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Travelling to the West African country of Nigeria, one cannot escape to come across a heading on a newspaper in that country talking about Niger Delta conflict in the oil rich delta. With a growing population estimated to be over 30 million people as of 2005, the Niger Delta accounts for over 23% of Nigeria's total population. It has a population density 265 people per kilometer-squared is also among the highest in the world according to (NDDC, 2010). The Niger Delta conflict arose in the early 1990s over animosity between a number of the Niger Delta's minority ethnic groups who felt they were being exploited, particularly the Ogoni and the Ijaw by the foreign oil corporations. Over the years, these tribal groups have formed several armed groups to fight against oppression by the oil corporation and the central government of Nigeria and to fight for rights of their representative groups.
Niger Delta conflict has been termed as one of intractable conflicts in the world because it has undergone over two decade’s span despite intervention measures from the Nigerian government and the international community. The disputes about land, money, or other resources may take on increased symbolic significance. (Coleman P). Over the course of this conflict, the original issues have even become irrelevant as new causes for conflict have been generated by actions within the conflict itself. The Niger Delta militants now view the state of Nigeria and multinational oil companies as enemies and have resort to highly destructive means such as kidnappings of expatriates and bombing of oil pipelines as a way of expressing their demands which have been unmet.
Niger Delta conflict to be termed as difficult or intractable several factors such as injustices, unmet human basic needs, violation human rights and a horde of others have played a key role in its cause and sustenance. Sense of justice to an individual is connected to the norms, rights, and entitlements that are thought to define decent human treatment. When discrepancy is perceived to exist between what a person obtains, wants, and believes is entitled to, one may come to believe is being deprived of the benefits he or she deserves (Deustch, 2000). In this case early 1990s people who are called the Ogoni people;- a ethnic minority were forcefully evicted from their home by the government in order to abandon their land to oil companies without consultation, and offering negligible compensation. Being supported by a 1979 constitutional amendment which afforded the federal government full ownership and rights to all Nigerian territory and it was decided that all compensation for land would "be based on the value of the crops on the land at the time of its acquisition, not on the value of the land itself." The Nigerian government could now distribute the land to oil companies as it deemed fit as observed by Human Rights Watch (1999). Despite the delta region having vast wealth of oil or “black gold” many residents still live in appalling conditions and this has recently lend to formation of Movement of Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) one of the largest militant group in Niger Delta. MEND says that the Niger Delta has suffered an immense environmental degradation due to unchecked pollution produced by the oil industry. Coupled with the policy of dispossessing people from their lands in favor of foreign oil interests, many people have no farms and highly polluted waters to fish.
Violation of human rights, social injustices, unmet basic human needs, identities, moral beliefs and high stake distributional issues are the major characteristics which portray this conflict. In the case of violation of human rights nearly covers all other issues though they have a significant role in this intractable conflict. In 1995, the Nigerian government executed Ken Saro-Wiwa an Ogoni poet-turned-activist on what it is believed to be deliberately false charges with the aim of silencing his vocal opposition to the oil interests in Nigeria. Human Right Watch (2005) says that at the end of August 2004 there were several particularly brutal battles over the Port Harcourt waterfront; some residential slums were completely destroyed after the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) deliberately burnt down buildings. Having clean drinking water and living environment of one fundamental one human rights being abused by the Nigerian government together with the multinational oil companies whereby untreated waste from the oil refineries in the delta are being directed to the creeks along the deltas which are fertile grounds for fish breeding. Poor distribution of oil revenue has also been one of the major hindrance in the solution of this cause whereby it has led to bunkering of oil pipelines by MEND militants and the youth of the Niger Delta. Bunkering of oil pipeline is a process whereby a pipeline is drilled to obtain oil from it illegally. The militants justify bunkering, saying the area has been immensely exploited and the people of the area have not received adequate profits from the profitable but ecologically destructive oil industry as Human Right Watch (2005) reports.
Demands for greater autonomy and control of the area's petroleum resources is another reason the minorities of the Niger Delta have continued to agitate and articulate The extensive environmental degradation and pollution from oil activities that have operated in the region since the late 1950s justifies the minorities grievances’. Having received little or no currency from the multi-billion dollar a year industry which lines of the pockets of foreign multinationals and corrupt government officials, the minority communities of oil producing feel that they have case to present to the state about isolation from the other communities because their region is highly underdeveloped and is one poor even by Nigeria's low standards for quality of life.
In order to understand, frame, and work with the conflict, I would use Track II diplomacy which is more subtle and personal, involving conflict resolution professionals from non-governmental organizations engaged in activity often through back channel measures. This strategy is important in maintaining support at the grassroots for negotiated agreements and terms to a peace settlement. With this diplomacy strategy I will be able to understand, frame and initiate negotiations because I will be in touch with issues pertaining the conflict, parties involved, in-depth history of the conflict, interest and position of the people involved in the conflict.
The term "framing” is used by conflict scholars to mean the process of describing and interpreting an event. "Framing focuses attention. When a frame is put around a painting, it gives the viewer a focus.” according to conflict theorist, Jay Rothman, (1997, pp21) Conflict framing does the same thing. It helps the parties understand and interpret what the conflict is about--what is going on and what they should do about it. For this conflict to end with a win-win situation, I will use this technique whereby the history of Niger Delta conflict will be revisited, the interest of each party noted and position or stand of the people involved in this intractable conflict known. I will avoid an extreme case of such adversarial framing known as "into the sea" framing, in which one party wishes or even tries to get rid of the other party altogether. Using this framing I believe this ghost of conflict will be laid to rest.