Political and social fault lines crisscross Nigeria, threatening the security of its people. While low-level conflict in various parts of the country is largely contained, Boko Haram’s continued violent extremism in the Northeast is an urgent crisis. Boko Haram has fueled violence in the Northeast since 2009 and has by some estimates killed more than 20,000 people and displaced millions more. The scale of violence against civilians by an armed group is among the highest in Africa.

Ensuring security against an asymmetric enemy like Boko Haram is difficult, but the response by the Nigerian armed forces, regional militaries, and allied non-state armed groups has been heavy-handed. In fact, counterinsurgency operations often harm the civilian population more than keep it safe. Furthermore, many argue that the government and military’s increasingly brutal and repressive actions have led Boko Haram to intensify its brutality, harming communities across the region.

CIVIC started working in Nigeria in 2015 and shortly after, released its report, When We Can’t See the Enemy, Civilians Become the Enemy: Living Through Nigeria’s Six-year Insurgency. The report offered critical insight into 1) patterns of civilian harm as a result of the ongoing conflict; 2) civilians’ and security forces’ views on root causes of harm and the role of security actors; and 3) gaps in civilian protection efforts.

Following up on that report, CIVIC continues to work with the Nigeria military to identify and provide best practices and recommendations on civilian protection and civilian harm mitigation. In 2016, CIVIC co-led a high-level national dialogue with the Nigerian Government which led to the drafting of a national policy on protection of civilians. And CIVIC furthered its outreach in Borno and Adamawa states, holding workshops and dialogues with the military and affected communities with a deeper focus on vulnerable populations in the conflict. Finally, we delivered additional instruction on harm mitigation and amends to national security forces on the front lines.

In collaboration with local groups, CIVIC is implementing a robust advocacy strategy that encourages and helps the Nigerian government and Multinational Joint Task Force to better inculcate civilian protection and harm mitigation training, tools, and policies.

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Image courtesy of Ed Kashi