TWILIGHT IN EKPAN

October 26, 2010 4:11 am

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Every day in Ekpan has been a bad, irritating, and horrible story for everyone who lives in the town. day in and out, gunshot is beating band in the ears of  the people.People are moving from Ekpan to a better place but those whose income is from the oil companies and other great companies around looks for a better place for comfort. People are robbed, people are killed, people are beaten, people are abused, people are violated…. some are regretting ever coming or knowing the place. Those who build their house in the town are complaining but they don’t have anywhere to go because they don’t have enough money to migrate.
Other neighbouring towns are mocking at her as they see people migrating to their land. people are running for their precious lives, women are rioting for peace, people are rioting, people are running helter-skelter,  In the mouth of everyone both small and great is all about the reoccurring incidents and events of misunderstanding and shooting in the town. Everyone is always talking about the shooting of the variety of guns  and on how people are shot, escape and arrested.
Those who are shooting are inflicting fear, horror, pain and sorrow on people. As they pursue and shoot, they shout hold him!, shoot him!, catch him!, cut him!, Shoot his leg!, shoot his head!, kill him!.
Twilight by Omode Jokpeme Joseph
Written July 2nd 2010
This is a poem I created with my heart, soul, mind, thoughts and imaginations and it’s a brilliant poem and Its so heartfelt and dramatic, it has a lot of imagery and has a story behind it about people who live in an oil producing town of a city of a state of a country fearing dark all because of the sound of gunshots which is beating band in the ears of people. Twilight is like a representation of all the evil and bad things that come out at night. It really puts you into the heart and soul those who had to deal with the terrors of poverty and oppression, death, greed, money and power. Night, basically, means evil. But, it’s coming into a town in Ekpan of a city in Warri and environs of a state which is Delta State of a country which is Nigeria, which is a black territory, is the advent of brutality, insecurity, horror, despair, e.t.c. to the blacks in general.
It is a good poem generally, with the choice of words adopted by me. And the images combining with imagery, vividly shows the subject matter of the poem.

I found it impossible to define poetry… these two quotations may help you appreciate
How I felt;

“Poetry is the kind of thing poets write” – Robert Frost

AND

Louis Armstrong on Jazz, “Man, if you want to ask, you’ll never know”.

What I can say, is that poetry is usually a fusion of / or derived from 4 elements;

TYPOGRAPHICAL i.e. Strophes or Stanzas, Prose or Verse, spatial, enjambed etc.
SONIC i.e. Cadence, Rhythm, Rhyme, System (Prosody) e.g. meter
SENSORY i.e. Description
IDEATIONAL i.e. Word play and Original ideas

