Monday, September 12, 2011

Militants returning to creeks?

12 September 2011

One of the more endearing features of the Amnesty has been the patience shown by all sides, with a process where the direction and end points are far from clear. In some areas discipline of registered former militants seems to be holding, but in others there are already some unconfirmed warnings of frustrated small groups returning to the creeks. More explicitly there is clearly growing anger amongst youths who are not part of the formal Amnesty process.

Little has changed in the broader initiatives in the Niger Delta where development initiatives are too often failing to address the fundamentals in rural areas. Among the most serious issues is the failure to stimulate any significant youth employment or local economic development. This is given rise to fresh groups of disaffected youths actively considering taking up militancy in order to get the political attention that their predecessors secured. The protests which occurred on the edge of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on September 6th where the inter-state east west road was blocked by protesters are a small visible manifestation of this serious risk.

The significance of new youths entering into militancy is not to be understated. Weapons are already widely available and there is a strong risk that newcomers would face conflict with armed 'ex-militants' already allied with government. This is precisely the triangular conflict that swiftly evolved and worsened in Rivers State in 2004 with very little overt warning. For those in government and agencies who are used to the language of 'Early Warning Systems' and monitoring structures it is important to understand there is little in place of this nature in the Niger Delta. We sincerely hope that this brief will serve to put these early warnings of trouble on the record and that they will be acted upon.

Strategically neglecting the situation in the Niger Delta would be a huge mistake for the Federal Government. It cannot afford an additional conflict while it is still stretched by the continuing clashes in northern states . Any conflict in the Delta would likely immediately threaten the oil production whose recovery is funding all of the governments other broadened interventions. The international community would do well to impress the need to deal with ongoing issues in the Niger Delta while there are the early signs of a growing problem rather than a fresh crisis.

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