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Nigeria at 60: The Dialectic of a Failing Renaissance

Funmilola Ajala

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Standing elegantly before the visiting Princess Alexandra of Kent and Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, at the final lowering of the British Union Jack, in Lagos, in October 1960, Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa declared that, “… independence (for Nigerians) implies a great deal more than self-government.”

For the constituents of the new sovereign, it was the consummation of a struggle which only intensified with the termination of the World War II and the rise of Black Nationalism led by notable Pan-Africanists like Henry Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, to mention a few. Such was the enormity of the hope that Nigeria presents to Africa and the rest of the world in that era. The globe quickly took note of this potential power emerging from mother Africa, full of dynamic resources both human and minerals, with a firm promise to be a respected player at the international arena.

In the early days, Nigeria did not disappoint. Joining the United Nations as its 99th member in 1960, she stamped her readiness to provide the much-needed direction for Africa by making the continent the centre-piece of her foreign policy with the most important agenda of ending apartheid in South Africa and securing political independence for other African colonies at the time. In affirming her commitment to these goals; Nigeria was an active participant in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) in 1963, in Addis Ababa, and that of the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in 1975. Nigeria also became a part of the UN efforts to maintain global amity by contributing troops as part of the first UN Peacekeeping Mission to Congo (1960-64). Nigerian soldiers have so far adorned the blue berets in more than two dozen UN operations worldwide.

From Dream To Despair

For ordinary Nigerians, however, the honeymoon was short-lived as series of incidents drew a dagger at the heart of the young State which have continued to shape the fate of its political nay economy trajectory till date. To begin with, politicians (post-independence) exhibited gross lack of maturity which was most evident in the social disruption that erupted in the Western region between Premier Obafemi Awolowo and his estranged former ally, Samuel Akintola, in 1965. The killings, arson, and looting that accompanied the political rivalry between the two led to a severe loss of lives and property. Furthermore, the subsequent hijacking of political power by the military in January 1966 is considered an anathema especially since the coup d’état was perceived as ethnic-oriented in some quarters. Third in the chain of events was the devastating Biafra (civil) war that broke out after an attempt to secede by the mainly Igbo ethnic race in 1967. An estimated one million lives were sacrificed in the war which ended in January 1970.

Sandwiched amongst these events was the discovery of oil in commercial volume in the southern part of the country. Many historians have argued that oil is a poisoned chalice to Nigeria as it opened a vista of uncontrolled gluttony to the custodians of political authority and solidified unbridled corruption in the public service. So much was the level of profligacy within the system that then Military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, was quoted as saying Nigeria’s challenge isn’t how to make money ‘but how to spend it!’

Having reached its apotheosis a little too soon, Nigeria’s fortunes plummeted dramatically whilst the rest of the world watched in utter awe at the distasteful flatulence from the failing giant.

The Unanswered Question

Caught in the euphoria of shedding the toga of being a colony, the Nigerian state abinitio failed to answer a fundamental question: who owns Nigeria? This unfortunate oversight defines the colouration of what is termed ‘Nigerianess’ in/of Nigerians. It speaks to the dearth of a clear-cut structural identity; the vehicle which cascades a society into nationhood. It also, perhaps, explains the causal force behind the socio-political upheavals that appeared to have put the country in a state of perpetual sedation.

Many believe that the portmanteau: ‘Niger-area’ by the British through the 1914 amalgamation of the protectorates of the south and the north in the town of Sungeru is akin to what the Arabs called ‘Al-Nakbah’ – the Great Mistake. As was the case in many European colonies of Africa, the motivation for creating Nigeria was geared by administrative convenience without necessarily considering the cultural diversities of the ethnic components within the colony. That thus provides an understanding into Awolowo’s 1947 frustration in submitting that, “Nigeria isnot a nation, it is a mere geographical expression.”

A Broken Social Contract

For the mass Nigerian population, the state represents a creation of the oligarchs, fashioned to appropriate the collective patrimony at the expense of the weak majority. Morphed into a concert of zealous elites that turned into a neo-colonialist instrument of oppression and suppression, Nigeria’s social contract has – in the past sixty years – been desecrated, its trust abandoned, and the legitimacy of the political authority has become a subject of an interminable audit by different sections of the public.

