DDR: Niger Delta and Sri Lanka: Smoke and Mirrors?

BY DESMOND MOLLOY** | 07.06.2011

In the early summer of 2009, both Nigeria and Sri Lanka launched Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) processes; Nigeria to address the activities of armed militants disrupting oil production in the Niger Delta and Sri Lanka to address the situation created by its military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Both programs are government driven processes set in opaque environments that offer challenges to the international community in evaluating the potential of the processes or considering appropriate levels of engagement. The motivation for comparing these two diverse examples of DDR is their concurrency, their current notoriety and their similarity as almost exclusively government driven processes shrouded in an absence of clarity.

niger_srilankaIn recent decades, the UN, together with international partners including the World Bank, has engaged in a broad range of DDR processes, building a body of knowledge and drawing lessons through practitioner and scholarly analysis. This work has been consolidated into comprehensive and disputably definitive guidance for the implementation of DDR programmes under the theoretical framework of the Human Security Agenda[1], through  publication of the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) in December 2006.[2] Based on the hypothesis that DDR programs demonstrate adherence to these principles, how do these two DDR processes perform in relation to the UN principles as outlined in the IDDRS? . Are  government driven programs,  more likely to succeed in delivering a longer-term reduction of violence?

Sections 2 and 3, which follow this introductory section, outline the recent history and the witnessed reality of the processes planned in the Niger Delta and Sri Lanka. The account of the DDR environment in Nigeria in section 2 draws on field research in mid-2009 with information extracted slowly and with difficulty in an opaque environment. Confirmation of facts, meaning and opinions was sought by cross-referencing through an extensive series of more than fifty discussions and interviews with relevant actors and principals. These personal interviews included confidential discussions with government ministers and their advisors, senior officers of military intelligence, chief executive officers of the major international oil companies Nigerian operations (IOCs), legal representatives of ‘rebel’ group umbrella organizations, business leaders from Lagos and Port Harcourt, religious leaders, civil society leaders, officers of international agencies and NGOs and ‘boys from the creeks’.[3] Access was through the representation of renowned international peace-building organizations. Interviews were not for publication and so direct sources are concealed in this paper by reference to the relevant numbered interviews alone in order to preserve anonymity and personal security of respondents.

In section 3 the environment in Sri Lanka is drawn from field research while engaged with DDR supporting agencies in Colombo in the summer of 2009 and further desk research. In mid-2009, the planning process for the DDR appeared to be a collaborative effort with participation of some UN Agencies including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and bilateral agencies, particularly the US, in the various government established thematic committees. Information was gathered primarily through participation in these mechanisms and in meetings with principal actors. In section 4, the paper compares the DDR processes through the lens of the IDDRS stated ‘Principles for the UN Approach to DDR’: a people-centred approach; flexibility; transparency and accountability; national ownership; integration; and, good planning, reflecting an adaption of the keyhole approach to comparative analysis while identifying the IDDRS recommended approach to DDR as the ideal type. Section 5 offers some conclusions.

DDR in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, September 2010: Fact or Fiction?

a)        The Anatomy of the Conflict

The Niger Delta comprises nine oil producing states covering an expanse of 70,000 square kilometres; a low-lying muddy landmass on the Atlantic coast, cut with thousands of deep parallel creeks of mangrove swamp, little infrastructure and virtually no electricity system; a population of close to 33 million with over 120 different ethnicities, high levels of poverty with dependence on the informal sector, subsistence agriculture and fishing.  Since oil was discovered in the region in 1956, little benefit has returned to the population. Much of the traditional fishing waters and agricultural land are polluted by oil spills and air quality is deplorable due to the ongoing flaring of surplus gas associated with oil recovery. Livelihoods, health and community security[4] have been disrupted by oil production, an industry that has extracted great wealth, estimated to date as over $600 billion for the elites with insignificant reinvestment in Delta communities,[5] even while the new capital city of Abuja, far to the North, was being built with oil revenues. While the people of the delta were living in the mud, in Abuja they have “bridges without rivers”,[6] despite a return from the Federal Government to the region of a 13% derivation (share of oil revenues) amounting to between $250 million and $300 million per year.[7]

