The Early Warning, Early Response (EWER) training for community leaders, Peace Platforms, Security Agencies and other stakeholders from Ogbia and Yenagoa LGA has come and gone yet its impact remains and continues to be used by its beneficiaries from both LGAs to successfully resolve inter and intra communal conflicts. These issues which had potentials of turning violent and threatening community peace were resolved through the application of relevant conflict management skills gained from the EWER training.
Having gone through the rigorous training where skills on mediation, early warning detection and information sharing and others were taught, local communities and peace platforms were better prepared to tackle issues of conflict and security threats. There are now considerable changes in way and manner conflict and early warning issues are responded to and addressed which is significantly different from the practice before the training. This is seen in the manner several communities now record increased and easy access to mediators resulting in successful resolution of disputes swiftly which was previously difficult. This is all thanks to the Conflict Management Committees (CMCs) for being a part of the Early Warning, Early Response training (EWER). While conflicts are inevitable outcomes of human interactions, some of the impacts recorded by the CMCs through the EWER training include the several successful mediations on land disputes, herdsmen conflicts and other issues.
One of such feat is the prompt intervention in an intra communal land dispute in Polaku community- Yenagoa LGA. The issue was between one Miss Zebimo and sections of the Polaku community youths who were reported to have destroyed the plantain farm of Miss Zebimo because she failed to complete payment on the use of the land as demanded by community customs. While this went on, other youths also exploited the situation-demanding that traders who offloaded yams on her farm for commercial purposes pay what they referred to as ‘loading fee’. This incident worsened the situation as it was apparent that her only means of survival was under threat. In reaction, Miss Zebimo called in the Police arresting one of the youths and in a swift reaction, youths went on rampage further destroying her farm. Thus, palpable fear and unease became the order of the day as the situation was quickly degenerating to physical violence if nothing was done and done on time.
Thankfully, the CMC was promptly informed and relying on its key leverages of security agencies and experienced mediators the issue was assessed based on its merits, the extent of damage done and the cost implications and other factors. Deploying necessary skills from the EWER training, discussions were held separately and jointly with both parties, damages were also assessed with full participation of security agencies to ascertain how the issue can be resolved. At the end, the conflict was amicably resolved; parties, the community and its people continue to live in peace.
The Second was an issue between 2 male Corp members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Polaku community. Incidentally, one of the corps members who was known for notoriousness had always been a torn in the flesh of his fellow corps members. He was reported to have broken into the apartment through the roof and often times refused to pay necessary levies and costs needed for upkeep of their rented apartment. He was also known for use of hard drugs which often times stirs up his temper. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the threat by the notorious Corps member to mobilize youths from neighbouring communities to beat up the other Corps member for simply complaining about his use of drugs which was affecting him. The case was reported to the CMC and both Corp members were called. Expectedly, after investigations and discussions were held, the case was resolved amicably with both parties signing an agreement to leave peacefully.
Thirdly and perhaps the most important was the resolution between the Ogbia community stakeholders and some Fulani herdsmen. The CMC was able to go into dialogue with members of the Bayelsa State Cattle/Ranch Control and Management Committee over indiscriminate grazing and destruction of local farms by herd of cattle in communities of Otuasega, Oruma, Ebelebiri and its environs. The case was reported to the Ogbia CMC following complains and reports from Women who had been victims and the resolution of some of the communities to resort to self-help by littering their farms with chemical substances that would kill several cows upon inhalation. Given the very thorny and potentially violent nature of the issue especially if the self-help plans of communities were to be put in motion, an emergency meeting was called with members of the committee and the Ogbia CMC at the Bayelsa State Government House where a memorandum of understanding was reached with members of the committee and emergency phone numbers on reporting of cases of invasion of farms by herd of cattle was also shared. This meeting helped to douse rising tensions in the community as communities did not go through with their earlier planned actions which could have been catastrophic and created a very violent conflict with wide state and national implications.
Today the aforementioned communities are leaving in peace without fear of being attacked or their farms invaded by herdsmen as the CMC was able to create the necessary platform for swift response to issues of this nature and indeed avert any pain that would have come out unresolved issues of this nature.
The CMCs wishes to expand their frontiers across more communities and indeed reduce cases of violent conflicts. This they have decided to achieve through the building of capacity of more community leaders to be able to jointly collaborate with the CMC and other stakeholders to address conflict issues amicably. The hope is that, just as the little drops of water can make a mighty ocean, the training of more community leaders on conflict and Early Warning issues can only in the short and long run provide a pool of conflict sensitive community leaders who would contribute to reducing violent conflicts across communities.