The residual legacies of decades of leadership ineptitude, bastardized social institutions, wanton fleecing of common resources are far too unmistakable in vices such as sporadic ethnoreligious conflagrations, towering insecurity, kwashiorkor economy, youth restiveness caused by lack of access to western education and lack of job opportunities for able-bodied persons.

The structural insolvency in Nigeria is further pronounced with the distrust which has characterized the interactions between the government and the governed since independence. For renowned literary icon, Prof.  Wole Soyinka, the relationship between the leaders and the led in Nigeria is based on deceit and at best lacking in “frankness.”

A study from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the current inflation rate at a two-year high 13% while the unemployment rate is 27.1%. Combine that with the just-released Global Terrorism Index 2018 report which sits Nigeria in third place globally among countries most ravaged by terrorism, one then begins to see an unglossy picture of the exact stance of Nigeria at the moment. In those statistics exist a deluge of ingredients for socio combustion which has come to the fore in recent years, especially since the return to civilian governance in 1999 after decades of military interregnum.

Self-Determination or Self-Destruct?

Unattended to for years, the dissatisfaction of the oppressed has germinated into a chorus of clamour for an equitable and just society that now manifests as calls for self-determination by various ethnic spheres in the country. To coincide with the diamond jubilee celebration of Nigeria, a group of citizens of Yoruba origin took over major streets of capitals of the world in demand for a breakaway homogeneous sovereign to be christened Oduduwa Republic. The Yoruba call for separation is just the latest as the Igbo – through the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by exiled Nnamdi Kanu – remain resolute in their quest for self-determination.

Negotiating Co-habitation

To survive the existential threat throbbing Nigeria’s soul at the moment, a few suggestions would suffice. First, there is a need for a national document that truly reflects the wishes of the people to live together. The notion that the indivisibility of Nigeria is ‘non-negotiable’ is a farce and should be discarded in search of a template for peaceful co-existence. Second, a return to regional autonomy in place of the subsisting quasi-federation is long overdue; the system is yearning for deconstruction to help redress its many conspicuous contradictions and the attendant deficient outcomes. This would afford the regional components opportunity to develop from within without necessarily being dictated to by the federal authority. Third, the ‘gentlemen agreement’ for rotational Head of Government should be constitutionally sanctioned to avoid making such a privilege an exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group at the expense of others.

Unity in Diversity

As the drums of apocalypse sound louder in Nigeria, it is germane to say that, despite its intractable challenges, the strategic nature of the country makes it more appealing to remain one. The strength of its huge population is one reason which has over the decades made Nigeria a place of choice for trade and economic interests by many foreigners. For IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu the song remains ‘to your tents, O Israel’ due to “… mutual suspicion, mutual hatred, (and) mutual resentment (in the body polity of Nigeria).” In contrary, octogenarian politician, Bisi Akande views the ongoing development with some reservations even as he warns that dismembering Nigeria is a whirlwind that would only lead to further intra-ethno balkanization and depletion.

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‘We want justice for these girls’: The Kenyan helpline for victims of gender violence

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Kenyan market vendors practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. World Bank/Sambrian Mbaabu

Around four million girls worldwide suffer female genital mutilation every year. Although it is forbidden in Kenya, COVID-19 has led some families to revive itthe traditional practice, and a UN-supported phone helpline for victims of gender-based violence in the country has seen a big rise in calls since the pandemic hit.

Somewhere in Kenya, an early morning in July: A woman organizes a once-in-a-lifetime “ceremony” for her 11-year-old niece: The girl’s genitals will be cut off as part of her cultural transition into adulthood.

All schools in the country have been closed for months. No classmate will notice the girl’s absence, no teacher will be aware and report the case to the police. The school community cannot protect the girl now.

During the ceremony, the fresh wound starts bleeding heavily. The procedure was performed by a local “cutter,” and there is no anaesthesia and no painkillers. The bleeding doesn’t stop, and, eventually, the family has no choice but to take the girl to the nearest hospital. 

