May 15, 2020
Journal of Asian and African Studies 2015, Vol. 50(4) 387 –411
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J A A S
Transformational Strategy or Gilded Pacification? Four Years On: The Niger Delta Armed Conflict and the DDR Process of the Nigerian Amnesty Programme
Daniel E Agbiboa University of Oxford, UK
Abstract My central aim in this paper is to evaluate the outcomes of the amnesty programme established in mid-2009 by the Nigerian government as a way of resolving the groundswell of violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. In particular, I focus analytic attention on the planning and implementation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process of the amnesty. I argue that while the amnesty promotes non-killing alternatives to conflict resolution and opens a door for stabilisation, its current planning and implementation is flawed and unable to reduce the long-term potential for armed conflict in the Niger Delta. Far from been a transformational strategy, I argue that the amnesty programme has become a strategy of gilded pacification essentially targeted at buying off militants and re-establishing oil and gas production in the Niger Delta without addressing the multilayered causes of peacelessness in the region.
Keywords Niger Delta, armed conflict, amnesty, Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, multilayered causes
Introduction Since the end of the Second World War, the incidence of intrastate armed conflict1 (internal con- flicts fought between a government and a non-state group) has increased in number and intensity compared to interstate conflict (conflicts fought between two or more states), which has been rela- tively rare (Buhaug et al., 2007; Harbom and Wallensteen, 2009; Lotta and Wallensteen, 2012). Figure 1 shows the trend in the number of armed conflicts since 1946. Despite the significant increase in conflicts from 2010 to 2011 – the largest increase in the number of active armed con- flicts between any two years since 1990 (Lotta and Wallensteen, 2012: 566) – the pattern is one of relative stability when we consider the trend for the past five years (Goldstein, 2011; Pinker, 2011).
Corresponding author: Daniel E Agbiboa, School of Sociology, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [or] email@example.com
530082 JAS0010.1177/0021909614530082Journal of Asian and African StudiesAgbiboa research-article2014
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In 2011, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) recorded 36 active intrastate armed conflicts compared to only one interstate conflict: Cambodia-Thailand2 (Lotta and Wallensteen, 2012: 565). This level of disparity is not unexpected if we recall the forecast of the Hart-Rudman Commission (Hart and Rudman, 1999: 6) that ‘Interstate wars will occur over the next 20 years, but most vio- lence will erupt from conflicts internal to current territorial states’. This report was predated by Holsti’s (1996: 19–20) apt observation that recent wars have by and large been fought by ‘loosely knit groups of regulars, irregulars, cells, and not infrequently by locally-based warlords under little or no central authority’ rather than by ‘the organised armed forces of two or more states’. It is instructive to note that most intrastate armed conflicts are now fought in Asia or Africa (see Figure 2) and these continents have not contributed much to the appreciable decline in armed con- flict in recent years (Buhaug et al., 2007; Lotta and Wallensteen, 2012).
Despite the fact that intrastate conflict is the most frequent form of armed conflict (see Figure 1), the vast bulk of data-based research has focused on interstate conflict (Buhaug et al., 2007; Hensel, 2001; Wallensteen and Sollenberg, 2001 and 2002). The intrastate nature of armed con- flicts calls for a set of peacekeeping concepts and approaches that transcends traditional statist diplomacy (Hegre and Sambanis, 2006; Lederach, 1997). Conflict analysts have argued that effec- tive peacebuilding initiatives in the contemporary world should incorporate a wide range of activi- ties and functions that both precede and follow formal peace accords (Fox and Hoelscher, 2012 ), including ‘processes, approaches, and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships’ (Kriner, 2011: 1). Subsequently, recent peacebuilding literature has focused on the many institutional alternatives available to build peace, such as power-sharing (Hartzell and Hoddie, 2007; Jarstad and Nilsson, 2008), security sector reform (Toft 2010), peacekeeping forces (Doyle and Sambanis, 2006), and post-conflict justice (Bell, 2009; BinningsbØ et al., 2012). These processes represent the melange of options for government and oppositions to address violence from a previous conflict (Elster, 2004). Of all these options, however, the process of disarmament,
Figure 1. Armed Conflicts by Type, 1946–2011. Source: Lotta & Wallensteen (2012).
demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, a critical aspect of amnesties, have become increasingly integral to UN practices in conflict and post-conflict societies (Berdal, 1996; Jennings 2008; Muggah, 2009; Söderström, 2013; UN, 2000).
Briefly, disarmament describes the ‘collection, documentation, control and disposal of small arms, ammunition, explosives, and light and heavy weapons of combatants and often also of the civilian population’ in a post-conflict context (UN-SG, 2005). Disarmament also includes the development of a ‘responsible arms management program’ (UN-SG, 2005). The driving force of disarmament is ‘to reduce or control the number of weapons held before demobilisation in order to build confidence in the peace process, increase security and prevent a return to conflict’ (UN-SG, 2005). Demobilisation describes a planned process by which the armed forces of the government and/or opposition or fractional forces either downsize or completely disband; it is the ‘formal and controlled discharge of active combatants from armed forces and other armed groups’ (UN, 2006). Last of all, reintegration describes the process whereby ex-combatants and their families are inte- grated into the socioeconomic and political life of (civilian) communities (Knight and Ozerdem, 2004: 500; cf. Jennings 2008).
The DDR has repeatedly proven to be vital to stability in a post-conflict situation (Söderström 2013; UN, 2000). Countries like Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, DR Congo, El Salvador, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, Russia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, India, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Colombia, Mozambique, Burundi, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, have all applied DDR to armed conflicts with some levels of success. Two factors are critical to the suc- cess of any DDR programme: (1) the political context in which it is carried out; and (2) the political will among the belligerent parties (Knight and Ozerdem, 2004: 500). In addition, experience sug- gests that the ways in which DDR is operationalised have significant implications for the reintegra- tion of ex-combatants and for keeping the peace. So conceived, it is important to evaluate any implemented DDR programmes in order to gain insight into what has worked and what has not. As
Figure 2. Armed Conflicts by Region, 1946–2011. Source: Lotta & Wallensteen (2012).
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Jennings (2008: 5) cogently argues, ‘examining how DDR plays out on-the-ground would likely enable future programming to be formulated and implemented more effectively, improving out- comes and mitigating potential unintended and harmful consequences’.
The central purpose of this paper is to evaluate the outcomes of the so-called Nigerian version of DDR, established in mid-2009 by the federal government as a way of resolving the groundswell of violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region and its crippling effects on the oil industry in Nigeria. In exchange for the surrender of arms and cessation of fighting, the amnesty – conceived in this paper as a promise or formal legislation on the part of the ruling party to not prosecute or punish past violators (Binningsbo et al., 2012: 735) – guaranteed Niger Delta combatants freedom from prosecution and a disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration process with monthly stipend payments (Nwajiaku-Dahou, 2010). This paper argues that while the amnesty promotes non-killing alternatives to violence and opens a door for stabilisation through the tactics of political dialogue, its current planning and implementation are flawed and incapable of reducing the long-term poten- tial for violence in the Niger Delta because they fail to address the multilayered causes of peace- lessness in the region. At best, the amnesty offers a cosmetic and short-term panacea to the conflict.
Literature review There is no single cause of a conflict. Nor is there any single precondition for sustainable peace. Different factors vary in importance and reinforce or neutralise each other. The analysis of the situation must therefore include assessing the relative importance of the different indicators and their inter-relationship (Forum on Early Warning and Early Response (FEWER), 2001: 7).
The scramble by groups to wrest away rights and to break asunder from the shackles of the state are found in a number of conceptual castings (Ross, 2002: 4