From the day man was made to this day, the threat of life with its phenomenon posing threat to peace, comfort and social order leaving scars of untold stories, sufferings, hardship and separation. People’s lives and dreams being shattered as they see the circumstances of life doing its worse on their precious and most cherished ones. I know that people may want to ask why didn’t I as the author use something like “the calamity” or “nightfall” or “slaughter” or “wickedness of man” or “man inhumanity to man”. I also know that people may want to ask why I decided not to present this article as a novel being it either a drama or prose. This is all because I am not an omnipotent, neither am I an omnipresent or omniscience which is the quality of God Almighty. At least he gave me something to give to you. And so, the only way I can bring this to you is by what I saw, heard, and pictured. And so therefore, everything I pictured that has happened I bring into writing without bringing in people’s name of which I cannot name or list them all. So I decided to present my writing as a poem in order for me to capture if not everything, at least most things.
These people are compromising in order in order to get what they want. These people fail to acknowledge the presence of God and they are living and loving the world. They are allowing the world to live through them and these same people are pursing power, position, wealth, fame and success by all means and by any means. What gets their attention is money, power and destruction of lives and properties. They spend their money and time in buying ammunitions and also on women with big buttocks and also on flirting housewives.
This youth restiveness is so different that it was beyond what I taught it was. The deviant behaviours of most people which is different in moral or social standards from what is considered as normal or acceptable has really led people to ruin all because of money, power and greed. The people live in this places locating from one place to another and at the same time causing separation and breaking marriages and at the same time leaving children homeless and as orphans and at the same time leaving some families as widows and widowers alike has contributed a lot to behavioural disorders and youth restiveness in our society. And moreover, children with behaviour disorders give concern to parents, peers, brothers and sisters, teachers and people around them because the behaviours interfere with their own proper growth and development, and the comfort or adjustment of other people. These children are given names of all sorts depending on the orientation and perception of the people they come in contact with.
In schools, teachers call them problem, heady or aggressive children. Sometimes they are labeled stubborn, hostile, rude and bad. Most of these children always find their names in the “black book” of the school because of various offences they commit. And this crisis and misunderstanding are mostly led and handled by those who are school drop out, those who lack moral training and upbringing, those with behavioural disorders, those who fail to listen to instruction and advice, those who fail to go to school, etc. these people do not hide their problems and the problems are manifested any where they go at any time any day. They exhibit this behavioural disorder by fighting, using abusive language, smoking, drinking, spending money on evil and killing.
I know, hear, and see people forming, recruiting, and bringing or inviting and at the same time paying cultist to fight and help them. Great cultist name and occultist of which when mentioned, people will run for their precious life and never come back to where they are residing. But still, some stood and fight. I also heard about some cases where medicine men i.e. herbalist and witchdoctors who were specialized in almost everything about life and death were hired and used but some where killed because they fail to consult their gods because of lust of money and some where killed during this process because of greed.
Twilight was chosen by me to be the title because most operations were done in the night and I couldn’t believe what I saw with my eyes as people were here and there with flying bullets chasing and hitting targets. Even those who think they are safe in their own house are sometimes knocked down by bullets. Some people who are in their houses and some who don’t deserve to die a bad death will be knocked down or visited by unknown youths and they will oppress them by beating them up and not only that, they will rape those who they could rape, they will robe those who they could robe of their money, jewelries and valuables, and they will destroy properties and kill people who I think have great destinies with great visions and task ahead of them. Man’s life is full of misery and calamity is befalling man every day, here and there, every time and every moment. It wasn’t really easy because people were running helter-skelter for their precious life and in all this; people were still risking their lives going to school, market, offices and work. Those that are rich and can not afford to loss a life or their own will locate to another state or country and start life all over again. Men were masking themselves and some were betraying their groups or crew for money. I really couldn’t believe what I saw and witnessed because I was just like a wounded lion, I was grieved by fear, overcome by horror, cornered by fear and griped by fear and trembling because I am one of the victim of whom they will like to kill also for pleasure. Most times I am in my house because I live in an upstairs and I see things from thence but sometimes I am afraid and shaking where I am because if they should see me, I will be shot to death and when I can not bear it, I will wait for the time where everywhere will be quiet and calm and then I will locate to another location. I would have located to another