‘I don’t want to see people suffering’

A few hours later, a telephone rings in an office in Nairobi. The phone is connected to the number 1195, the national helpline for gender-based violence. One of the girl’s relatives has called in to report the incident anonymously — she does not want to be considered as a family troublemaker.

“What we want is justice for these girls,” says “Steve,” one of 31 staff in the call centre. (Counsellors interviewed for this article use pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.) After receiving the call, Steve and his colleagues respond immediately. The police are dispatched to search for the mother and aunt, and a safe home is arranged for the girl once she is released from the hospital.

The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day by trained counsellors who stay on the line with callers until help arrives, whether in the form of the police, an ambulance, a village elder, a child protection officer. Counsellors arrange for health care, security, and legal aid. They also spend long hours on the phone, giving psychosocial support to callers in need.

Female genital mutilation or FGM is just one of the reasons people call the hotline. Others include assault, rape, child neglect and defilement, child marriage. The list goes on. “So many cases go unreported,” Steve says. Asked why he works at the call centre, he says simply, “I don’t want to see people suffering”. 

Some calls will break your heart

COVID-19 has aggravated the situation: “Women have been violated like never before,” says Fanis Lisiagali, who heads the 1195 helpline. “We’ve seen women committing suicide, we have heard of women being killed. Both men and women are seriously depressed.” 

Indeed, the number of cases handled by the hotline rose from 86 in February to over 1,100 in June of this year. Cases dropped in July, but the total number of calls is four times higher than during the same period last year. Not all of the callers are women. Around one third of the callers who report psychological violence from their spouses and families are men, saying they have been harassed or abused for failing to provide for the family. 

Sitting at their desks, a half-dozen tele-counsellors are equipped with masks and gloves and are separated by acrylic glass walls. Aside from Swahili and English, they speak other local languages, from Kikuyu to Luhya to Kalenjin; the aim is for callers from everywhere in Kenya to have someone to talk to. 

“You find that psychological problems come up during things people go through every day,” says another counsellor, “June.” In 2009 she became a caregiver with another organization for sexually abused girls and, five years later, she joined the helpline staff.

Some calls will break the heart of even the most experienced counsellor, says June. Earlier this year, she took a call from an 18-year-old woman who had been cast out by her father and then endured an abusive marriage. When she became pregnant and gave birth, her husband rejected her, claiming the baby was crying too much and that it couldn’t possibly be his. Having been disowned for a second time, the woman’s desperation became unbearable. She threw the baby into a pit latrine and ran away. The girl walked into a rescue centre and called the GBV helpline. 

“At first the girl was too shocked to speak. When she finally opened up, what I heard made me completely numb,” says June. She sent the caller to a psychiatrist and his attestation prevented her from being imprisoned. June is still in contact with the young woman, and is helping her build a future. “My job gives me an opportunity to give back to society,” she says. “I cannot always help, but sometimes I have a chance to help in a little way.”

A beacon of hope

The helpline is a beacon especially now during the pandemic. Many rescue centres have to turn away survivors of gender-based violence, as they do not have the resources necessary to quarantine new arrivals for COVID-19.

The helpline was established in 2010 by an organization called Healthcare Assistance Kenya, with the support of UN Women, which is still the NGO’s main partner. It is now also supported by UNFPA, the UN Population Fund. 

“COVID-19 exacerbates the already horrifying levels of sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya,” says Anna Mutavati, UN Women Country Representative. “But the helpline is saving lives. While services like 1195 are fundamental, we need to tackle society’s underlying causes that perpetuate these gross human rights violations and wider gender inequality.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, the helpline has proven its worth and needs to be strengthened, says Healthcare Assistance Kenya director Fanis Lisiagali. “In the coming years,” she says, “I would like to see the helpline known to all communities in all counties throughout Kenya, so that anybody who needs it has a place to turn to”. 

