BY Bomba Dauda
Comparatively, peace-building processes and community dialogue in Kaduna state has never being so visible and pronounced like now. Priscilla Ankut, the Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer of the Kaduna State Peace Commission, KAPECOM, is meticulous and malleable. She has brought in a lot of expertise and introduced some result-oriented policies, viable programmes and organized workshops (for capacity building) which has helped in peace-building and community dialogue in the State, a state that grapples with years of incessant ethno-religious violent conflicts.
Ankut has well-structured the commission and advanced the process of peace building in an institutionalized manner and equally made it more inclusive. As it is now, Ankut has been able to prove that she is a vital resource in the ongoing peace-building effort in the state and beyond. She has helped communities embrace dialogue as alternative to conflict, thereby, incredibly improved inter-communal relationships in all the troubled areas she mediated; it is on record that she left most communities better than how they were before mediation.
Under her management, the commission is now increasingly effective in achieving its core values: ensuring peaceful and harmonious co-existence among people and groups in the state by engaging in systematic monitoring, mitigation and prevention of violent conflicts. She has unequivocally moved the commission from its nadir to a vibrant and momentum laden instrument for peace initiative.
Her wealth of experience in mediation (both internationally and locally) and her organizational ability have played a major role in repositioning the commission. Though without real and practical challenges but, the commission’s activities has been reinforced and becomes more practical under her stewardship.
In May 2017, the government of Kaduna State added impetus to peace initiative when it enacted Laws to tackle the myriad of issues bothering violent conflict and fractious co-existence (thereafter referred to as the Peace Commission Law) of Kaduna State, which officially established the Kaduna State Peace Commission.
However, Ankut assumed office at a bizarre time for anyone to begin official assignment. Igabi, Birnin Gwari, Chikun, Kajuru, Kachia, Zango Kataf, Kauru, Kaura, Jema’a and Sanga LGAs were hotbeds of virulent attacks and all battered relationships needed to be cemented and Ankut skill as a shrewd mediator was vital in getting the result.
The spates of attacks by militia were rife and the rate of communal clashes reached its crescendo. Though, her main focus as a peace builder is not on the activities of militias but, inter-communal conflict. In one of the workshops organized by the commission, Ankut explained to participants how complex the issue of insecurity became in the state where inter-communal clashes existed side-by-side militancy and criminality which made the whole situation more difficult to understand.
In the end, participants were warned against such complexity which had fueled suspicion amongst variant groups and insecurity in the state. To achieve a mainstream impact in peace-building process, Ankut developed peace artisans and set-up Local Government Peace Committee (KTRC) in all the 23 LGs of the state to facilitate peace process and also introduced inter-communal dialogue in some LGs and formed strategic partnership with some government agencies, multi-lateral institutions and NGOs.
For information mobility, Ankut understood that to propagate the activities of the commission and to educate the public on government effort towards achieving peaceful Kaduna state, the media is key. She carried the media along in all the activities of the commission. This is simply because, peace building is about the people and the people of Kaduna state deserve to know the activities of the commission. Again, the media is serving as a feedback mechanism to wider audiences on the programmes and activities/ successes and achievements of the commission. The media plays a vital role in sending early warning signals to enhance early response. Through the media, she has been able to enable communities to learn from other communities experiences and also borrow ideas on how to resolved conflict through community dialogue.