Each of the countries of the Liptako-Gourma region, a vast area in the center of the Sahel encompassing Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, contend with distinctive security threats, but their shared borders and culture create unique opportunities for collaboration. On September 20 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, NDI and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation (KAS) jointly organized a three-day capacity building workshop on the role of traditional and religious leaders in promoting peace, a culture of dialogue, and the exchange of best practices in the Liptako-Gourma region. This workshop was the first of its kind in the Liptako-Gourma where traditional and religious leaders met with representatives of the executive branch and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to discuss the promotion of inclusive approaches to national and regional security policy.
The event was hosted by the Burkinabe Center for Strategic and Security Studies (CNES). The workshop’s 45 participants included representatives of each country’s National Strategic Security Study center, 35 traditional and religious leaders, representatives of CSOs, the acting Executive Secretary of the Liptako-Gourma Authority (LGA), and the Director of the Cabinet of the President of Burkina Faso.
This unprecedented opportunity to connect the Burkinabe, Malian, and Nigerien executive branches, represented by the centers, with traditional and religious leaders provided an occasion for consultation and cooperation with marginalized groups in the development of more inclusive human security policies. During debates, traditional leaders highlighted their willingness to use their social capital to complement, instead of compete with, government efforts in reducing community vulnerability to recruitment by Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs). Similarly, religious leaders spoke of sharing religious guidance that teaches peace and reconciliation to counter violent religious rhetoric.
Traditional leaders from the three countries presented case studies of possible best practices for consideration by other traditional leaders in their role as advocates of peace. A Nigerien traditional leader shared a social analysis of his community and recommended to local and national authorities ways to empower traditional leaders in their role as peace advocates. These case studies served to increase the centers’ knowledge of possible social openings for radicalization by explaining key dynamics within these marginalized communities.
Author: Kareem Elgibali is a Program Officer on the Central and West Africa team.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.