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The Repudiation Report: Guterres Reinforce Morocco’s position over Western Sahara

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Same scenario and same dialogue when the Polisario Front (SADAR) adapted the populist approach in dealing with the Moroccan (Western) Sahara case, with the imminent release of the UN resolution at the end of this month, which is anticipated to be a continuation of the recommendations of the last report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Kingdom of Morocco determined to endorse a strategic approach in dealing with these circumstances through cooperation With the UN, due to overcoming any resentment with inconvenient consequences.

This was confirmed after a source from the Moroccan Ministry of Interior denied the authorization of any civil society or community initiative to march from Rabat capital to Guerguerat, commence from the 16th of this month. On the other hand, the Polisario Front (SADR) reacted to the current UN statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, by assaulting the Kingdom of Morocco, and to a lesser extent, the United Nations, meanwhile seeking to win over the Security Council.

Over the years or so, the Kingdom of Morocco has sustained to deal with the Moroccan (Western) Sahara file as a National concern, considering the issue of Moroccan (Western) Sahara for the Kingdom and Moroccans is the reference national of their identity and loyalty to the Moroccan sovereignty and also dealing with it as a key issue in promoting economic, security, and stability of institutional development to the North African region as well Arab Maghreb region.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has reiterated the groundwork of a political solution to the Moroccan Western Sahara file as suggested by the Security Council in all its resolutions issued since 2007.

In his statement to the Security Council on the Moroccan Western Sahara, Guterres noted that on October 30 of last year, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2494 under which it focused on the need to reach a “political, rational, practical, lasting and consent-based solution” to the case of the Moroccan (Western) Sahara.

In a response to the MINURSO mission, Guterres pointed out, through his report, to extend its mandate for one year until October 31, 2021, without needing to justify that “the key task of the mandate of MINURSO is to supervise the ceasefire.” This means eliminating the false accusation of Morocco’s opponents regarding the organization of the alleged referendum that the Security Council and the United Nations Secretary Council have approved for more than two decades.

Due to this, The Secretary-General of the United Nations mentioned to “the political impetus made by the process of meetings held by Horst Kohler, the former personal envoy, with the participation of all parties concerned with the Moroccan (Western) Sahara dispute, which creates the only way to pursue the exclusive political process of the United Nations.”

Yet, The Personal Envoy, Horst Kohler, was capable to reconstruct the necessary dynamism and steam to the political process, particularly through the spectrum of negotiation meetings that brought together involved parties the Kingdom of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania, in addition to the so-called” SADR” Polisario Front. Guterres emphasized that the need for the political process and final settlement shouldn’t be interrupted, and reiterated his “commitment to appoint a new personal envoy to build on the progress made in the round tables series.”

Additionally, The UN official pointed out that “the Kingdom’s position on the subject of the invented conflict over its southern provinces, as stated in the royal speech on the occasion of the celebration of the forty-fourth anniversary of the Green March.” Thus, the UN official also praised and appreciated Morocco’s cooperation with the MINURSO mission during the difficult period of the “Covid-19” epidemic, stating that: Let me say straight away, this is a time for solidarity “thanks to the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities, no Corona case was reported among the MINURSO mission.” Now it’s very important, that we need government solidarity and cooperation to share and to pool resources where they are most needed and to make sure MINURSO’s representatives get the help that they need from Morocco’s administration.

In light of this, Guterres’s report said, “The Moroccan government has provided support to MINURSO in many aspects by maintaining assistance and providing rapid results of the” Covid-19 “test for the benefit of aircraft staffs and by helping civil and military personnel to embark to and from the mission’s area of ​​operations, not to mention enabling them to gain access. As Rabat reiterates that since the Kingdom of Morocco is a state that advocates returning the favor, the Moroccan side will never forget MINURSO’s help when it was hit by the epidemic.

On the other hand, the UN report pointed criticism regarding the “Polisario’s Front” movement and its continuous violations of the ceasefire agreement 1991, military accords, and Security Council decisions, especially in the Guerguerat region, calling strongly and explicitly for the Polisario Front (SADR) to “quickly pullover from Guarguate frontier zone and settle down these irresponsible violations of Military Agreement.

