Nigerian combatants surrender their weapons

Disarmement in the Niger Delta - Nigeria
Nigeria Disarmament ©Reuters


Between 7,000 and 11,000 combatants are fighting in the Niger Delta region. 


Hundreds of militants in Nigeria have surrendered their weapons after accepting an amnesty offer from the government, ending in September 2009. However, other factions of MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) rejected the offer and said they would resume attacks on the oil industry. Attacks by armed groups in Niger Delta have cut Nigeria’s oil exports by more than 20% since 2006. 


The biggest hand-over since the amnesty began two weeks ago, took place on 15 August in Yenagoa. At the ceremony, a top MEND leader in Bayelsa State and his fighters handed over hundreds of assault rifles, a number of rocket launchers and at least 2 gunboats. Militants will get an unconditional pardon and participate in a reintegration programme. 


MEND factions in neighbouring states have refused the amnesty, saying the government wants the group to disarm without addressing its key demands regarding oil revenue, environmental degradation and electoral reforms. 

IANSA members in Nigeria have welcomed the amnesty, but they question it as a long-term solution since the government has done little to create employment or training opportunities for ex-combatants. Innocent Adjenughure from CAAT (Campaign against Arms Trade Network) said: “We are also concerned because the amnesty has not taken into account the views of civil society groups working against arms proliferation. The National Commission on Small Arms is also not represented in the amnesty committee set up by the President”.   


The government amnesty runs from 4 August to 4 October; the militants say their current ceasefire will last until 15 September. Other amnesties in the past have failed. Both the government and combatants now have a new opportunity to build agreements towards peace.  



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