27 September 2007

Understanding the intensity and complexity of the Niger Delta

A sadly under-reported African conflict (admittedly, many if not all African conflicts are under-reported in U.S. media) is the ongoing wave of insurgency in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The oil rich area has long been a bed of tension, with the oil itself as one of the main drivers of the conflict. In the summer of 2006, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a training put on by AU's Peacebuilding and Development Institute, where there were several participants from Rivers State, home to the main city of Port Harcourt and now at the center of recent violence. One of those participants was then a state government minister in Rivers, and I was a part of a working group at that training aimed at developing new peacebuilding initiatives in the Delta region. We've been in sporadic contact since, and it's my understanding that events have overtaken some of the initiatives we considered. I don't know how the April elections affected his job (but I'm reminded to drop him a line).

In any event, a must read article by Michael Watts has just been posted to the Online Africa Policy Forum. He gives an excellent synopsis of the many dynamics in this multi-faceted conflict. Go check it out. Clearly, the Delta conflict poses a tremendous challenge for conflict resolution practitioners, and this is a good way to begin thinking about what may need to be done.

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