The Nigerian aid group Center for Civilians in Conflict is marking this year’s U.N. International Day of Peace with a photo exhibit on the conflict in the country’s northeast. The photographs depict some of the millions of civilians caught up in the 12-year conflict started by militant group Boko Haram.
The photo exhibit opened Tuesday morning at the Thought Pyramid Art Center in Abuja. Around 150 visitors arrived in batches to see images taken from scenes of the Boko Haram insurgency and the communities affected by it.
Art lover Hillary Essien, who attended the exhibit, says the photos tell a story of pain and survival.
“They’re actual people, being here and seeing that these people are out there away from their homes, families, fearing for their lives, it’s just really touching to be honest,” she said.
Nigerian photojournalist Damilola Onafuwa took the photos for nonprofit Center for Civilians in Conflict, and says he’s happy about the effect the pictures are having on viewers.
“When I create these works, I only create them because I want people to know,” he said. “I want to share the stories of people that I’m photographing. When people see it and I see how much impact it has on them, that makes me very happy.”
Nigeria has been battling the Boko Haram insurgency for 12 years. The fighting has claimed an estimated 350,000 lives, according to the United Nations Development Program, and displaced millions of others.
But Boko Haram is not the only group threatening the northeast. Armed criminal groups are becoming more active, often kidnapping people for ransom. Communal clashes over grazing lands are leading to raids and burnings of villages.
The Center for Civilians in Conflict says the exhibit aims to raise awareness about these issues with the view of addressing them.
“The exhibition tries to chronicle the lives of ordinary Nigerians who are trying everything possible to maintain the peace,” said Beson Olugbuo, a director at the center. “The idea is to use photographs as a means of advocacy and also to remind the federal government that they have a primary responsibility to maintain law and order, to protect lives and property and ensure that peace reigns.”
The International Day of Peace is observed every year on September 21.