Cablegate: A Peace Forum for Warring People of Warri

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: ConGen Lagos officers observed the initial
meeting of the Warri Forum on Peace, Security, and Human
Rights organized by USG grantee Academic Associates
PeaceWorks (AAPW) November 18-20 in the Delta State capital
of Asaba (reftel). Partially funded through USAID and DRL,
the meeting centered on security and use of conflict
management tools. Senior representatives of the Nigerian
Army, Navy, State Security Service (SSS), Police Force (NPF),
and Delta State Government participated alongside Ijaw,
Itsekiri, and Urhobo elders and youths. The atmosphere was
cordial and discussions were productive, drawing out candid
comments from senior GON officials about their operational
capabilities and personal feelings. All participants
identified weaknesses within themselves and other parties,
including shortcomings of the GON, criminal activities of
ethnic youths, and the squalid social conditions that fuel
violence. Fortunately, all parties brushed aside the locally
rooted issues of the ethnic conflict to facilitate discussion
and focus on the Forum's main themes. END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) The Nigerian Army was well represented.
Brigadier-General (BG) Elias Zamani, Commanding Officer (CO)
of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Hope,
attended all sessions of the Forum. He was accompanied by
Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Goro Dogo, CO of the 7th Army
Battalion in Warri; LTC Adamu Lanre, JTF Chief of Operations;
and Captain (CPT) O.B. Ogunjimi, CO of the Delta Naval
Station in Warri. In response to ECONOFF's remarks about
relaxing the curfew in Warri town and its appearance of being
under control, BG Zamani pointedly quipped, "No, let's not
exaggerate. I have no control. I have the situation
contained right now. Containment is all I can hope for until
we can pull out. I'll never have control."

3. (SBU) Supporting BG Zamani's statement, LTC Dogo
portrayed GON efforts as those of a "fire-brigade," a
characterization often repeated during the sessions by
security men and Delta residents alike. "We need to go," he
said, "beyond control of crises to resolution. Suppression
by security forces is not enough and is not long term." Dogo
admitted that soldiers and police in the Delta have little
outside support and when threatened by militant youths, "my
soldiers have the right to flee and protect their lives."
Several participants, including other military and GON
officials, shared Dogo's concerns, for they openly admitted
that the militant youths are better armed and equipped than
the JTF, which has little or no capability to project power
despite the GON's recent acquisition of former U.S. Coast
Guard buoy tenders. In contrast, BG Zamani expressed concern
about the international human rights community and its
potential criticism of military actions against youths
despite the youths having the upper hand. NPF and SSS
officials echoed this concern.


4. (SBU) A. Amoo, SSS Director for Delta State, represented
the agency at the Forum. Amoo was the only GON official who
vigorously tried to defend the GON and its policies. Despite
voicing support, Amoo identified unemployment, the
mishandling of Delta State elections, federal supremacy, oil
company failings, and communities claiming land based on
family ties as the causes of the Warri conflict. Amoo blamed
the communities for "disserving themselves" and called on
them to differentiate between problems that can be handled by
the communities and those that should reach the federal
level. Amoo railed against the media's use of "yellow
journalism," exaggerated and inaccurate reports, and accused
the media of unprofessional and unethical practices that
incite violence and enflame tensions.


5. (SBU) Charles Akaya, Commissioner of Police for Delta
State, and his Assistant Commissioner, J.O. Abiona, also
attended the Forum. Akaya called for community policing and
requested information on criminals and criminal activity,
saying that the police cannot act if they do not know what to
act upon. When Abiona asked the warring communities to share
information if they want to "stop the nonsense," groans and
murmurings of disagreement followed his remarks. Akaya
recommended creating a state police force, which might
forever change the make-up of the centralized national
police, believing this move necessary to "secure the
communities." The Delta State Attorney General echoed
Akaya's calls for a state police force. (COMMENT: Putting
the police under the jurisdiction of the states is anathema
to the Federal Government. END COMMENT.)

6. (SBU) Akaya also stated that piracy, hostage taking, and
bunkering should be checked through community policing as
well and stated that such policing should be legalized.
(COMMENT: It is unclear whether he advocated vigilantism, as
exhibited by the acts of groups like the O'odua People's
Congress and the Bakassi Boys who often commit human rights
abuses, or a more traditional method of control through a
local chief or oga (boss man). At one point Akaya suggested
that the problem with the vigilante Bakassi Boys was not that
they exist as a sort of militia, but rather that they have
been allowed to get out of hand. END COMMENT.)

7. (SBU) Many other participants echoed the call for better
law enforcement and prevention, including prosecution of
known criminals and illegal bunkerers. "We know who the
bunkerers are," cried an Ijaw youth, alluding to unnamed
wealthy and influential individuals in Abuja, as well as
unidentified international actors. An Itsekiri youth added
that crude stolen by youths is resold at substantially higher
prices on the international market by these unnamed persons.


8. (SBU) Participants of the three ethnic groups -- the
Ijaw, Itsekiri, and Urhobo -- criticized the GON, the Delta
State Government, and the oil companies for their plight.
Participants claimed that there had been no economic
development of any of the riverine areas of the Delta,
whether by the Federal and State Governments or the oil
companies before the first crisis erupted in 1997. An Ijaw
remarked: "The Federal Government doesn't treat Deltans as
Nigerians, but as Ijaws, Itsekiris, and Urhobos," and drew a
parallel to Rwanda pointing out that not until the crisis was
out of control did anyone respond. "The U.N. would do a
better job than the Federal Government in the Delta."
"People want a sense of belonging, a sense of being a part of
a greater community," explained an Ijaw youth.

9. (SBU) An Itsekiri youth echoed that the communities'
biggest issues are underdevelopment and poverty. Decrying
recourse to the "fire brigade approach to conflict
management," an Itsekiri elder criticized the GON's
collection and distribution of oil revenues and stated that
as long as the GON receives oil revenues, it will not deal
with crises in the Delta. If the GON received its funding
through taxes, she said, the GON would address the crisis
because it could not neglect the issues of the taxpayers. An
Ijaw youth voiced support, claiming that if oil revenues had
no global or national impact, "no one would pay any attention
to us. When Chevron's boats are hijacked, a query comes from
on high. When villages are burned and people are killed no
one calls us. The system is only interested when money is


10. (U) The Warri Forum on Peace, Security and Human Rights
was developed by Academic Associates PeaceWorks, under the
direction of long-time American resident in Nigeria Judith
Burdin-Asuni. Ms. Asuni orchestrated an earlier forum in
Warri during the 1999 crisis. The Forum held in November in
the Delta State capital of Asaba is part of a four-phase
project, partially funded by USAID and DRL.

11. (SBU) COMMENT: The November AAPW Forum held the
attention of all and established a record for the quality of
the participation by senior GON officials, ethnic leaders,
and youths who exercise influence within their communities.
Contacts gained through the Warri Forum and other USG
initiatives in the Delta have given ConGen Lagos personnel
unprecedented access to the actors in the conflict. Although
the causes of ethnic conflict in the Delta are complicated
and run deep, the Forum creates opportunities for
decision-makers to engage in dialogue and cooperation. The
next phase of the Forum, ongoing dialogue and attempts to
address the root causes of conflict, will test the mettle of
the participants and will give us an indication of how far
the protagonists are willing to go for peace. Meanwhile, this
program should receive continued support from the USG. END

© Scoop Media

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