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Fair and Accountable Security Forces as a Strategy for Reduction of Identity-based Violence in West-Africa

Identity-based violence, particularly the primordial typologies such as kinship, tribal, ethnic, and religious attacks and counter attacks leading to unaccountable deaths, maiming, mass displacements and destruction of property and livelihoods, has been on the rise in parts of West Africa since the end of the cold war.

In the search for preventive solutions, significant scholarly and policy attention have been paid to sources and risk factors with mixed results. These include search for better frameworks for sharing proceeds of natural resources that abound in the region and seen as the major source of violent conflicts. Constitutional reform programs to address what has been referred to as the 'citizenship question', a situation where some groups feel that they are marginalized and denied access to social, economic and political opportunities available to others in their countries. And of course high level of poverty and unemployment among young people, which arguably predispose them to being available for recruitment for all manner of campaigns including group violence.

It would seem, however, that not much policy and programmatic attention has been paid to the conduct of state institutions, particularly security forces, when deployed to intervene in identity-based conflict and mounting evidence from human rights organizations that their actions have contributed in exacerbating violence in such conflicts. As we gather on how to reduce violence by 50% over the next 30 years, this paper calls for more attention to better governance of security intervention in identity-based conflicts in West Africa, partnership with civil society and improved resource commitment to extant measures that address the root causes of the violence with particular focus on ethno-religious and communal violence in Nigeria.