In 2014, Mohammed Umaru fled his hometown, Bama community in Borno State, due to the insurgency that struck the Northeast of Nigeria. In the process, his two younger brothers and mother were abducted, and he also lost his means of livelihood to the insurgency.
With relative peace beginning to return to the region, Mohammed took the journey home to start afresh with the hope of being reunited with his mother and brothers. On return, he met other people from different tribes and backgrounds staying in one of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps set up by the government.
In the camps in Bama community, people of different tribes, origins and backgrounds are living together. With a lot of unknowns about each other’s cultures and way of life, tensions and misunderstandings have sparked frequently between both the host community members and the IDPs and within the IDP community itself, preventing groups from interacting and building mutual trust and respect. The volatile security situation remains a predominant concern, with the risk of outbreak, escalation, or recurrence of inter-community conflicts.
In this context, UNDP under the Support to Reconciliation and Reintegration Project funded by European Union initiated a community led Peace through Sports Engagement in locations hit hardest by the insurgency. The aim of this engagement is to strengthen social engagement and rebuild intercommunal trust, which is foundational to community healing and peaceful co-existence.
“This Peace through Sports Programme came at the right time, football teams were formed, and each team consists of members of the host community and IDPs. We started a match tournament and it brought about trust and unity, because you must rely on your teammate for a good performance, so it made me to trust other people and relate well with them” Mohammed shared.
People from different communities also clash because they do not know how to relate to experiences that are different then theirs. At the community level, sport has been a tool used to encourage strong community bonds, promote social cohesion, and reduce crime rates. This programme also provides positive diversion for young people to express themselves and build pro-social, leadership, dialogue and conflict resolution skills. This is in alignment with the United Nations Resolution A/RES/73/24 of 2018 that recognizes sports as being critical to health and wellbeing but also having the power to change perceptions, prejudices, behaviours combat discrimination and defuse conflict.