New Report Finds Peace Efforts Taking Root in Africa Amid Growing Violence
Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development Darren Kew has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to peace and conflict resolution in Nigeria, the United States, and elsewhere. Most recently, the United States Institute of Peace published a report Kew authored that examines the progress of peace agencies or commissions in three Nigerian states since 2016. He finds that these state and local government-based units can be highly effective at improving the prospects for peace at the local level. Their convening powers and civil society networks offer special opportunities for fostering more comprehensive peace processes in their localities.
Professor Kew’s Work Focuses on Nigeria as ‘Center Stage’ for Stability
Kew’s report, titled “Nigeria’s State Peacebuilding Institutions: Early Success and Continuing Challenges,” is supported by the Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace and the Bureau for Conflict Stabilization Operations at the U.S. Department of State and will be used as a resource for other Nigerian states that are interested in launching their own peace agencies.
“Nigeria has seen a real upsurge in violent conflicts in the last few years from several different directions, so I think there is hope that state peace agencies could be a part of a broader national peace strategy,” Kew said.
Kew said the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development has been doing various project work in Nigeria since 2010, and that they are planning to continue more programming with peace agencies and peace actors in Nigeria to help with the conflicts. They are also working on a new initiative with Nigerian civil society and religious actors to build upon their conflict resolution work and plan to meet with donors to see if they can get support for new programming, Kew said.
“Several of our faculty and students through the center have been engaged in this work. Particularly, we’ve been focusing on Nigeria, which is a deeply multiethnic state, and ethnicity is a major conflict divider,” he said. “Nigeria is also 50-50 split between Muslims and Christians, so religious conflict has been a big part of the conflict there. We’ve had an important project on Muslim and Christian dialogue that we’ve been working on for many years.”
Through the inter-religious project, UMass Boston students have had the opportunity to help Kew with programming work and in some cases travel to Nigeria. Kew usually travels to Nigeria two or three times a year as well, but with travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still uncertain if he’ll be able to travel back to Nigeria soon.
Kew said he will be continuing his work virtually with the Nigerian peace agencies to help them strategize and build up their capacity, and will continue to have briefings with the State Department and congressional staff that are interested in learning more about Nigeria’s crisis.
“The State Department is certainly very interested, and the U.S. Institute of Peace is continuing to push for the idea [of peace agencies],” he said. “Nigeria seems to be gaining attention, as President Biden has given some virtual speeches to the African Union and the secretary of state did a virtual tour of African countries, which included Nigeria, with African leaders that seemed to be generally well-received.”
With the newly released report, Kew hopes to see U.S. foreign policy grow more concerned with the conflicts in Nigeria and get a better understanding of the crisis that is brewing.
In a recent op-ed for the U.S. Institute of Peace, Kew states that, “If U.S. and international policymakers hope to see Africa stabilize amid the world’s crises of violence, record human displacement and the COVID pandemic, Nigeria must be center stage.”