Using networks to promote peace and counter violent extremism in Niger

September 20, 2022
A community leader meets with a national police officer in an effort to curb violent extremism.

Community members convene with security and defense forces to keep peace in Niger.

In a unique partnership, Counterpart brings together defense and security forces with everyday citizens to promote peace in Niger. Since 2013, Niger’s Diffa region has experienced attacks on military positions by non-state armed groups, and the assassination and abduction of townspeople.

The US Department of State funds the Nallewaro project. Nallewaro means “for peace” in the local language of Kanuri. This community policing project aims to strengthen collaboration between citizens, authorities, and defense and security forces to counter violent extremism.

The project supported the establishment of formalized networks that regularly involve key community members, women leaders, and civilian security forces to collectively build trust and facilitate understanding of each other’s respective roles in community security and the fight against violent extremist threats.

These networks conduct awareness-raising and monitoring activities on security issues with a view to strengthen peace in their respective communities.

According to the departmental director of the Goudoumaria police, collaboration has already improved between civilians and defense and security forces (FDS). “The participation of the FDS in these networks has really allowed us to exchange with the communities, to tell them what we expect from them, the information, their contribution. So, we made them understand that the FDS and the people are not two opposing entities,” he said. “We are all for the same goal. Without the FDS, the population will be left to fend for itself and without the population, the FDS will be of virtually no use at all.”

The networks have also contributed greatly to developing citizens’ confidence in the defense and security forces. This is mainly due to the involvement of all social strata without distinction, according to the president of the Nallewaro network of Goudoumaria commune.

“We found ourselves with all the actors: young people, women, FDS, traditional leaders, and religious leaders. This has made it possible to set up the networks on a good foundation. No actors have been excluded,” he said. “Our goal is the restoration and maintenance of peace. In addition to the mixed [gender] network, women’s networks have been created to enable the specific needs of women to be better taken into account.”

“The networks have contributed greatly to raising citizens’ awareness and building peace in the region. We hope that they will affect the other communes,” he added.

Local authorities appreciate the initiative because it contributes to peace building in the communes. For the second deputy mayor of Goudoumaria, the Nallewaro networks have created  a dynamic that raises awareness among the population regularly on issues of peace in the  community.

“Through this project, we found a significant improvement in the security situation in our commune. There was some reluctance between the people, the authorities and the FDS. But today, there is a certain collegiality, a certain symbiosis,” he said.

The Nallewaro networks are the only exchange frameworks to bring together the defense and security forces and citizens for a frank and constructive dialogue, making it possible to address issues specific to each municipality for the restoration and maintenance of peace.

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