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(NEW PUBLICATION) THE UNTOLD STORIES: The Dilemma of Women in The Agro - Pastorialist Conflict In Benue State

untold stories

The New Year's Day of 201 8 was expected to be like any other New Year Day when people raise their hopes to accomplish whatever was left in the previous year, Alas the sad news broke on us on of wanton killing of scores of innocent people in the dead of night by remorseless herdsmen. Women, men and children within villages in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State had their lives cut short and properties as well as farm produce worth millions of Naira destroyed. As at 4th January 2018, the number of people killed was over 50 and the counts of the injured and missing were hardly tallied up by the media. These killings highlight the continuous abuse of human rights in Nigeria.

On May 22nd, 2017, Governor Ortom signed the Open Grazing (Prohibition) and Ranches Establishment Bill into law. To give it a human face, the law was to go into effect from the 1st of November 2017, five months after signing to enable all parties to make the necessary adjustments. The bill had been duly passed into law by rhe Benue State House of Assembly after holding public hearings, which the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association amongst others participated.

The law protected cattle herders by providing for ranching and prescribing punishment including death sentences for cattle rustlers who kill herders in the process. It also proscribed open grazing and permitted farm animal transfer by rail, trailer or other vehicles. It punished open grazing as well. It was in the aftermath of this piece of decent legislation that the January 1, 2018 massacre was perpetrated. However, amidst these attacks women and children, the vulnerable group in any conflict suffered most.

This crisis motivated the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) Nigeria through its 'Women in Peacebuilding program (WIPNET) to conduct a survey of the impact of the violent attacks on women. The voices of women sharing their stories and the plights faced in the face of violent attacks were areas that needed to be highlighted/ documented for the government to understand the need to promote peace in Benue State.

The survey also revealed the potential peacebuilding capacity women possess that contributes to promoting peace and security in their communities and how they have been mobilizing to have their voices heard. Recommendations were put forward by the women for proactive actions to be taken by the government and relevant stakeholders to protect women and ensure prompt interventions for curbing the spate of violent conflicts.

The mandate for women concerns, views, and efforts to participate in peacebuilding is validated by the United Nations Security Council Resolution - UNSCR 1325 (2000) - and the seven supporting resolutions on Women, Peace, and Security (1820, 1888, 1889,1960,2106,2122, 2242) that have followed it. This has strengthened the normative framework for women's participation in decision-making, conflict prevention and peacebuilding; protection of women and girls' rights; and the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. The women, peace and security agenda has also broadened the discourse on peace and security and provided a stronger platform for civil society advocacy on women's rights, human rights, and gender equality and their intersection with peace and security.

Women are not a homogenous group, so in conflict they play various roles depending on the situation they find themselves. They are the ones who bear the brunt of the conflict, so they can bring a wealth of practical knowledge to the peace table because of their understanding of the challenges faced by civilian populations and the most effective ways to address them. Women can no doubt improve the prospects for sustainable peace.

To enable WANEP - Nigeria achieve its objective, we applied and were primarily supported on the project "'Working with Relevant Stakeholders to Promote Peace in Benue State" by our partner Urgent Action Fund- Africa.

We appreciate the efforts of Urgent Action response to mobilize women to speak out conflict in Benue State.

This publication "The Untold Stories: The Dilemma of Women in the Agro Pastoralist conflict in Benue state" is a contribution to the body of literature from the field principally to document the experiences of women in the IDP camps. However, it can serve as a resource and an advocacy tool for those interested in the promoting the rights of women on one hand and preventing the abuse of women both in 'peace-' time and in conflict situations.