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Africa

Nigeria's north searches for a way to end violence

Nigeria's northern states have formed a new advisory body which they hope will help them chart a route out of the labyrinth of violence which has blighted the country in recent months.

A new 41-member committee aims to foster reconciliation in divided northern Nigerian  communities and improve the security situation in the region.

Ahead of Wednesday's inaugural meeting, the governor of Niger state Mu'azu Babangida said he and his fellow northern governors were determined to put an end to the "cycle of violence," local media reported.

He later issued an appeal at the meeting itself to all people "to allow peace a chance and tranquility to reign in our states."

Babangida is chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum which organized the meeting.

More than 1400 people have been killed in central and northern Nigeria in an insurgency blamed on the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, which wants to establish sharia law in the country.

Bishop Kukah. No picture details available

"Boko Haram is a symptom of a bigger disease," Bishop Kukah says

On Saturday, the Nigerian government signaled that they had held some form of talks with the Islamist militants, who in the past have repeatedly ruled out dialogue.  

"...falling behind in almost every indicator"

One of the 41 committee members, who include traditional rulers, academics, women's representatives, military and religious leaders, is Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah. He heads a Catholic diocese in the city of Sokoto, the historic seat of Islam in Nigeria.

He told DW there was a general feeling by the governors of the northern states that "something needed to be done to arrest this ugly trend."

Last Sunday, gunmen in the town of Damagun in Yobe State blew up part of a primary school. Police intercepted them the following day as they tried to storm a Catholic church  and a police station.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attacks, but they resembled those carried out by Boko Haram.

However Bishop Kukah says Boko Haram is just a "symptom of a much bigger disease."

He was referring to poverty, injustice and the lack of development. "Northern Nigeria is falling behind in almost every indicator that relates to human survival," he said.

He acknowledged that there are difficulties in relations between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, but added that "some of these problems are not necessarily religious, they are related to culture, land, water and the environment."

Along with other committee members Bishop Kukah will have the mandate to draw up strategies to "address the disturbing state of insecurity and proffer practical and enduring solutions," an official statement said.       

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