Peace-Building in a Pandemic by Nitya Nadgir (A’23)

by tuftsigl
Jan 08

In November, Tufts ALLIES welcomed IGL Alumna Britt Sloan, a former member of Mercy Corps and an ALLIES alum, and Sharon Ogbogu, a Program Officer with Mercy Corps to a virtual discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on peacebuilding efforts in Nigeria and how the socio-political conflict in African states has detracted from the fight against COVID-19.

Ms. Sloan began by giving the audience a brief overview of COVID-19 in Nigeria and its inherent links to conflict and political strife. She discussed how the initial pandemic lockdown and its resulting containment measures reinforced violence and instability by exacerbating the spread of misinformation and causing the deterioration of social cohesion, allowing armed militant groups to fill the void. She then spoke of how health and peacebuilding are inextricably linked, and broken social contracts hinder the response to COVID-19.

Ms. Sloan then transitioned to explaining the conflict in Nigeria, where Boko Haram began a violent uprising and splintered into the Islamic State in 2016; they manipulated pre-existing corruption and tribal protectionism to create sociocultural conflict ranging from ethnic divisions to the marginalization of women. She mentioned that the epicenter of this violence was in northeast Nigeria, where international humanitarian aid has been co-opted by corrupt government officials, undermining the relationship between Nigerians and organizations.

Next, Ms. Sloan and Ms. Ogbogu described the lack of legitimacy of the government in Nigeria, caused by government officials exempting themselves and religious leaders from COVID-related restrictions. Nigerian citizens have found it difficult to follow and understand COVID protocol based on the convoluted government response. In addition, they addressed the militarization of COVID response through increasing fees for interstate travel, taking bribes from civilians, and sexual exploitation, which has increased the presence of community-based militia groups. They then touched on the spread of misinformation about COVID and its effects on the rise of religious extremism.

Finally, Ms. Ogbogu went into detail about Mercy Corps and its efforts to minimize misinformation through community programs, including the use of religious leaders to address misinformation by recording information about COVID-19 and disseminating it to the public.

The panel was followed by a Q&A session, which included questions about the future of political instability in Nigeria, government-citizen relations, and the potential impacts of COVID-19 on further peacebuilding efforts.

Watch the recording: