“European” Peacebuilding

Vittorio Villa| 2nd November 2015

Leaving for Nigeria is always very worrisome: safety is never completely guaranteed. Mainly in Jos, capital of the Plateau State, in the Middle Belt Region of the Country. It is not the North Country, headquarters of Boko Haram, but the level of unsafety is so high that before you can even realise it, something occurs. Last July for example, during Ramadan, two kamikazes blew up in the very town centre. 49 victims. That was the day before I would have left again.

But this time worries have nothing to do with unsafety, but with an e-mail coming from the Delegation of the European Commission in Nigeria, which is financing a Peacebuilding project to Apurimac NPO.  The Delegation’s Progam Manager tells us about their intention of joining me in my following mission for testing their project. Then I start preparing the monitoring tables I need to carry out this task, knowing the effort it requires. I carefully read several times all the project, its results, seeing once again every indicator. I prepare myself to evaluate its impact according to what is expected on the narrativo and on budget, with full respect of the logical framework approach.

Feeling strong about my preparation and long experience (over 15 years), I’m ready to leave. First stop: Abuja. After getting out of the airport, I’m running to the Delegation seat, where I meet the Program Manager telling me, surprisingly, that the expected monitoring will “only” analyse the financial impact of the project. In other words, budget and reports are the only considered aspects. Impassive, I put away 80% of my tables and focus only on financial aspects.

The following day I leave for Jos. The Program Manager tells me that, for safety reasons, she is not authorized to leave, so I’m going to travel alone. She leaves me her uncompleted monitoring tables and I go. It takes me three hours to get to Abuja. Joseph, the driver, takes the fastest way: “we are safe” he says, and I trust him. Three hours of Nigerian landscapes, a green and tarmac mix, though the view can’t be really appreciated due to the rainy season. The journey goes on smoothly, through holes and check-points. The police stop us from time to time, their look on us is absent, relaxed, a proof of current calmness of the Country.

I’m in Jos. I meet the local personnel telling them about the requests by the Delegation of the European Commission. They grumble, get angry, protest. They say Delegation’s requests are becoming too pressing and invasive. Trying to mediate, I make them understand the importance of keeping diplomatic relations with our major donor. Yet I covertly let them figure out that they’re partially right. We work hard for three days. We arrange reports, the first note (not really well-placed, then I understand why they started complaining), I train them on the European Union guidelines and take home the result.

But two days are left. I sort out my tables and ask our staff to go on field and evaluate the impact the project has on local communities. Its response is exactly opposed. They are pleased to fulfill my request and take me visiting the communities the project is entitled to, both Christian and Muslim. I see Nigerian colleagues proud. They’re showing me the importance of working within the communities through workshops on human rights and peaceful coexistence and of being performing (in technical terms) by creating new jobs through professional training as well as working to solve conflicts in alternative ways to ordinary justice (a first sign of Reparative Justice). In other words, the project is a concrete matter.

Going back to the office, I ask for further documents: activities reports, lists, etc… Same positive response. I understand the staff is working very well on field, but not so well at the office. I still have one day. We do an intensive training on how reports, finished documents and purchase procedures are to be made. I hope they’ll remember everything and ask them to create documents for me in a week, so that all the project activities can be arranged for the Delegation.

I explain to them that Peacebuilding activities are not… European Peacebuilding activities! They are similar, but not the same. They smile, understand and promise to send everything to me in a short time.

Now I’m ready to come back. Three hours to Abuja, airport and leaving. As soon as I’m in Italy I hear the radio announcing one more massacre in Nigeria. In Maidougouri, North Country. Other kamikazes, other victims. Innocent victims.

That’s why we need to support, implement and realise concrete peacekeeping actions. We must do it.

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