state or country but I can’t afford it. Day and night, no one is finding peace and rest and sound of guns will be making people to urinate on their body. Some people will see the gun from their windows and will run for cover and some will see them from afar and close their shops and houses. Those who are victims; especially those who their brothers are shot to death because of the crisis lives to regret and later finds all means to avenge the death of their bereaved. People’s lives, dreams, visions and plans being chattered as they see their loved and most cherished ones dying before their naked and opened eyes. Blood of the innocent and strangers flowing like water in the city and no one seems to have power to stop them. The police will do their worse to arrest some and more will go after the police and those who called for the police. It is so bad that “power, money and greed” is the cause and source of all this untold stories, separation, pains, death and sufferings. Some who are in the position of chairmanship and some who call themselves executives who abuses their power to collect money from companies and the refinery which is a free gift from nature will not like to leave their position when it has expire or will not like to give account of checks and balances of the community all because of the huge ransoms or volume of money they get from companies, organizations and the oil which is a free gift of nature and a natural resources which God has blessed and placed in the soil of the community. Instead of growth to take place; there is destruction of lives and properties and even social amenities such as light, road, water, etc.
The cost of its destruction is certainly crusher than the pains of peace. Gunshots beating band in the ears of all as they run for cover for their dear lives both day in and out. This continues until it became a normal way of life of the people. Some people who could not bear its destructive power relocated to other places and those who do not have any other place to go to stays behind and bears the bitterness which awaits them and also stays behind for what the town has for them. Those whose responsibility is to protect lives and properties appears to be overwhelmed, covered by the population of those who commits crime and havoc having to contend with increasing rate of violent crimes. The name of a small town in a city of a state in a country which have been silent now ringing in the ears and mouth of everyone. Human rights of citizens are being violated as if there is no law governing the state. Those who buy goods and service i.e. commerce are eating up their gains and profits as their goods stay in their houses and stores or shops. The innocents that are in their houses are been robed of their money and valuables, and some being raped for pleasure and some been kill for pleasure also. Those that call themselves to protect lives and properties and also to maintain law and order kept silent at reports of citizens and aliens who come to lay complain because they have been bribed with a huge amount of money. Those that call themselves to protect lives and properties and also to maintain law and order are running for their dear lives. It is the duty of the government to maintain law and order in the state and this function is usually performed by government agencies like the police. It was their duty to protect lives, properties, crime prevention in the society, detections and apprehension of suspected criminals, prosecution of minor cases, investigating and detecting criminal activities but rather, they failed to perform all this function all as a result of bribery and corruption in the highest order. Some people who are in the high places out of pity of the lives of the innocent ones who were going to work, school, church, mosque, etc. will sometimes contact the State Governor and when the Governor is fed up with such news and information, he will change the D.P.O and send people from another location i.e. those who are not familiar with the people. The ones that were sent will maintain peace and order for a while and they will be bribed with money. And later on the situation will change to as it was before. It came to an extent that the people i.e. the youths and those who are fighting themselves were using police to fight each other and most times when they are not fed up with the services rendered by the police and then they will use Soldiers. And even some people who will be arrested will be freed or release from the cell from sponsors in the high place. It came to an extent they were using police and soldiers to fight each other. Although soldiers hates police because of their bribery and corruption and this became a tough fight. Even during election in the state or country, people of high personality i.e. those who are respected highly recognized in the society wants to take over power; they give a certain volume of money to a group or crew to fight for them against the other parties of opposition. And some group will fight over their money when sharing it after completion of their mission. I heard of a certain group that fought for just a little money that is equivalent to $10,000,000.00 thereby disturbing the peace of the town also. Any little misunderstanding that springs up always puts the lives of all at stake.
People weeping and gnashing their teeth over untold sufferings, lost and pains. Companies and organizations that cannot stand in the chance or position of loosing its members or resources will relocate to other places. Companies who can not leave because of the money they are getting and making from the business they do will stay. Companies like Warri Mining and Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (WRPC) Ekpan, Niger Cat Ekpan, Julius Berger (B+B) Ekpan, DBN Ekpan, Oando Ekpan, DAEWOO Ekpan; NNPC Ekpan, whose security is strong do not even think about leaving because the most considered factors for localization of an industry are favourable to them. Though they have certain huge amount of money they pay to the community and though they provide job opportunities to the communities but still; greed lives in the heart of youths. Any time there is fight or misunderstanding after settlement, there will always be destruction of lives and properties such as windows made of glass, doors of both wood and glass, cars, Air conditioners, burning of houses etc. Though I was a victim because our houses were not left out of this but was not burnt but an attempt was made and neighbours around quenched the fire which was lighted with fuel and fire. And this rendered so many people homeless and fatherless and orphans alike. Sometimes the police that are suppose to protect lives and properties will go to any place where there was shooting after about two or three hours that they were called upon only to delay the time and come after the bad ones have operated and gone out of the area. They always come after the fight to see damaged properties and wasted lives because they are afraid and also because they have been bribed. They do guide only their barrack and oppress those who are struggling for survival such as the taxi drivers and motorcyclists etc. sometimes the state governor will order soldiers from their barracks with amour cars to make peace. The king of the clan and his council members of chiefs who were suppose to rule and to order the steps of the people are being overwhelmed by the youths. And in a community where decisions where supposed to be made by the king and its councils; the youths will force decisions into their mouth because most of the chief’s children are also youths. Most of their children refuse to take correction and go to school. They want to eat without working with double hands. The rich and the aged ones in the community could not do much to stop this charade because they don’t have what it takes to fight against this obvious injustice and also because people who sponsor this boys are richer and more connected than them.
Even when the government was able to stop them from shooting of guns by sending soldiers and armies from their barracks t maintain peace and order; the hatred and the zeal to kill is still there. So when the government was able to stop them from shooting guns through its agencies; the problem was not still solved and even when they make peace, problem will come up again after the departure of the military men who has successfully maintained peace and orderliness in the land; they will start using cutlass, daggers, knives, axes, broken bottles and other things which can kill and hurt people to fight and injure themselves. And after some certain time, precisely after two days, it will extend t using of guns again in the night and also after so much los of lives and properties, it will sip and creep to the day time. The police in the barrack of the town will then be overcome with the rising number of people shooting guns and later on the people will aiming at the police who shoots at them. At times the police will fail to re-enforce.
The ones whom the police were able to catch will be sentenced to jail and when they come back from jail, they cause more havoc. Some of this youths have serve jail term for more than five times but still they don’t change for good but for the worst.
The Local Government chairman and all its council members are not also helping matters because most of them are also contributing to this crisis. Most of them pay ransom of money for operation when they need this boys and mostly when they need this boys for either during election to fight their opponents or campaign. The most prominent people of charisma and the rich people in the town will sponsor some crew and they will travel to another state or country and they will be making calls and directing them on what to do. And sometimes they will lodge in hotels only to answer and receive calls and also to read and send messages across to the crew they are handling. These prominent characters are mostly Managing Directors and Overseers and also workers in Shell Company, Julius Berger (B+B), WRPC, DBN, DAEWOO, OANDO, NNPC, PPMC, etc. or Government officials and workers all because of power and money and greed. And most cases when they are called upon to give account of checks and balances on the fund which was supposed to be used for the development of the town or when some people request for the money which was meant for the general town indigenes which will be eaten by a single person or a group will then lead to crisis again after settlement. And so in order for the person not to give account, he will have to fight and kill those who threaten his power and position. Greed and embezzlement of public fund putting innocent people’s lives in danger. There are cases whereby the federal and state government will approve projects and contracts which will be counting millions of Naira but those who will take the contract will do it half way and they will eat the rest money and most cases it will never be done at all. And nobody will dare stop to ask them about the money embezzled.
No account of checks and balances, total embezzlement of funds, misappropriation of funds, suspension of the constitution, dictatorship and opposition becoming the order of the day. See for yourself how people love evil over good.
In all this calamity befalling man and its environment, people are still giving in marriages and holding wedding ceremonies, getting pregnant and giving to birth, celebrating birthday parties and also burying of the dead. During this crisis and misunderstanding, people were running for their lives and I recalled this woman who was also running for her life so that she will not be shot to death. But please note this that a father can run and abandon his wife and children and even his responsibility but a woman will hardly abandon and forget her child that she carried for nine months and at the same time sucked from her breast. So this woman was running from being shot and recalled to herself that her creeping child is in the house and she had to run back home in order to get her baby. She ran in and carried her baby and as she was still on the run, a bullet knocked her down on the head and she died instantly and the baby started crying because the baby fell off from her hand on the ground but a neighbor who was also running by saw this baby and helped the baby by taking him on the run. So it was a Good Samaritan that was also running for her precious life that saw and took the baby away.
