The state and ethno-religious violence in plateau state: developing a peace-building framework as a conflict prevention strategy.
Contemporary states continue to battle with inter-group tensions, resulting in violent conflict. Ethno-religious violence in Plateau state in north central Nigeria is a case in point. While violent conflicts of an ethnic and religious nature have long existed, since 2004, conflicts in this state have become increasingly violent, more frequent and more deadly, calling for a comprehensive and strategic response. Academics and practitioners have identified peace-building as a potential response to resolve violent conflict in divided societies. The United Nations has relied on comprehensive peacebuilding frameworks to provide a holistic and strategic response to violent conflict and its causes. Guided by conflict transformation theory, this study aims to contribute to the debate on how peace-building can resolve sub-national complex identity conflicts by addressing their root causes and preventing direct violence. It develops a comprehensive and strategic peace-building framework for Plateau state as it grapples with high levels of ethno-religious tension and violent conflict between warring identities. While peace-building frameworks generally have a national focus, this study develops a framework with a sub-national focus. This is due to the fact that peacebuilding efforts tend to be centralised and focus on the national level and capital cities, while neglecting sub-national and local entities. The study will contribute to on-going research and practice on how peace-building can be practically applied to sub-entities or federating units within countries and what this implies for the design and implementation of peace-building processes at these levels. In pursuing this broad objective, the study mainly utilises conflict transformation theory. This theory broadly focuses on reducing violence, addressing injustices and rebuilding relationships in societies experiencing protracted conflict. Using focus group discussions and semi-structured key informant interviews with a wide range of actors and institutions, both at the top and grassroots levels in Plateau state, the study identifies relevant programmes, policies and institutions in the framework and avenues through which the state as the primary actor can address the underlying causes of the conflict and reduce violence. It also responds to the gaps in literature on the relevance and applicability of conflict transformation theory in Africa. The conclusions of this study can be summarised in two broad statements. Firstly, a peace-building framework is required to design and implement peace efforts that specifically target subnational levels. Secondly, peace efforts in Africa need to be decentralised and inclusive in identifying the most appropriate responses for conflict transformation.