In this environment multiple gangs of ‘militants’ claiming debatable political objectives have arisen and engaged in low-level guerrilla activity against the government and the IOCs, funded by the bunkering[8] of oil and extortion. By mid-2009 the conflict had allegedly[9] reduced oil production, which accounted for 80% of Nigeria’s foreign revenue,[10] from a capacity of about 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to about 800,000 bpd.[11] Further, over the past four years, this unpredicted drop in production has impacted on the fluctuation in the global price of oil, affecting especially the US, to which Nigeria is the fifth largest oil exporter.

Having emerged from the iron fist of the Abacha military junta, and under scrutiny of international stakeholders concerned with the impact of the unrest on oil prices, Obasanjo had established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000 and tasked it with dragging the Delta out of its chronic underdevelopment and poverty, relative to the wealth being extracted. Despite a hopeful beginning, the NDDC has had little impact to date.[12] Before 2003 the dissidence was primarily mobilized along ethnic lines. In response to the upsurge of armed violence, the reduction in oil production and the associated economic loss, a military Joint Task Force (JTF) was deployed into the Delta in 2003. The conflict soon transformed into a more general armed criminal activity through the mobilization of numerous militant youth organizations.[13] The JTF became a part of the problem and a prime contributor to the maintenance of the status quo.[14]

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*Published in Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security (JCTS) Vol. 1 | No. 1

** Des Molloy is a senior UN Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) practitioner with experience in Sierra Leone, Haiti and Nepal.

© Copyright 2011 by CESRAN

[1] The concept of Human Security was first introduced in the UNDP Development Report of 1994 and is operationalized through the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is the context in which the Human Security Agenda is referred to in this paper.  More detail on the evolution of the theory and practice of DDR in this context can be found in Desmond Molloy, The Evolving Nature of Integrated DDR, Hiroshima Review of Peace Studies, April 2010.

[2] Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS), developed and mentored through the collaboration of seventeen UN agencies and organizations engaged in DDR, including the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and endorsing several of the standards developed by OECD (DAC), as published in December 2006 and regularly updated are recognized within the international community, donors and DDR working partners, as imperfect and dynamic guidance that are improved as new information is evaluated in a process of information gathering and expert analysis coordinated by the UN Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG DDR) on DDR in collaboration with a broad range of DDR actors including academic institutions that are leading research into the field.

[3] ‘Boys from the creeks’ is the colloquial term used in Nigeria for those generally young men, other than members of the military and officialdom, engaged in a semi-organized or organized way in criminal and/or quasi-political activities in the Niger Delta, often involving bunkering, extortion and intimidation.

[4] Community Security refers to the ability of the smallest unit of a community, an individual, to have confidence in his position in that community. It is an aspect of Human Security and was first cited, quoting Bengt Junggren of UNDP, by the author in ‘DDR in West Africa, the Gender Perspective’, Conflict Trends,2004

[5] # 22 & 42, Abuja and Lagos, Aug and Sept 2009, personal interviews

[6] “Bridges without rivers” this phrase refers to motorway flyovers. # 38 and 44, Lagos, August 2009.

[7] #  05, 22 & 43, Abuja and Lagos, August and September 2009, personal interviews

[8] i.e. stealing through the illegal tapping of oil pipelines.

[9] # 22, and 24, Abuja, August, 2009,

[10] Federal Government and the Niger Delta, Editorial & Opinion, The Guardian, London, 03 August 2009 and # 46, Lagos, September, 2009, personal interview

[11] # 22, 24 and 46, Abuja and Lagos, August and September 2009, personal interview

[12] The NDDC has been noted  more as a small project contracting body, reputedly distributing largess widely and with political astuteness in an absence of accountability or transparency, rather than a government commission focused on sustainable development..  # 24 and 43 Abuja and Lagos, August and September 2009, personal interview

[13] # 24 and 43, Abuja, Lagos, August 2009, personal interviews

[14] # 24, 41, 43 Abuja and Lagos, August and September 2009, personal interview


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