiagwa in his remark, likened the training of women on peace and conflict resolution to fundamentally nipping crises in the bud as women are family makers and nation builders.
He commended the initiative behind the programme noting sadly that during the yuletide period, note many could travel to their home towns for Christmas and New Year celebrations. He therefore viewed organising the programme as timely and important.
In the lecture presented by Prof Aloy Ojilere on “Peace and Conflict Resolution in Imo West Senatorial District”, he traced the sources of the current crises that plague Imo West Senatorial District to Sensational and Partisan Media Reportage; Political rivalry; Refusal to accept human equality; and Boundary dispute.
He also identify Ezeship and Traditional Rulership tussle; Discrimination based on circumstances of birth; Sharing of property and inheritance; Bad and insensitive governance; Clannish inclinations; and Neglect or refusal to reward service (social, economic or political) as other causes of conflict in the Imo State.
Consequently, he advocated the use of traditional institutions like traditional rulers; Women and Youth Associations (Umunna, Umuada and Umumgboto); Age grade system; and Ofo na Ogu (traditional African justice system); means of preventing or resolving conflicts.
He also suggests encouraging the practice of Political liberality and non-dominance; even spread of infrastructure for development; election of President-Generals and Town Unions through open democratic processes rather than imposition; Promoting dialogue between the leaders of warring parties since they are the legitimate representatives of the people; and the use of Strong by-laws and constitutions.
In relation to women and youths, it is imperative to note that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Consequently, efforts must be made to ensure continuous education and vocational training for women and youths; access to soft Start-up capital for economic pursuits; even distribution of social amenities; Youth and Women involvement in politics; and the involvement of religious leaders to return peace to the state.
Given the importance attached to economic empowerment of women and youth and as advocated by the guest lecture, start-up capital was given to all participants. The program came to end with the distribution of certificates to all participants.
Any environment coloured with hostility and political instability will consequently shift government’s focus and channel the society’s resources in executing war programmes instead of developmental initiatives