06 February 2009

Coventry Cathedral and Peace and Reconciliation in ND

Ahead of the forthcoming release of his organization’s formal report, Canon Stephen Davis of the Coventry Cathedral shared some of his thoughts on the possibilities of peace in the Niger Delta. Coventry Cathedral is one of the world’s oldest religious-based centers for reconciliation. The Cathedral has been extensively involved in Nigeria since 2002 when it played a key role in bringing about the Kaduna Peace Declaration which was signed by the most influential Muslim and Christian leaders in the State.

Here is what he said:

Any realistic attempts to deal constructively with the conflict in the Niger Delta must address the roots of conflict such as ethnic differences, poverty, high unemployment, corruption, revenue distribution and electoral malpractice.

Addressing the roots of conflict is not optional. It is critical to a sustained peace with justice in the Niger Delta.

Peace without justice is a temporary peace. It is merely a lull in the conflict, a prolonged cease-fire.
In the immediate to mid term corruption is the greatest challenge facing the Nigerian nation and one of the most critical issues where significant, clear and irreversible progress is required.

The potential for peace and reconciliation is very much a product of the measures the Federal Government of Nigeria takes in corruption control, illegal weapons and border control, its approach to issues perceived as injustices by the Niger Delta population and its engagement with militia leaders through dialogue.

The political godfathers are powerful and have shown the ability to sabotage peace efforts on several occasions. The power of the political godfathers to intervene must be curtailed before any prospect of a sustained peace could be seriously contemplated.

MEND has agreed to follow the UN weapons destruction process defined by the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs. Weapons destruction should occur under independent third party expert scrutiny and be conducted to international standards.

Efforts to end the conflict in the Niger Delta are unlikely to see a sustained peace without the involvement of neutral international mediator.

Conflict with militia can cease immediately a credible agenda for peace discussion has been agreed.
A restorative social justice plan as distinct from criminal justice will increase the opportunity for a sustained peace and should be designed to strengthen democracy and peace in the Niger Delta. The plan should include:

Peace agreement;
Amnesty guarantees;
Security system reform;
Macroeconomic plan;
Sustainable development;
Reconciliation; and a
Truth Commission.

The peace process should commence immediately. The first step will be the appointment of an independent international facilitator acceptable to all parties whose first taskwill be to secure agreement of the parties to an agenda for peace discussions. The militia leaders have stated that immediately upon agreement for such an agenda being reached the militia will cease all conflict.

A detailed background to the conflict and the peace and reconciliation process are set out in Coventry Cathedral's 300 page Report on the Potential for Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta which will be released within the next week, coincidentally being one year since Henry Okah was extradited from Angola to Nigeria.

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