The conflict in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin is one of the world’s deadliest. About 36,400 people are estimated to have been killed since May 2011, and 1.9 million are internally displaced, with many more having fled the country in a desperate attempt to reach safety. To address the evolution of the conflict in Nigeria and ongoing civilian protection challenges, we are mobilizing champions within the government, military, and civil society to advance policies and practices that minimize civilian harm.

Our goal is to build the capacity of the Nigerian military and community militias to protect civilians and avoid civilian harm in the course of their operations. In November 2018, the General Officer Commanding for the Nigerian Army’s 7th Division agreed to implement a civilian harm tracking cell, which will be the first of its kind in Nigeria and could lay the foundation for an approach to civilian harm tracking that could be scaled-up to other military commands.

In the conflict-ridden northeast, CIVIC is deeply engaged with communities in several LGAs to support civilians in developing self-protection strategies. We also bring together local communities and security forces to discuss protection concerns and improve civilian protection. For example, communities in two local government areas raised concerns to the military that armed opposition groups would increase attacks and kidnappings of civilians during firewood collection and food gathering – a common occurrence in the region. Upon hearing these concerns, the commanders agreed to provide security and have since done so for over 5,500 community members in two local government areas.

Our strategies are undergirded by in-depth research on civilian protection challenges and opportunities. In 2018, for example, CIVIC released a research report on community militias  in the northeast – one of the few studies of its kind. This research formed the foundation of our direct engagement, advocacy, and training with community militias to improve their efforts to protect civilians and minimize harm to civilians during their activities.

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Image courtesy of Ed Kashi