Communities in the Ouallam department of southwestern Niger have signed a peace agreement to end a prolonged conflict in the Tillabéri region that has killed about 100 people, displaced more than 10,000 and disrupted agro-pastoral activities.
Facilitated by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), the new accord follows another signed on 21 January by communities in Banibangou, 150 km northeast of Ouallam, that has quickly enabled free movement, the return of displaced people and the resumption of economic activities.
The local mediation efforts, undertaken by HD at the request of the parties, aim to extricate the communities from a spiral of violence fuelled by climate change, competition for scarce resources and broader insecurity across the Sahel region.
“The signing of this peace agreement will bring relief to our communities, which have been particularly affected by the humanitarian consequences of the armed conflict,” said Hama Hassane, canton chief of Tondikiwindi.
“We are already seeing the benefits of the mediation process. Displaced people are gradually returning and our communities are coming to an agreement on sharing certain natural resources.”
Since February 2023, HD has been advising the various leaders and representatives of Fulani, Zarma, Arab and Touareg communities in Ouallam as they gradually overcome the wounds of the past and work together to find a negotiated solution.
“The Ouallam communities saw the positive impact of the Banibangou peace agreement and were reassured by this success in reconciliation,” said Abdelkader Sidibé, HD’s head of mission in the Sahel region.
“Because the parties were ready to move towards peace, they were quickly able to define a consensual agreement. The involvement of the Niger Minister of the Interior, the Governor of Tillabéri region and all the parties involved in the conflict created an inclusive mediation process.”
The agreement sets out a monitoring committee of diverse community representatives to ensure its implementation, work on the return of displaced people and manage disputes between parties. HD will support the committee and is available to help other communities who would like to pursue mediation and reconciliation.
Competition for natural resources between herders, farmers and neighbouring communities has heated up with more demographic pressure and less arable and grazing land due to climate change. Tillabéri has also been pulled into a conflict between armed groups and Niger’s military forces, displacing more than 120,000 people. Large-scale cattle rustling, the burning of houses and granaries and attacks on schools and health centres have worsened vulnerability of people in the area.
The mediation initiatives are part of HD’s mandate to support national efforts to stabilise Niger, in particular those of the Ministry of the Interior and the High Authority for Peace Consolidation.
With the financial support of Canada, HD has operated in the border region of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2018 to help prevent and resolve local conflicts that fuel regional instability and to support communities distancing themselves from wider violence across the Sahel.
In Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia and Latin America, HD is the leading international private diplomacy organisation working to prevent and resolve armed conflict through dialogue and mediation.