Policy paper - Through our eyes: People’s perspectives on building peace in northeast Nigeria (April 2018)

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Key findings

  1. Communities excluded from decision-making: Local populations feel excluded from national and international responses to the Boko Haram insurgency. They feel their fears, needs and concerns are not properly considered. Communities resent this lack of engagement and feel it leads to ineffective and inappropriate programming that is failing to reach the most vulnerable sections of society, and in some cases is making the situation worse.

  2. Dialogue with Boko Haram as part of a peace strategy: The majority of people recognise that a military approach alone will not bring peace to the region and support engagement in dialogue with Boko Haram as part of a multifaceted approach to peace.

  3. The risks of ‘imposed’ reintegration: Local populations feel that it is too soon for people associated with Boko Haram to be reintegrated into communities and that reintegration is being ‘imposed’, ignoring their fears and concerns. If this continues, it could lead to widespread reprisals.

  4. Proliferation of wider divisions in society: The Boko Haram insurgency has led to wider divisions within society that threaten the long-term prospects for peace and reconciliation in the region. The insurgency has created or exacerbated tensions between different religious and ethnic groups, between Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and host communities, and between returning IDPs and members of their community who did not flee.

  5. Public mistrust of government and security actors: Despite an improvement in relations between civilians and government and security institutions since the early years of the insurgency, the relationship is still characterised by high levels of mistrust, fear and suspicion.

  6. Concern about the future role of vigilante groups: While local populations are appreciative of the role that vigilante groups – including the Civilian Joint Task Force – have played in improving the security situation, they are fearful that vigilante groups will be unwilling to relinquish their newly acquired status and power and may pose a significant threat to communities in the future. The rehabilitation of vigilantes into civilian life is a priority for local populations.


  1. Negotiations: All current and future negotiation initiatives with Boko Haram should be focused on ending the conflict. Any outcomes from the negotiations should be accompanied by a thorough process of community awarenessraising, preparation and consultation.

  2. Reintegration: The reintegration of those associated with Boko Haram will be more successful if the strategies are developed jointly with communities.

  3. Justice and reconciliation: Developing locally relevant and locally owned restorative transitional justice mechanisms will be critical to satisfying the desire for accountability and justice and must be implemented in conjunction with any reintegration processes.

  4. Public trust: Addressing the lack of trust between civilians and government and security institutions should be a first step in developing a longer-term approach to inclusive community security.

  5. Vigilantes: Rehabilitating community vigilante groups back into civilian life is a priority for the local population. Rehabilitation programmes must include all individuals and groups involved in community protection and focus on transforming violent attitudes and behaviour, not only livelihood provision.