Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ON WATCH: Arms means money

17 September 2011

By Stephen Davis

The amnesty that has seen the surrender of 26,000 militants in the Niger Delta is hailed as an outstanding success. But where are their arms? The militants may have surrendered but did they surrender their arms?

In 2004 when some Nigerian colleagues and I negotiated with Asari Dokubo to lay down his arms 5,000 militants took advantage of the Peace Accord announced on October 1, 2004 and 5,000 weapons were subsequently collected and destroyed to UN standards. It was very simple -5,000 armed militants meant 5,000 weapons surrendered and destroyed.

There has been no such collection and destruction of weapons associated with the latest Niger Delta amnesty.

Nor has there been an obvious crackdown on the local illegal arms dealers and illegal arms markets. Thus the Niger Delta, in my view, is still more a situation of ceasefire than sustained peace. When the Niger Delta is largely free of arms we can feel more secure that there will not be a regression to widespread conflict.

And so it is that we are pleased to finally hear the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta this week issued a seven-day ultimatum to all those in possession of illegal arms in the region to surrender them or face the full wrath of the law. The ultimatum expires on 18 September. A laudable step but a ridiculously short time for a weapons surrender.

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