Consider the consequences – peace journalism and election reporting

On Friday, the 21st of July, COMINSUD was invited to participate in a workshop lead by Professor Steven Youngblood from the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University (United States) in the Presbytarian Church Centre Bamenda.

During the workshop media representatives from the region were introduced to principles of peace journalism. Past experiences of Professor Youngblood were connected to election reporting from countries like India, Kenya and Uganda. Through these examples the importance of media coverage was proven and debates on current situation were initiated.

Comparison with journalists from Yaoundé proved that the risks of election provoked violence is seen as much more likely in the Anglophone part of Cameroon. Even more importantly, the workshop served as a platform for bringing together journalists and civil society representatives in order to work together on upcoming 2018 election reporting strategies. This will become a crucial cooperation next year for mitigating the possible risks of violence and lack of transparency all through the election process.

More information on the series of workshops held by Professor Youngblood in Cameroon (Yaounde, Bafoussam, Bamenda, Limbe, Buea etc.) and his impressions can be found here:

written by Krišjānis Liepa

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All animals are equal, but …

… some are more equal than the others.” 15 Children listen anxiously to Akumbu Jones, an artist from “La Liberté Arts Group” Bamenda. He is telling them part of the “Animal Farm” story from George Orwell.

“Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers.”

Mr Akumbu is the leader of our latest initiative “Theater for Children”.

Cameroon provides very little opportunities for children to be creative, use their imagination and be allowed to try things and make errors without the fear to be punished. Most schools including nursery schools provide only a very formal learning program, mostly focusing on reading, writing, repeating. All this goes along with high competition/ranking systems inside the classes, strict hierarchy, humiliation, exams after every year and still – although officially banned – corporal punishment.

Many Children have difficulties to express themselves, their opinions/feelings or to discuss their points of view. But all this are skills that the next generation needs to work towards change in the society, towards good governance and democracy. With our initiative we want to contribute to build up these skills. And for sure, the children should have a lot of fun in a relaxed atmosphere!

Enough fun for everybody!

Parents appreciate the program very much. “My daughter was so happy after the theater; she was singing new songs and dancing the whole evening.” – one mother stated.

Another parent said: “My son explained to me the new game ‘Mami Njanga’, I was surprised how exited he was about this little thing.”

Stay with us – we will keep you informed about the next exiting news from the theater group.

written by Maja Mueller

The cows have destroyed my corn!

… this is how Dennis, a farmer from Wum, complaint last week to a herder.

The North West Region of Cameroon is also known as the “Grasslands”. This Grassland encouraged cattle farmers (Mbororo/Fulani/Haussa) to settle down in the area. Some of the herders are from other areas and enter the grasslands during transhumance. This leads to a lot of conflicts between the herders and crop farmers. Cattle enter farms and destroy corn, beans and other crops from the farmers. Herders need access to water and need to pass through certain areas to reach their resting points or the next grazing land.

One of the hotspots for farmer-grazer conflicts is Wum in Menchum Division. Last October we have trained people from Wum and other communities in “Peace work and conflict analysis” to work as Peace Volunteers (PVs).

Mr. Awah (crop farmer) complaining about the damage in his farm to Mr. Umaru (herder).

During the first follow-up visit we got a lot of encouraging and interesting information about the peace work in Wum.

After a challenging period of advocacy and lobbying done by the PVs, the Traditional Council adopted “Rules and Regulations” for the handling of conflicts.

Such document did not exist before. People in conflict used to lay their complaints in different places like police offices, the village councils, or different government delegations, some went straight to court. The financial implications of this approach were very high and solutions often not provided. Some of those conflicts escalated violently and resulted in injuries of persons, or damage of farms/animals.

The newly established “Rules and Regulations” were made public in all quarters of Wum. People with conflicts have to follow now a certain order to get resolution of their conflicts. For this reason seven new quarter councils were formed. If the quarter councils cannot solved the problem, it must be taken first to the village council before it can be taken to the traditional council. One important step in the new procedures is that the damage must be inspected at the site, before any further discussion can take place.

Surprisingly the new approach led to a drop down in the number of councilors. Achuo Patrick (PV) says: “Only the honest people remain now in the village and traditional councils. The new procedure is transparent for everybody, so that the opportunity to take bribe is heavily reduced.”

Huseini Adamu (PV) adds: “People have increased the number of “Farming Alliances”. Crop farmers allow cattle to eat the remains of e.g. corn in their farms, which is a valuable feed for cows. The farmers benefit from the cow droppings that are manure for the farms.”

The next idea of the PVs from Wum is to develop a drama to show how the new approach helps to reduce escalation of conflicts and to increase the livelihood of people.

We will keep you informed!

written by Maja Mueller

2016 Training of Peace Volunteers

The Civil Peace Service (CPS) Unit of COMINSUD hosted 26 volunteers from five different communities of Mezam Division for a training workshop on “Peace Work and Conflict Analysis”.
First part in this training was clarify and define key words that are very often used but not well reflected on like peace, violence, and conflict.
Angwafo Peter suppored the trainng as a ressource person, presenting the Mankon peace approach

Angwafo Peter from the Mankon Palace supported the trainng as a resource person, presenting the Mankon peace approach

Second part was to analyze conflict examples within the participants communities. Therefore we used tools like the conflict history and actors mapping, the onion model, and the ABC triangle. Based on this analysis participants could see the angles from which a conflict could be tackled.
Looking for entry point for the conflict between graziers and farmers in Wum

Looking for entry point for the conflict between graziers and farmers in Wum

 Most of the conflicts we have in the North West Region are about boundaries and natural resources. Since some participants came from two communites in conflict the workshop was also a good opportunity to see, how your neighbours look at the same issue.

