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Niger Delta Leader Faults Proposed Peace Summit

Uncertainty surrounds a proposed peace summit for Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The region’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has threatened to boycott the process unless the government follows through on previous agreements, including building infrastructures and protecting the environment.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama have dismissed claims by MEND that they will participate in the summit. Obum Cletus is and a community leader in the Delta. He says the proposed summit is unlikely to bring peace to the area.

“It is one of the jamborees they have turned the Niger Delta into; some people benefit from the calls they make and the conferences they make and they feel it gives them some political profit to get involved in the talks for peace. Why are we talking peace without justice, [because] the kind of things that we have seen so far in the Niger Delta [do] not show that we are in anyway interested in [the] kinds of things that are going to happen, especially if you are dealing with the Niger Delta and MEND -- a militant force within that area [that] has not been able to get itself involved.”

Cletus says MEND should not be blamed for the escalation of violence in the region. “Clearly MEND wants peace, and MEND is looking for peace. The whole essence of the MEND actions is to bring about peace and justice in the Niger Delta. Those who don’t want peace are those who have made it impossible to negotiate peace and who have failed in previous peace deals in the Niger Delta.”

Cletus says while some of the activities of the militant group should be condemned, it was the only way to get the attention of the authorities and the international community. “What you are seeing about MEND’s action against the general peace in the area -- clearly that is condemnable, counter-productive; it is a clearly a case of internal sabotage that cannot be an option for peace, but what you are seeing is only a reaction to an action.”