This post was originally submitted by Nikki Fishman on 30 April 2011. It is re-posted in connection with Addressing violence in South Kaduna

Thriving Kafanchan market in the heart of Nigeria’s Kaduna state has long been a vital component of the fragile local economy.

Trading a wide range of commodities - the most important being food - it provided an essential hub where individuals could buy and sell supplies, regardless of religious background.

Its 800 busy shops, provided livelihoods for 2,500 people, and served the needs of both customers and traders alike, offering hope and stability to many in an area where life can be hard and, all too frequently, cruel.

Now, sadly, Kafanchan’s precious market has itself fallen victim to Nigeria’s uncertainty – razed to the ground in April 2011 amid post-election violence which has scarred the nation and left hundreds either wounded, terrified . . . or dead.

At the height of the troubles John Dada of Dadamac came courageously into his own, ferrying gunshot victims to hospital and providing shelter for 200 members of his community as they fled the armed attackers on their streets. And as the bullets echoed outside, he alerted the world to the carnage, contacting Dadamac London in a string of email updates.

He also found time to contribute bulletins to the regular online “meetings” which take place weekly between the organisation’s UK and Nigerian teams – describing as fully as possible the appalling situation as it developed.

It quickly became clear that urgent action was required. And at the meeting of April 27 it was decided that plans should be drawn up to rebuild the stricken market, in the form of a new and sustainable Kafanchan Peace Market.

To this end, and with tensions between Christians and Muslims running high, the two teams ( together with an informal network of 'Friends of Fantsuam' ) immediately set up the Kafanchan Peace Market Initiative, with the aim of achieving that goal.

John said: “Rebuilding the income generating capacity of our micro-finance clients is crucial for Kafanchan's economic recovery. This is why we have jointly started the Kafanchan Peace Market initiative with our UK-based partners Dadamac.”
“This initiative is being conceived as a Public Private Civil Society Initiative, with the market traders as the major stakeholders. Apart from catalysing the economic recovery of Kafanchan, this initiative would also create jobs for the teeming youths.”

“The initiative will also be linked to Truth and Reconciliation of the entire communities. With the network of civil societies in Kafanchan taking on this initiative, its integrity, non-partisanship and credibility will be protected and we will be able to leverage Government’s involvement.”

Kazanka Comfort, General Manager of Micro-finance at Fantsuam Foundation, declared a “special interest” in the Peace Market concept - because of its potential impact on the welfare and security of local women.

She said: “The people who have carried the brunt of this crisis have been the women on both sides of the divide. Women were violated, traumatised, killed and so were children.

“The destruction of the Kafanchan market is probably the most significant livelihood setback in this crisis. This is why getting it back on its feet is so critical.”

“Its rehabilitation will have a lot of impact on people’s ability to help themselves back to financial independence. The sooner we can help them do this, linking it to peace and reconciliation, the sooner Kanfanchan can begin to heal its wounds.”

The Peace Market is viewed as a project which should be made a priority for civil society because of its potential for building bridges across the political, ethnic and religious divides.

It is hoped that the process of rebuilding the market as a communal effort can be a catalyst to tackle several root causes of the current crisis, by providing  employment, aiding economic stability and establishing a reliable source of food. Job creation could be linked to individuals’ commitment to peace-building.

The market can act as an ongoing barometer of local feeling, which could be employed in a positive way to monitor local activity and give warning of any future rise in tensions - for instance, any arms build-up - in order that action might be taken to defuse this.

To do this effectively, there is a need for a steering committee that will ensure equitable representation by all the market stakeholders - ranging from traders, to Government agents, community leaders, and so on.

Although heavily involved in handling the immediate aftermath of the violence, John hopes to help oversee the appointment of a project manager for the Peace Market. He will continue to act on the behalf of Fantsuam Foundation and to work alongside other local groups.

Note from Pamela added March 13th 2017

See also the Kafanchan Peace Declaration where the influence of John's experiences and insights are easy to see.

The Chatham House article Violence in Southern Kaduna Threatens to Undermine Nigeria’s Democratic Stability refers to the document saying:

Most important is that the government actions against security threats, and the settlement offered to victims, must be transparent and delicately balance ethno-religious and livelihood anxieties.

A commitment to non-violence facilitated by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue,  Kafanchan Peace Declaration was signed by key stakeholders on 23 March 2016, and can constitute a strong and realistic starting point for conflict prevention and building long-term arbitration and mediation mechanisms in southern Kaduna. With support from the state government, the dialogue process and agreement was adopted by local leaders from 35 communities spread across five of southern Kaduna’s eight local government areas.