Chief Kikile I of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, is a traditional leader and has always worked to quell conflicts, but 2015 was a unique year. As the home state of one of the presidential candidates and scheduled for a state-level election mere months the presidential one, peace building was never more important in Bayelsa State than it was in 2015.
Building on our experience in building local networks for peace building, we partnered with Academic Associates PeaceWorks (AAPW) to create the Community Stakeholders Network (CSN) to address election-related conflict issues in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States. Chief Kikile was one of the 15-members of the CSN focusing on Bayelsa. He talked about the work they did to increase awareness on the need for the safe elections pre-election, and the frenetic pace of the work to keep peace even after election.
“After the election there were some issues that came up that we helped deal with. For example, a police officer got shot from a politician’s supporter, and caused a gunfight right there in the polling unit. Youth representing major parties would have clashes and we would intervene by calling community chairmen and youth leaders of their communities together. In both of these cases, we were able to keep the peace. There were also cult activities that often devolve into violence. We always work with the police on incidents of cult violence. Sometimes, we do not even wait for violence to erupt, like in cases of suspicious activity. A lot of the time, we were able to even address tensions before they erupted into violence.”
While pleased with some of the successes recorded by the CSN effort, Chief Kikile also rues the incidents he could not stop, lives lost, and wishes there was more the group could have done to make the elections in Bayelsa safer.
“There was a group that we ought to have met them before the elections. If we had met them, some of the crises recorded in some local governments would have reduced. We even discovered a forum that militants hold, but you can’t meet those kinds of people if you do not have money. I still hope to meet with the militants’ forum, though, because they have a key role to play. Also on finance, people who help us identify conflicts need money for recharge cards because they send calls and text messages.”
With the elections over, Chief Kikile is now part of the PREVENT committee, a subset of the Partners for Peace Network dedicated to early response to and mitigation of arising conflicts, and credits P4P for helping to entrench peace in his community.
“P4P trainings on conflict resolution were so helpful, not only as a P4P member, but even personally. In my community, I have been using the knowledge of conflict resolution I learnt from P4P to resolve issues. It was a training I got from P4P that I brought down to the council meeting and did a step-down training for my other chiefs, and they all have embraced it. The level of conflict in my community among the youth has reduced. The consciousness and the need for them to embrace peace is heightened and they are applying the methods I taught them.
“Today, when I go for meetings with my other chiefs they say ‘Peace has come’!”
Chief Kikile I of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State