In a response to the increasing of human rights violation and harassment, the statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations reviewed the outcome of the significant transgressions of these rights in the Tindouf camps in Algeria by Polisario Front, predominately during the period of “Covid-19”, indicating that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had received many reports highlighting the negative and unfavorable outcomes of the borders suspension and the stumbling access of Humanitarian aid and reducing economic activities in the Tindouf camps.

Here is self-evident to mention that Mr. Guterres also appreciated Morocco’s investments in its southern provinces, stating, in particular, the construction of a new port 70 km north of Dakhla. Thus, and as the Secretary-General of the United Nations reflects, the Kingdom’s investments in its Moroccan (Western) Sahara have continued and enhanced, mostly since His Majesty King Mohammed VI launched the new development model for the southern provinces in November 2015.

The Secretary-General demonstrates, since 2016, the efforts and sustainability for economic development and infrastructure projects that the Kingdom of Morocco is carrying out in its Moroccan (Western) Sahara. Many of these social projects were observed by the former Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Horst Kohler, during his trip to the region in 2018 Yet, this economic development is escorted by the strengthening supremacy framework and legal dedication of the full Moroccan sovereignty over its southern provinces, through the adoption approach of two laws to ratify the borders of the territorial waters of the Kingdom, which include The coasts of the Moroccan (Western) Sahara.

To sum up, the United Nations Secretary-General report has strongly reinforced Morocco’s position through a sequence of development projects in Moroccan (Western) Sahara, which has been showing the awareness of the United Nations, MINURSO, and the Security Council through the seriousness of the Polisario Front ( SADR) violations of this well-known antagonist armed group. For its proven connections to terrorism and jihadism in the Sahel region. These measures also jeopardize regional stability and severely hinder the international process.

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Why should we support Cabo Delgado?

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Image source: Wikipedia

As the adage goes, prevention is better than the cure. This wisdom applies as much to public health crises, and to security and development challenges, as it does to the prevention of violent conflict. Not only does prevention save lives and protect development gains, but it is also highly cost-effective. Last year, Mozambique signed a peace agreement to end its long-running conflict with RENAMO. While presenting a real opportunity for a durable and sustainable peace, this agreement also marked a shift in conflict dynamics in the country and focused attention on an emerging – and potentially more intractable – front in the Northern-most province of Cabo Delgado. The escalating insurgency there has claimed about 2,000 lives and displaced nearly 300,000 people since it began in 2017, and it risks spreading down the coast and into neighboring provinces, enabled by a north-south regional divide, perceptions of the capture of the state and its resources, and a sense of socioeconomic exclusion, particularly among the youth, who face a future with limited avenues for self-improvement or social mobility. Little is known about the perpetrators, their backers, or their intentions: however, what is clear is that the longer the conflict lasts, the more entrenched it risks becoming and the higher the costs will be in terms of destruction of human, social, and cultural capital; in terms of lives lost; in terms of young people who are hooked into extremist groups; and in terms of the loss of economic growth and development potential.  

As has been seen in other countries, preventing the onset or escalation of violent conflict and managing crises is complicated by the confluence of multiple challenges that reinforce and amplify fragility. Fragility in turn reinforces poverty and limits efforts to level the playing field. The quest to end poverty and increase equality has suffered its worst setback globally this year since we started to track it consistently, with 88 to 115 million people worldwide expected to be pushed into extreme poverty, taking the total number of poor to 729 million. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mozambique just as the country was beginning to recover from the destructive trail left by the twin cyclones of 2019, highlights the role of pre-existing vulnerabilities in determining the capacity and ability of formal and informal institutions to mitigate the impact of shocks. A recent review reveals that 37 fragile and conflict-affected countries have 10 percent of the world’s population, but 40 percent of the world’s poor. Internally displaced populations, vulnerable populations, youth, women, the elderly, and those who eke out a living on the margins or in the informal sector, are already struggling to access basic services, a source of livelihood, shelter, and food security. It is these groups who will have been most impacted by these consecutive shocks and who are most at risk now from the impacts of violent conflict in Cabo Delgado. Focusing on Cabo Delgado and the underlying causes of fragility and conflict in Mozambique is not only an economic imperative, but also a moral one. 