Discussion with trainees from Bambalang

Maja discussing with trainees from Bambalang

At the end of the training, certificates were awarded to our new Peace Volunteers and we are looking forward to see their achievements in the next months.

Participant with facilitators Maja Mueller, Ambe Bruno and Fon Nsoh

Participant with facilitators Maja Mueller, Ambe Bruno and Fon Nsoh

 written by Bii Della and Maja Mueller

International day for disaster reduction

41 key stakeholders including:members of the Regional Committee on Risk management, Municipal Council Officials, Administrators, Media practitioners and  Civil Society activist who hold responsibility in civil protection and disaster management in the North West Region, have participated in a one day Reflection Workshop on Peace and Disaster Reduction in Mezam Division.
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Cross section of some participants

The workshop which took place at the Presbyterian Church Centre, Bamenda on Thursday 13th of October 2016 was organised by the North West Regional Committee on Risk Management in collaboration with Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINSUD), and was presided at, by the Secretary General at the North West Governor’s Office and Focal Point for the North West Region in the National Observatory on risk Management.

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Secretary General at the Governors office and Coordinator of COMINSUD At the workshop

The Coordinator of COMINSUD- Mr.Fon Nsoh in His opening statement situated the theme of the workshop within the Civil Peace Service Initiative (CPS) wherein the culture of peace is perceived as a vital pre-requisite for human and community development in the North West Region and makes a link between reducing Inter tribal Conflict sand related disasters to promoting a Culture of Peace. The address also dwelled on the lack of sensitivity to disaster by many Councils and the need for creating a system of respond.
In situating the state of Disasters, Civil Protection and Disaster Management in the North West Region alongside the Roles and Functioning of the Regional Disaster Risk Management System,the Secretary General at the North West Governors office in his keynote address stressed on the need to reflect on disaster Reduction while encouraging municipal Councillors and mayors present to establish  Municipal Alert System.
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M.Ambe Bruno-workshop facilitator,presents different forms of disaster

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The workshop was articulated around panel discussions, presentations and exchanges of
experiences on; the state of Disasters, Civil Protection and Disaster Management in the North West Region,the Roles and Functioning of the Regional Disaster Risk Management System and its link with other actors, The role of actors (Red Cross, Army Rescue Unit, GIS) in disaster management,Recommendations and the Elaboration of a model Prototype of a Municipal Disaster Alert

At the end of he workshop the representatives from the North West Governor’s Office resolved to send out circulars to all councils instructing them to create functional Disaster Management Units at the Councils meanwhile mayors and representatives of councils in attendance made decisions to take responsibility for the creation of framework conditions that will bring villages/communities with intertribal conflicts to settle their differences in order to avoid disasters from violent conflicts.

 By Ngobesing Linda

Training on Communication and Mediation in conflicts

In June all the Peace Volunteers (PVs) that COMINSUD trained in 2015 were invited again for a 3-days exchange and training workshop.

Participants and facilitators of the training

Participants and facilitators of the training

What has been done during the past 12 months? What were the challenges and where did the PVs succeed very well? Those were some of the key questions during day one. Apart from phone calls to our office we could now hear all the stories at a great length.

For example in one village the PVs have opened a tomato farm. At the first sight that looks far from peace work, but in this farm previous enemies and sceptics are now united and continuous sensitization inside this group in ongoing.
In another village three PVs have trained more than 20 other local PVs for the different quarters of their area.
Apart from this, our PVs were involved in conflict resolution from household level up to inter-village level, as we can see in the Oku-Mbessa-Story.

To increase the capacities of the PVs they were given an insight into mediation. In group works or pairs they could learn techniques like “active listening” and the use of “grounding questions”. They were introduced to Schulz von Thun’s model of the “four sides of a message”, to the importance of body language and the phases of the mediation process.

Practicing emphatic listening and paraphrasing as a prerequisite for mediation

Practicing emphatic listening and paraphrasing as a prerequisite for mediation

Three participants practicing mediation with all the tools they have learned before.

Three participants practicing mediation with all the tools they have learned before.

The most exiting part was the practising of mediation, no matter whether in the role of one conflicting party or mediator or as observer with certain tasks – all were appreciating the role play very much and stated that they have learned a lot.

Participants in the "World Café" discussing implementation of training content

Participants in the “World Café” discussing implementation of training content

Presenting and discussing ideas from the "World Café"

Presenting and discussing ideas from the “World Café”

A commission set up to demarcate the boundary between Mbessa and Oku village

Governor Adolphe Lele Lafrique paid a visit to Mbessa on Thursday April 21st, 2016. He is the first Governor to visit Mbessa since the conflict started over 30 years ago. This visit had in attendance over 450 women and 100 men of Mbessa alongside the traditional and administrative authorities of Oku and Mbessa. They all assembled at the Mbessa Community Hall seeking for a lasting solution to the boundary dispute.

The Governor called upon the Regional Boundary Commission to delimit the boundary between the two villages following the August 28th 2008 Ministerial Decision. He said the conflict has caused untold human and material damage and it was time everyone abides to the peace process.

A local committee was put in place to carry out the demarcation process. Among the members are two peace volunteers, trained and accompanied by COMINSUD.

The Fons of Oku and Mbessa reiterated their passion for the need for a peaceful coexistence between the two villages as they shared the common position that “there is the need to think of Oku and Mbessa people as one person because they all have a common origin”.

The Governors’ visit came just a day after the Fon of Mbessa led a Delegation to Oku to discuss ways to end the conflict. The women of Mbessa at the end of the meeting remained optimistic as they look forward for a fair and just boundary demarcation process.