Using sports to enhance peace in Borno

Maiduguri, Feb. 28, 2017 (TNE): Kabar-Mela and Shehuri are two prominent areas in Maiduguri as they were adjacent to the Shehu of Borno’s palace at the city centre.

However, in 2016, a conflict broke out between the two neighbours who had lived together peacefully since the era of the Kanem Borno Empire.

The problem started when some residents of Shehuri accused their neighbours of the killings of some members of their community at the inception of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2011.

Members of the community then wanted take their own pound of flesh from their neighbours whose children participated in earlier killings. However, further bloodshed was prevented by security agents and traditional leaders who pacified both groups.

The case of Kabar-Mela and Shehuri is just one out of many all over the state.

Several efforts have been put in place by relevant stakeholders, including the state government, to ensure harmonious living among the people of the state following the attainment of relative peace.

Some of these stakeholders include the state Football Association moving towards healing the various wounds.

Malam Babagoni Grema, the FA chairman, says: ”We are actually working on plans to organise series of events as part of the post-insurgency measures to restore normalcy.

”One of these is the peace football competition aimed at enhancing unity among residents in different parts of the state mostly affected by insurgency, ” Grema says.

”It will also help in engaging youths in meaningful ventures in areas still prone to insurgency”.

Grema says that the competition will be staged in collaboration with an unnamed Non-Governmental Organisation as well as some local donor agencies, with the competition taking off in nine locations in and outside Maiduguri.

”Most of these areas were greatly affected by the insurgency, so we are trying to reorient the youth by channeling their energies to sports rather than other vices.

We want them to be better citizens as well as to create harmonious living conditions in the communities “.

The football association also plans to organise a competition for secondary school students in the state.

”Right now, we are in the process of staging the Borno State Schools Competition in Maiduguri in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the State Sports Council, ” he says.

No fewer than 30 schools have registered for the competition aimed at grassroots development, while the association is also expected to organise this year’s edition of the Shehu of Borno Cup and resuscitate the State League.

The FA chairman confirms that football has played a vital role in the emergence of peace in the state.

”Football has actually played a leading role in ensuring that peace reigns in the state. For instance, thousands of youths always throng the Elkanemi sports centre to watch league matches every week,” he remarks.

According to Grema, the relocation of the Elkanemi Warriors FC of Maiduguri has also helped in engaging the youth.

“We have never experienced this kind of massive turnout in the recent past, “he observes.

Grema attributes the development to the enlightenment campaign put in place by the state government about the evil of Boko Haram.

“We thank the state government for this; we also thank President Muhammadu Buhari whose efforts have resulted in degrading the insurgency,” he adds. (TNE)

AI/BP

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