The human and economic costs of conflict require all those concerned to work more collaboratively through targeted, flexible, and sustained approaches to support national and regional prevention agendas. In the three months since I assumed the role of Country Director for Mozambique, I have had the opportunity to meet with and hear the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders. These conversations have reinforced that as partners of the Government of Mozambique, and of the people of Mozambique, and the country’s development actors, the World Bank has a key role to play in supporting the efforts of the Government to address the core development issues that underpin Mozambique’s fragility challenges. In light of the heightened fragility risks in Mozambique, and in a bid to align the efforts of the Government with those of the development community to mitigate the danger of an escalation in violent conflict, Mozambique is eligible to secure USD$700 million additional funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), specifically to address the underlying causes of fragility and conflict.  

Global experience highlights a number of key lessons for successful prevention: that effective prevention is a collective undertaking – led domestically by the government, as the key actor in shaping a pathway towards sustainable development and peace, and building on existing strengths – with support from local and international partners across the political, humanitarian, security, and peace spectrum, to facilitate timely action. The most successful examples of prevention, including from Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, have involved extensive consultation with, and mobilization of, a coalition of domestic actors to leverage the comparative advantages of civil society, including women’s groups, youth, religious actors, and the private sector, while drawing on support from the international community. In response to subnational instability in Cameroon, Ukraine, and Nigeria, multilateral vehicles such as Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessments have supported governments through technical capacity and policy dialogue to chart an inclusive post-conflict trajectory and development plan to address core socioeconomic grievances. These vehicles have also proved powerful at aligning domestic and international finance for a more effective recovery effort. 

The most effective way to prevent societies from descending into chaos is to strengthen their resilience by investing in people through inclusive and sustainable development. Experiences from contexts as varied as Tunisia and Niger, Northern Ireland and Nepal, demonstrate that the often-fraught and uncomfortable process of strengthening and reforming institutions to foster greater inclusion is key to maintaining peace and stability, despite it being a long-term endeavor, sometimes taking generations. Similarly, opening spaces for contestation and for voice is neither easy and nor is it devoid of risk, but it is crucial for increased representation and for alleviating grievances related to perceptions of exclusion, particularly among the youth. In tandem, efforts to address inequalities and exclusion, addressing the legacy of past abuses, and redistributing resources, are all key avenues by which to preserve the social fabric, build social cohesion, and boost the capacities of individuals, communities, and society at large to mitigate impacts of crises and shocks.  

For our part, as a friend and partner of Mozambique, the World Bank commits to accompanying the Government and people on the path towards building a more inclusive, transparent, and equitable society. We will support efforts towards peace and stability in Mozambique by leveraging global experiences, using policy dialogue and strong partnerships, and through the application of our technical capacity. The World Bank has in place and will ramp up interventions to address the causes of fragility, conflict, and violence, in Cabo Delgado, but also across the country. These include interventions designed to create opportunities for employment and training, particularly for the youth; delivery of quality services in a transparent and inclusive fashion; support to governance reform efforts and the devolution of power to subnational levels; provision of global best practices in relation to the management and governance of extractives industries and natural resources; support to building resilience to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change; and efforts to boost the capacity of civil society actors and NGOs to build grassroots representation and increases spaces for dialogue and contestation. We are also pushing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, by expanding social protection and safety nets, supporting efforts to increase access to quality education and health services, and boosting efforts to address institutional weakness and policy gaps. 

We believe we have a role to act as part of a collective to work with the Government to address these core challenges that underpin fragility in Mozambique. We note with satisfaction the government strategy to address the socioeconomic grievances that feed the insurgency in the North, under the umbrella of the Integrated Northern Development Agency (ADIN). We are committed to working with the Government to ensure that every Mozambican, regardless of who they are and where they live, has the opportunity to live a life of dignity and hope and has the chance to realize their full potential as a contributing member of society. 

World Bank

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