by Mwalimu George Ngwane*
Most scholarly publications on the Niger Delta conflict in Nigeria attest to the fact that the proximate and structural factors are related to natural resources (oil), environmental degradation and political governance.
Yet since 1900 what is now known as the Niger Delta and which is today home to thirty-one million people, 70.000 square kms and more than forty ethnic groups presents a case on how the major conflict factors can be ethnicised hence the term ‘extra-oil’ conflict.
This essay seeks to provide the historical background of the inter-ethnic conflict, the conflict stages, the challenges faced in resolving this conflict in tandem with other conflicts and the recommendations for identity-based conflicts in the Niger Delta region.
Even though the Niger Delta has about forty ethnic groups with the main ones being Urhobo, Ogoni, Ukwuani and Isoko, two major ethnic groups have been identified over the years to be in conflict on issues related directly or indirectly to the global conflict situation in the Niger Delta.
These two groups are the Ijaws whose population of over 7 million makes them the largest in the region and the Itsekiri whose number is only about 450.000. The conflict between the two groups has been particularly intense in the major town called Warri.
While the Ijaws and Itsekiri have lived alongside each other for centuries, for the most part in relative harmony, the Itsekiri were the first to make contact with the European traders as early as the 16th century and they were more aggressive both in seeking Western education and in using the knowledge acquired to press their commercial advantages until 1879. Itsekiri chieftains controlled most of the trade with Europeans in the Western Niger region. That monopoly was challenged by the Ijaws yet Europeans continued to find favours with the minority Itsekiri. This bred resentment among the Ijaws at what they felt to be a form of economic apartheid perpetrated by Europeans against the Ijaws. The departure of the Europeans (British) during the Independence of Nigeria in 1960 did not lead to a decrease in tensions between the Ijaws and Itsekiri. Instead the foundation of conflict had been laid….
Copyright, Blaise APLOGAN, 2010,© Bienvenu sur Babilown
Toute reprise de cet article sur un autre site doit en mentionner et l’origine et l’auteur sous peine d’infraction