Strengthening trust between governments and citizens crucial for durable peace and stability in Africa

TICAD 8 side event

September 23, 2022

Strengthening trust between governments and its citizenry is essential to building resilience and achieving durable peace and stability in conflict-affected regions in Africa, according to experts at a recent side-event ahead of the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), held in Tunisia from 27 to 28 August.

Co-organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and UNDP, the session highlighted the importance of adopting mechanisms that build capacity to manage conflict and promote peace in fragile or violence-affected countries.

Kicking off the discussion, Mr. Henry Bonsu, a broadcaster and media consultant, said the event was timely given ongoing efforts to build and maintain lasting peace across the globe.

“As the world experiences a growing sense of insecurity, division and instability, both local and international actors need to refocus on the value of courteous and constructive vertical (between governments and people) and horizontal (among people and local communities) dialoguing to build trust, which is needed more than ever to build resilience in the African context,” he noted.

According to UNDP, a spike in transnational conflict involving non-state actors and violence erupting in both fragile and previously stable countries has contributed to a tremendous loss in hard-won development gains across Africa with adverse impacts on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable populations.

UNDP Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa stressed that the nature of conflict has evolved. “Democratisation appears to be under threat in parts of the continent, as evidenced by a recent spate of coup d’états, extensions of presidential term limits and disputed elections that represent a disturbing trend. All of this diminishes citizens’ trust in state institutions,” she said, adding that poor representation of marginalized groups and the lack of inclusion of women and youth further compound the problem.

Against this backdrop, UNDP has been promoting trust-building as an integral component of its approaches in borderland regions, such as the project on ‘Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa’, which applies a development approach towards addressing the root causes of conflict and focusses on restoring vertical and horizontal dimensions of trust within communities and between the local population and state institutions in 24 countries.

She further highlighted that with support from the Government of Japan, the Africa Borderlands Centre implemented a ‘Trade for Peace’ project in the Sahel’s Liptako Gourma region that contributed to the promotion of cross-border peacebuilding, inclusive prosperity and social cohesion.

Senior Director of the Office for Peacebuilding at JICA Mr. Murotani Ryutaro outlined the approach taken by the development agency in its engagement within conflict-affected areas in Africa by focusing on how to build resilient states and societies. “JICA and UNDP are here to support local leaders, actors and communities to build their own systems that are resilient to a variety of shocks,” he said.

Mr. Murotani touched on JICA’s engagement with Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Nigeria to showcase the methods being implemented to aid in the progress of creating societies that are peaceful and resilient.

In Cote d’Ivoire, JICA is working on a project that supports the central and northern part of the country through introducing evidence-based planning which could improve vertical trust between the government and the local community. Mr. Yapi Urbain, Director of Local Development at the Ministry of Interior and Security in Côte d’Ivoire, recalled that following the post-electoral crisis of 2011, the country went through moments of doubt and experienced a brake on its development. But the government has made efforts to restore confidence by setting up frameworks for exchanges, including political dialogue and social dialogue. In terms of social cohesion and local development, Côte d'Ivoire and Japan through JICA have been implementing two projects, COSAY in the capital Abidjan and PCN-CI in the central and northern areas of the country.

Meanwhile, in Sierra Leone, JICA and the government are working to create a sustainable system to use the Guidelines that shows local government staff how to do their day-do-day work for service delivery, resulting in wining trust from local community. Mr. Alusine Joaque, Deputy Secretary in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, said partnerships with JICA and UNDP have helped the government build resilience and trust through promoting dialogues between local institutions and citizens, and realize the negative impact of “winner-takes-all” political culture.

In Nigeria, JICA is working in the northeast regions with the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) to build capacity of government that could provide effective services to the local population. JICA also aims to contribute to supporting the empowerment of the local communities. Mr. Mohammed G. Alkali, Managing Director and CEO of NEDC, in the Government of Nigeria, said interventions created through partnership, such as that of JICA and UNDP, are important in encouraging social cohesion in the North-East, where violent insurgency has caused high levels of distrust among communities. He also highlighted important lessons learned in his recent visit to Tokyo, from Hiroshima’s reconstruction experience after the atomic bomb in 1945.

A UNDP report titled “Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in north-east Nigeria”, warns that the conflict in the north-east could amount to the loss of 1.1 million lives by 2030 if the current investment deficit in development is not addressed.

On ways to overcome trust-building challenges at the community level in the affected countries, Ms. Leonie Abela, a peacebuilding practitioner and specialist in community-based conflict resolution, said local-level, inclusive peace dialogues incorporating community’s livelihood development initiatives could help restore positive bonds between communities and government institutions, reinforcing trust, state legitimacy and stability.

Restoring vertical and horizontal dimensions of trust within communities and between local population and state institutions is at the core of UNDP’s “Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa” project.

South Africa is a country familiar with the importance of rebuilding vertical and horizontal dimensions of trust between state and people. Elaborating on the country’s successful approach to building trust in the immediate period after apartheid ended, Dr. Vasu Gounden, Executive Director of ACCORD, said the first steps included talking between the former regime and the now ruling African National Congress government.

He, however, stressed the importance of mitigating violence to deliver the peace dividend. “We need to develop, but we can’t develop without mitigating conflict. So, let's mitigate and develop simultaneously to ensure that we deliver on the peace dividend and build sustainable peace on the continent,” he said.

ACCORD is a civil society organization working throughout Africa to bring creative African solutions to the challenges posed by conflict on the continent.

Ms. Ouided Bouchamaoui, the 2015 Nobel Peace Laureate from Tunisia, stressed the importance of inclusive national dialogue.

With feelings of uncertainty and distrust in leadership growing in Tunisia, Ms. Bouchamaoui said political actors have realised the need to enter negotiations with civil society to ensure stability. She emphasized the need for women and youth to have a voice in national dialogues.

Panelists agreed that regular interaction and meaningful engagement between communities and authorities is crucial to building positive bonds to reinforce state legitimacy, stability and bring about durable peace.

The event was concluded with remarks by JICA Vice President Mr. Kato Ryuichi, appreciating all panelists for presenting lively cases of local level efforts being translated into empowerment of people and social cohesion, and underlining the commitment of JICA to promote human security approach with UNDP in Africa to enhance its resilience and to achieve peace and stability.


The session can be viewed at: