[QODLink]
Africa
Nigeria rebel disarms under amnesty
Crowds gather to welcome latest Niger delta leader to accept government deal.
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2009 12:57 GMT
Ateke Tom, right, warned that his fighters could take up arms again if let down by the government [AFP]

Thousands of people in Nigeria's Delta state have gathered in the provincial capital to witness a local rebel leader accept a government amnesty.

Government Tompolo arrived in the city of Warri on Sunday after pledging his support for Umaru Yar'Adua, the president, in return for an unconditional pardon.

Tompolo was one of the leaders of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), which was responsible for shutting down a large amount of oil output from the western delta in 2003.

"We came because we want peace," Chief Andrew Anegba, a traditional Ijaw ethnic community leader, said as he waited for Tompolo at Warri airport.

"The last militant groups are giving up arms, and that means peace is coming back."

Surrender

Tompolo was the latest rebel leader to accept the amnesty deal, which was originally offered in June, before it expires at midnight on Sunday.

He arrived in Warri by presidential jet, accompanied by Timi Alaibe, Yar'Adua's adviser on Niger Delta matters, after signing the amnesty in Abuja.

"If they refuse to develop our region we will go back to the creeks"

Ateke Tom, leader of
the Niger Delta Vigilante

"Today is the greatest day for Nigeria," Tompolo said as he stepped off the plane.

Two other commanders from the eastern delta laid down their arms a day earlier, on Saturday.

Farah Dagogo, a senior rebel commander, surrendered his weapons in the oil city of Port Harcourt.

"I Farah Dagogo, overall field commander for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [Mend] accept together with field commanders in Rivers state, the presidential offer of amnesty to militants who lay down their weapons," he said.

"We are surrendering all weapons under our direct control."

Ateke Tom, the leader of the ethnic Ijaw Niger Delta Vigilante group, and around 5,000 of his fighters handed over their weapons at a ceremony on a beach in the city.
But he warned that his fighters would resume attacks if authorities fail to make good on a pledge to invest in the delta.

"If they refuse to develop our region we will go back to the creeks," he said.

New campaign

Mend, which dismissed the amnesty as a charade, said it has replaced its military command.

"All commanders have been replaced ... and the next phase of our campaign will commence soon," it said in a statement.

Henry Okah, the group's leader, who was freed in July as part of a government amnesty deal offered to the rebels after treason charges against him were dropped, said unrest was likely to continue in the region because the root cause of the violence had not been addressed.

The rebels, who say they are fighting for a fairer distribution of the region's wealth, launched repeated attacks on oil infrastructure and government forces across the delta causing a slump in production.

Despite Nigeria's oil riches, the vast majority of its 140 million people live on $2 a day or less, and some of the most acute poverty is in the villages of the delta.

Daily oil production has slipped to 1.7 million barrels per day from 2.6 million in January 2006 in Africa's top producer.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
Activists say 'Honor Diaries' documentary exploits gender-based violence to further an anti-Islamic agenda.
As Syria's civil war escalates along the Turkish border, many in Turkey are questioning the country's involvement.
join our mailing list