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Cablegate: Militant Delta Youth Set Aside Arms and Differences

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

251052Z Apr 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LAGOS 000605



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2015

REF: 04 ABUJA 1715

Classified By: Consul General XXXXXXXXXXXX for Reasons 1.4 (D & E)

1. (C) Summary: Over the past few months, the Government of
Nigeria and NGOs convened two major "peace camps" bringing
together members of rival militia groups and gangs from the
Delta region. The camps were largely in response to the
flare up in violence which occurred in the region Fall 2004.
During the camps, a constant theme among participants was
frustration at perceived GON backpedaling on promises made in
exchange for the youth to stop their illegal activities. As
gang and cult leaders aim to secure their power bases, they
plan candidacy in local government elections. If GON
response to collective pressure by the youth is not positive,
they threaten a return to violence.

Militant Youth Forge Alliances at Peace Camps

2. (C) Two conflict management camps brought together members
of armed militia groups and rival gangs to draft action plans
based upon the peace deal brokered Fall 2004 (reftel). The
camps were part of the implementation of the Peace and
Security Strategy (PaSS), drafted by non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) working on Delta issues. Leaders from
militia groups, gangs, and cults and the Rivers State
Government (with the blessing of President Obasanjo), agreed
to the PaSS as a concrete way to solidify the peace. The
PaSS provides a roadmap for youth rehabilitation, detailing
specific roles for key stakeholders including NGOs, the Niger
Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the federal, state, and
local government, civil society, corporations, and the
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Oil
companies have indicated willingness to assist its
implementation, but the government has rebuffed their
entreaties. To date, aside from the camps, there has been
little progress on the PaSS.

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3. (C) The January camp convened 750 combatants from two
major militia groups. Most participants were from Alhaji
Dokubo Asari´s Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) or
Ateke Tom´s Niger Delta Vigilante Group (NDVG). The February
camp convened 340 Ogoni youth, many were members of either
NDPVF or NDVG, to discuss intra-Ogoni conflicts. (Note: The
Ogoni received international media attention when Movement
for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) leader Ken
Saro-Wiwa and eight others were executed by former military
leader Sani Abacha.) The Ogoni Youth Peace and Development
Camp was sponsored with joint funding from Shell Petroleum
Development Corporation (N13 million - approximately USD
100,000) and the Rivers State Government (N6 million -
approximately USD 46,000). Local government officials
appointed 36 of the participants to the February camp. Among
these participants, there were 15 girls and 10 facilitators
who previously attended the January camp. Each camp was held
for one week in Jos, Plateau State and focused on conflict
management, leadership training, and community development.

Pervasive Violence and Conflict Offer Youth Few Options

4. (C) Poloff attended part of the February Ogoni-focused
camp. When she arrived, rumors about its funding were
circulating wildly. After the participants learned Shell had
contributed to the camp, they demanded an increase in their
stipends and feeding allowances. Tensions culminated
mid-morning with a food riot where youth stormed the kitchen,
breaking windows, pushing one of the women hired as a caterer
into the cooking fire and slapping another. With empty
stomachs, the participants finally cooled off with a game of
soccer before the afternoon seminars, a meal, and the
cultural event of the evening.

5. (C) Participants in both camps expressed a desire to
renounce militia, cult, and gang membership but indicated the
violence in the region and lack of alternative options kept
them in these groups. Many shared their stories, including
one who said he had been personally involved in over thirty
murders. They expressed extreme disappointment at being
exploited by the politicians who paid them for rigging the
2003 elections. The young men identified more intensely with
local cults and gangs and were only secondarily affiliated
with either the NDPVF or the NDVG -- working for them on an
ad hoc almost contractual basis. Neither Asari nor Tom have
a significant standing force. To muster bodies, both men
have to negotiate with and cajole (often battling) cults and
gangs, organized at the community level.

Plan Invites Oil Companies´ Return to Ogoniland

6. (C) The Action Plan developed at the Ogoni Youth Camp
includes eight proposed activities to encourage
reconciliation and peace, enhance youth development, generate
employment opportunities, and improve education. A top
priority is to facilitate oil exploration in Ogoniland,
reversing the hiatus after Shell pulled out in 1994. Shell
ceased production and removed their workers after a four-year
military occupation resulted in over 1000 deaths. With the
withdrawal of the oil companies, the sale and trade of
weapons, drugs, and bunkered oil have been the most lucrative
income-generating activities. The youth at the peace camp
stated they want Shell to return and would do what is
necessary to facilitate the oil company´s presence.
(Comment: Senior level Shell and MOSOP officials have told us
they are "close" to reaching agreement but stress the
agreement would only be able to re-open dialogue, not to
immediately re-start operations. End Comment.)

Youth Increasingly Frustrated as GON Backpedals on Promises

7. (C) Contacts working with the peace deal tell us that none
of the promised government programs have been implemented --
no further camps have been funded, and there has been little
progress on the scholarships, micro-credit and other youth
empowerment strategies. Even previous initiatives have lost
their momentum. XXXXXXXXXXXX

One Success Story

9. (C) Collaboration around security issues was initiated
when the Rivers State Chief of Security (COS) sent several
State Security Service (SSS) agents to the peace camp. The
SSS acted as instructors, working with the "Discipline
Committee" (largely made up of gang leaders implicated in
most of the violence) to ease conflicts within the camp and
address issues of conflict management in more general terms.
Successful cooperation was evident when after the camp, a
young man called XXXXXXXXXXXX to warn of vandalism and a
planned fire on one of Shell´s pipelines. XXXXXXXXXXXX quickly
contacted the company and the COS who immediately went to the
location, diffused the situation, and averted the attack - a
successful early warning that would not have occurred but for
the camp.

Youth Mobilize Communities for Political Aspirations

10. (C) As a whole, the participants are disillusioned by the
political process. They feel deeply betrayed after being
dropped by the politicians they helped during the 2003
elections. Many were not paid as promised for their
"security services" to politicians in and beyond the Delta.
One camp participant, known as being particularly dangerous,
described how in 2003 and 2004, he was hired to bring his
thuggery to bear in the political turmoil in Anambra State as

11. (C) Cult group and gang leaders have indicated they now
want to run for office. After recognizing politics is a
lucrative business, militia leaders are mobilizing to contest
local government elections. One contact explained the
electoral power totem pole where cult members aspire to
become local government counselors, then local government
chair and then a representative at the state or federal
level. They only want elected positions because these have
direct access to funds. Cult-based or gang-based influence
could be transformed into political mobilization at the
community level. This transition in occupational focus does
not seem to be a new beginning but just a graduation of
ambition within the old system, where money and violence are
the controlling factors. From what we can see, many of the
"new politicians" are using for themselves the muscular
tactics they practiced for others during the 2003 election.

12. (C) Measured against modest parameters of getting
contending youth to sit down with each other, the camps were
successful. However, they represent the making of a small
brake on a large wheel. The camps present a glimpse of
possible positive development but do not mask the violent and
mercenary political sub-culture of the Delta. Strong
government participation and active public-private
partnerships are needed to throttle the negative dynamic.
Youth camp organizers and other NGO representatives tell us
that violence in the Delta region is just over the horizon,
as youth are becoming restive -- frustrated about being used
by politicians and now feeling abandoned because the GON has
not honored its recent pledges. The youth say they have
given up their cult activities and oil bunkering and have
received nothing in return. Unless greater assistance is
provided, the youth will return to their old form and the
likelihood of renewed tension will only increase.


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