Derry’s story as a city in transition from conflict has been shared at an international peace building conference in Nigeria.
Michael Doherty, director of the Peace and Reconciliation Group, SDLP Councillor, Gerard Diver, along with Brian Dougherty, director of St. Columb’s Park House, and PSNI Inspector Barry Pollin formed part of a delegation from the north who attended the ‘Forum for Cities in Transition’ conference in Kaduna.
Mr Doherty said there are obvious parallels between the Nigerian city and Derry.
“For the most part this Nigerian conflict is similar to our situation but each conflict has to be put into its unique context. Like ours the Nigerian peace process is working at a different pace in different places. We can learn a lot from each other.” Kaduna is the capital of Kaduna State , Nigeria and has a population of 1.5 million people.
The northern part is predominately Muslim while the southern part is predominately Christian. This divide is central to the nation’s politics. Like Derry, Kaduna is divided by a river which also reflects the religious divide. In 2000, Kaduna made international headlines when a violent conflict between Muslims and Christians in the city left 2000 dead and over 10,000 injured in a war that lasted from February to May of that year with over 60,000 displaced.
The violence was sparked after a protest by Christian groups in response to the introduction of the Islamic Sharia law. In 2002 Kaduna was once more plunged into violence over what is known as the ‘Miss World Riots’ in which 250 people were killed within three days.
For Michael one of the most humbling and privileging experiences of the visit to Kaduna was meeting some victims of the conflict there. In one particular village the group visited, they met a young widow who lost her husband on the June 12 2012, a man who lost his son and a young man who was left badly scarred from a machete attack on the same date.
Michael said it was important to learn from each other and said the north was “not yet a post conflict society”.
“We have still a problem here about how we deal with the past. Our relationships at community level still leave a lot to be desired and we have still no shared understanding of who is a ‘victim’. There are still groups trying to destabilize the peace process.”
“There is no doubt the work of peace builders needs to continue not only here but in many parts of the world and we can all help each other and learn from each other,” he said.