In Nigeria, Sportsmanship Winning over Violence

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In a region of northeastern Nigeria plagued by violence and Islamic militants, a new program, "Peace Through Sports," was launched in November 2013 by the American University of Nigeria through its Adamawa Peace Initiative to bring together at-risk youth for peace-building and to foster mutual respect. The participants, 70% of whom had either dropped out of high school or never had a chance to attend, built common ground through soccer and volleyball tournaments, as well as conflict resolution workshops, with such success that plans are already underway to expand the program into a multi-venue league.

“Peace Through Sports,” launched in late 2013 in remote northeastern Nigeria by the American University of Nigeria (AUN), is helping build common ground among at-risk youth. In a country experiencing an escalation in violence, with an estimated 200 people killed in recent attacks in Maiduguri, Borno, and the surrounding region, AUN in the neighboring state of Adamawa, offers a ray of hope to local youth.

Part of the AUN’s Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), “Peace Through Sports” attracted over 700 participants from every corner of Adamawa State during November 2013. In addition to playing in soccer and volleyball tournaments on AUN’s campus, Adamawa youth took part in a two-day workshop on peace and conflict resolution that emphasized inter-faith cooperation, teamwork, and mutual respect. Plans are currently underway to expand the program into a multi-venue league to accommodate the growing interest.

“AUN sees sports as a way to help build common ground and strengthen cooperation and harmony in local communities. Through our workshop, youth on all sides of the divides that have put this country in crisis have begun to learn respect for different viewpoints,” said AUN President Margee Ensign. “These youth are Nigeria’s hope for the future.”

Over 70% of participants were youth who had either dropped out of high school or never had the chance to attend, allowing AUN to use the program as both a peace-building exercise and a mentoring opportunity. For most of the athletes, just being on the college campus was a strong motivation to go back to school – an encouraging sign in a region with an estimated 80% illiteracy rate, and endemic poverty and stagnant economic development.

AUN, which trains students to understand and solve problems in contemporary African society, is a model community development-focused university and a long-standing leader in regional peace and reconciliation. Adamawa’s capital, Yola, which is home to AUN, boasts a history of peaceful interaction between Christians and Muslims, and ethnic tensions are only a minor source of turbulence.

About the Adamawa Peace Initiative

The Adamawa Peace Initiative was formed in 2012 to respond to the threat of violence and growing unrest. With various programs, including Peace through Sports, aimed at fostering peace through education, empowerment and community development, this partnership brought the academic leaders of AUN and the religious and community leaders of API together to create a unified peace and reconciliation strategy that has had a broad impact. The cooperation and progress that have already emerged from this locally developed peace initiative and their programs could ultimately serve as a model for similar efforts far beyond the borders of Adamawa State and Nigeria.

About American University of Nigeria

The American University of Nigeria was established in 2003 by Nigeria’s former Vice President, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar. Conceived as Africa’s first Development University, its mission is to promote service learning and to educate leaders who will be prepared to tackle the development issues of Nigeria and Africa. The university offers an American-style education modeled after the curriculum of American universities, using the latest in Internet technology and e-learning resources.

Conover + Gould Strategic Communications is sending this information on behalf of the American University of Nigeria. Additional information is on file with the Department of Justice, Washington, District of Columbia.

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Greg Howard
Conover + Gould Strategic Communications
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