Early detection and response to conflict indicators have been identified as key to reducing violence with its attendant mass effect in communities.
This were part of issues raised during a community sensitisation campaign on Conflict Early Warning and Emergency Response.
It was held at Onuakpara, Edda community in Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on Tuesday.
The event was organised by a Civil Society Organisation, Neighbourhood Environment Watch Foundation, in collaboration with Global Right Nigeria.
The campaign, aimed at promoting peace building, tolerance and unity among citizens and their neighbouring communities, had in attendance critical stakeholders from the community and its neighbours, including traditional rulers, village heads, politicians, youth and women leaders, numbering over 100.
Addressing the gathering, the Executive Director, NEW Foundation, Dr. Kelechukwu Okezie, maintained that a good understanding of community-based early warning system, can mitigate escalation of conflicts within and across communities.
Okezie added that prevention of violent extremism demands effective community-based early warning and emergency response to conflict situations, and called on the Community stakeholders to be alert to conflict early warning signs, especially as 2023 general election was around the corner.
He cautioned: “When communities begin to observe trends that are alien, they should investigate and send concerns to appropriate quarters and stakeholders.”
He outlined some of the matrix for documenting mass atrocities in the communities to involve perpetrators of the atrocities, location of attack, target of attack and context of attack, among others.
He further urged the youths to be agents of peace and positive change in society rather than instruments of violence.
Speaking on mass atrocities, the Foundation’s Programme Director, Dr. Chukwuemeka Okoro, explained that perpetrators of mass atrocities included both state actors such Police and the Army as well as non state actors such as bandits, insurgents, mercenaries, among others, who target communities for political, religious, ethnic, economic or other reasons.
Okoro also highlighted fake news and rumours as major conflict escalators and advised communities to always seek information from appropriate quarters.
Appreciating the organisers, a community leader and former Coordinator of Enyida Development Centre, Chief Michael Udenwe, expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the programme.
Udenwe described the campaign as apt, stressing that the community needed peace building and conflict prevention most at present.
He assured that the community would implement lessons learned at the programme for its corporate good.
Others who spoke, including the Town Union President, Raymond Nwiboko; Youth Leader, Dominic Eke; and Woman Leader, Blessings Ikebe, described the sensitisation programme as an eye opener for them and requested that it be extended to other conflict flash points in Ebonyi State.
Highlight of the event was the leading of the community by the organisers to develop an integrated early warning and early response plan against mass atrocities.