Judex Okoro, Calabar
Hundreds of youths from war-torn communities in Cross River State have embarked on a carnival-like peaceful march against incessant communal clashes.
The Usumutong, Ebom, Igonigoni and Bhazohure communities in Abi Local Government Area have been engaged in a fratricidal war for decades, leading to wanton killings and destruction of property, even as government and some community leaders have made fruitless efforts to end the conflict.
But there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as youths from these communities took up the challenge to dismantle the roadblocks mounted between Ebom and Ekpone Effem to make the road accessible
Daily Sun found that the youths, worried by the increasing disunity, hatred and incessant killings as well as destruction of farms and crops, decided to take the bull by the horns by initiating a series of peace meetings four years ago, which culminated in them coming together to end the age-long skirmishes.
At one of the meetings, the youth leaders were said to have expressed dismay at the insecurity in the area and how people have diserted their communities for fear of being killed or attacked, thereby turning their agrarian communities to wastelands.
It was learnt that they promised not to be used again to unleash mayhem and rather vowed to resist further move against anybody who dares to forment more trouble.
One of the youths, who took part in all the meetings, Sam Egbe, 34, said their communities have not known peace for years and but they have decided to end all hostilities and restore human dignity and brotherliness.
Egbe, a native of Ebom, said they decided to wade in to see how life would return to the communities, hence the decision to remove all roadblocks and illegal checkpoints mounted by various youth groups and intended to spy on one another.
According to him, “lives have been lost and businesses destroyed just as we cannot longer go to farm or travel to our various homes because of the internecine communal clashes.”
He stated that it was based on this that the youths agreed to come together and form a united front and go around communities to preach peace, calling on traditional leaders to embrace the historic peace moves to restore lives in their native lands.
Also speaking, another youth leader, Emmanuel Bassey, 41, decried the level of destruction and the rising number of destitutes in the warring communities, adding that they have suffered enough to know time has come to drop the war drums.
Bassey, who hails from Usumutong community, said: “We are all brothers who speak the same language but we have all wickedly sat back and let our unreasonable positions push us into a vicious conflict that has had dire consequences on us all. Bahumono men and women of goodwill the world over, are pushing for peace and God will make this possible.”
In an emotion-laden tone, he said: “Several youths had not interacted with each other for decades because of fight for land and traditional existence. But today we have marched round these communities preaching against conflict. Today, we can hug and exchange pleasantries, which we have not done for years. We have also worked on the road to show we have all downed tools of war.”
However, following this move, Daily Sun gathered that a peace delegation from Ediba will visit some of the communities to show solidarity and in the spirit of camaraderie. The Ediba elders are said to have also set up meetings with their youths to cue into the peace project.
Reacting, the Abi council chairman, Mr. Faratoh Robinson, said the resolution of the conflict and the return to lasting peace in the communities were on top of his administration’s policy.
He said he would pursue it vigorously, just as he called on all to be part of the peace process.