Massacres of entire villages in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have made a devastating return to the conflict in the Sahel. Communities are both victims and agents of violence yet they are excluded from official peace processes.
The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) has found success in preventing and mitigating community violence through a local approach to mediation.
The work of HD’s network of local mediators has led to the signing of 50 reconciliation agreements since 2016, helping to manage tensions on the ground in an environment where agro-pastoral micro-conflicts fuel community conflicts that feed into fighting between soldiers and insurgents.
In the new report and video Mediation of Local Conflicts in the Sahel, HD shares insights from the people at the heart of the initiatives with their perspectives on the conflict dynamics in the region and the resolution tools that have proven effective in reducing violence and building tolerance.
For civilians caught in conflict, the humanitarian benefits of the local mediation processes are clear.
HD’s initiatives have resulted in the lifting of 120 embargoes restricting access to pastures and markets, the return of 93,000 displaced people, the resolution of more than 200 community disputes, the reopening of nearly 60 schools and the recovery of 34,000 stolen cattle.
The preventive value of the permanent mediation mechanisms is also clear. Ethnic-based violence tends to fall in areas covered by the agreements, even when the conflict parties resume hostilities.
As the HD report and video show, local mediation can alleviate the suffering of civilians in conflict areas and prevent clashes between communities. But it has its limits – especially when tensions among herders, farmers, community leaders, traditional authorities, state representatives and conflict parties are so interconnected.
To bring true peace to the Sahel, building on the benefits of local mediation will be vital to advancing a formal process between states and armed groups that puts an end to hostilities.