The main militant group in Nigeria’s Niger Delta says its members will keep their weapons as the deadline to surrender them approaches. The rebels are scheduled to turn in their arms in 10 days and the government says when they do, a true dialogue can begin.
They not trust the government to keep its promise to develop the impoverished area, said Jomo Gbomo, spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) but will continue discussions to find a peaceful end to the crisis.
There is still time to engage in comprehensive talks to end fighting in the region, said Obum Cletus, a political activist and community leader in the Delta. “I think this is one of the biggest opportunities we have to end this entire saga, if the state of Nigeria can come out and engage the militants in a more progressive and focused manner,” said Cletus.
Nigerian authorities have not made serious efforts to engage the militants and make concessions to end the fighting, says Cletus. The government denies the charge and says it has put in place a committee to discuss peace with several militant groups to agree on a political solution to the crisis.
“During the period of negotiations, there cannot be bombardment in the creeks or anywhere you have oil facilities being destroyed,” he says, “so negotiations are the first step.”
But he says the army has “so mismanaged [the amnesty] “that even from day one it was almost dead on arrival.” A military spokesman says soldiers have a right to defend themselves when attacked by rebels