PRIO and the Nordiska Afrikainstitutte organized a conference on the conflict in the Niger Delta at PRIO on the 18 and 19 August. Several scholars and activists from Nigeria and Norway attended the seminar, as well as representatives from the Norwegian ministries and oil companies
Since the 1990’s, most of the violent conflicts in Africa have been linked to contestations over natural resources. These have been specifically articulated either in the paradox of plenty—where resource-rich countries have been plagued by widespread poverty, mis-governance and political instability, or the ‘resource-curse’, where natural wealth has fed into corruption and violent conflict. In both cases, the thesis is that natural wealth endowment has failed to lead to development in these countries, and has ironically fuelled violent conflict.
In West and Central Africa, violent conflicts: in the form of civil wars and regional conflicts have been associated with struggles over minerals, water, land and energy resources, particularly oil—that are all in increased demand globally, a factor that has assumed more significance by the entry of the Asian and South American economic actors into the ‘scramble’ for Africa’s natural resources. Thus, oil has been a prominent factor in the conflicts in Sudan, Angola’s Cabinda enclave, Ethiopia’s Ogaden province, and Nigeria’s Niger Delta. In the same way, precious minerals featured in the regional conflicts that swept across West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in the 1990’s, and the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa, particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The critical point about these violent conflicts/civil wars is their local-national-regional and global ramifications, both in terms of the linkages between the international and the local, but also in relation to their destructive and destabilizing consequences, which transcend the continent. It is therefore critically important that the link between international/transnational economic actors/business and strategic interests and violent conflict (and post-conflict transition) be ‘unbundled’ in order to address one of the challenges confronting democracy, peace and development in Africa.
This workshop brings together critical players: researchers, activists, oil and development cooperation experts and policy makers, and corporate oil actors from African, Nordic and European countries to analyze the causes, dynamics, ramifications and implications of violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria for local, national and regional development and security. Beyond this, it would provide a framework for evaluating the various attempts at resolving the conflict, and begin to engage in a dialogue towards the possibility for an alternative conflict resolution and peace building paradigm for the Niger Delta.
The workshop is a timely intervention in the on-going debates between the various perspectives to the conflict, which have not been very pronounced in the Nordic countries. Presentations and discussions will sift through the theoretical and empirical material, and also debate practical possible strategies for managing and de-escalating the violent conflict. Critical actors from the Niger Delta and civil society would also provide first-hand information and perspectives to decision makers and corporate actors on the challenge of building peace in a context of resource conflict.