Ogoni: Peace Summit Rejected
Below is an article published by afrol News:
The Nigerian government's plan to bolster peace in the conflict-plagued region of the Niger Delta has failed with South-South leaders rejecting talks in capital Abuja yesterday [2 July 2008]. The relentless unrests are said to have cause a major dent in the West African country's oil production and a breakthrough in the disagreements seems far-fetched.
Government peace efforts suffered a huge hold up in recent days as government's choice of mediator met an outright rejection.
Ever since Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua came to power last year, his administration has been encouraging the idea of a grand peace summit by bringing together federal officials, ethnic leaders and oil companies. Challenges are said to be enormous, with […] the nation stuck in utter poverty, in spite of country's exuberant oil wealth.
President Yar'Adua may have thought he found just the man to preside over the summit in Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a Delta native who was the United Nations' Undersecretary-General for political affairs during Kofi Annan's tenure of office as UN Secretary-General.
However, Mr Gambari, who is now UN envoy for Burma, encountered a dead end when local leaders recently rejected his role as mediator. He was reportedly accused of defending the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist from the Delta who was hanged by the dictatorial regime of General Sani Abacha in 1995.
Mr Gambari is also said to have drawn condemnation for allegedly describing the summit as a national event, rather than something more directly related to people of Niger Delta.
Despite an official statement on Monday [30 June 2008] saying that governors and ethnic leaders had agreed to talks and a summit, chances of the event delivering a successful outcome seem remote. The summit was expected to be held in July , but no date has yet been set.
While they agreed to the summit, leaders of Delta's ethnic communities are not enthusiastic. "We need a process and not an event," said Ledum Mitee of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, which Mr Saro-Wiwa once led.
The leader of the dominant Ijaw people dismissed the federal government's initiative as a "facade". "We have seen so many conferences, so many summits and reports on Niger Delta. We have become very cynical about such summits and conferences," President of Ijaw National Congress Kimse Okoko was reported as saying.
Regional leaders have warned the Vice President to advise President Yar`Adua to drop the planned summit as the region would neither attend nor have anything to do with the talks to be chaired by Professor Gambari.
Conflict in the region arose in the early 1990s due to tensions between foreign oil corporations and different ethnic groups in the region, who felt they were being exploited and saw their natural environment destroyed, particularly the Ogoni as well as the Ijaw in the late 1990s. Unrests have continued throughout the 1990s, persisting until 2007, despite Nigeria's conversion to democratic rule and election of the Obasanjo government in 1999.