So many a conflict that sprang up that it came to an extent that tribalism came in. Those who are Ijaws, Itsekiris and the Urhobos started fighting themselves. It was it really easy but that have been settled by the Government of the country and the fact is that many lives and properties were wasted during that crisis. Blood was just flowing in the streets and rivers of different towns of which each incidence took place.
It also led to political crisis too. The winning and leading party happens to be People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and there was an opposing party which is Alliance for Democracy (AD). Those who are for PDP don’t want to see or hear of AD and those who are AD don’t even want to see and hear of PDP also. And so many lives were also wasted during election and campaign. The participating candidates might be hearing of blood shed and different assaults but they could not do anything because they themselves are helpless.
Those who are ritualist sees this as a medium of stealing and kidnapping children and innocent people for rituals and also for blood money. There are cases where some people are caught in this act and they were beaten mercilessly an
d later given to the police but people in the big places with so much money will come to the station to bail/release them. This came to the notice of the people for several times with the police promising to bring to justice the perpetuators but still no justice and these people who were caught in the act are been set free by their sponsors. Almost five people were caught in different place at different time interval and they were burnt immediately they were caught without mercy.
There are also occasions were people who were kidnapped for rituals escaped by grace. Those who escaped by mistake gave the testimony on how people are being slaughtered like chickens everyday for blood money. They also report and testified on how people’s parts are being sold like ice fish in the market. It wasn’t really easy because those who escaped by mistake and also by the special grace and intervention of God gave testimony about the hand work of God Almighty in their lives which then gives the family reasons to thank and serve the Lord for guidance and protection.
Some people open their door when they hear knock on their door and the next thing they see and hear is gunshot. While they break into people’s house to do what they like and the most disgusting thing is that the innocent ones are always falling victim. Fathers/men are running from home; leaving their responsibility their wives/women. Men are running helter-skelter for their precious lives and women are running with their children from one place to another in order to find peace, comfort and shelter. This crisis is causing separation and no one seems to help. Too much money in circulation in an oil producing town of a city of a state of a country rendering people’s lives in danger. It is so bad that it has left us with scars of untold sufferings and separation. Innocent lives lying dead in the streets and in the bank of rivers and blood flowing on the streams of towns. Bodies of people are floating on top of water like dead fishes. Bad/evil ruling over good and life becoming meaningless. Those who are victims are weeping and crying day in and out for their lose which they can never recover. People’s lives, dreams and visions are being shattered and wasted. Those who are emptiers and wasters are rejoicing and celeberating over people’s pains and sufferings.
I couldn’t believe what I saw with my eyes. I was just like a wretched man, like a wounded lion, terrified with the terrors of death, and I was overcome with horror. Day in and out, I am cornered by fear with the sound of gunshot chasing people.
Those who call themselves men could not even boast to stand up to stop this mess. Those who were known to be strong became overshadowed an they also became feeble as they see their love ones and also as they see their fellow people being slaughtered and also being shot to death in the street. Men, women, children and strangers alike weeping and crying in despair and death doing its worst and death leaving us with nothing but tears.
People being beaten with the merciless blows of life. Oh! I wish I had wings! I would fly and never come back. But it is so unfortunate that I had to stay because I don’t have anywhere to go, neither do I have money or resources to relocate to another place and start all over again as most people did but I couldn’t. I endured and stayed as God Almighty guides me on.
Twilight by Omode Jokpeme Joseph
Written July 2nd 2010

From the rising of the sun to the going down
The threat of the ugly phenomenon
Posing to peace and social disorder
Leaving scars of untold stories, sufferings,
Separation and hardship.

Innocent people running helter-skelter for their lives
As elephants fights themselves leaving the grass to suffer
As the people of various beliefs pray for safety
Of their dear loved ones.
The cost of its destruction is certainly crusher

Than the pains of peace.
It seeps through the pores of the healthy body
And renders it beyond repair.
People’s home being shattered as they see their loved ones
Being shot to death before their own two open-naked eyes.

Gunshots beating band in the ears of all
As they run for cover both day in and out.
And the hearing of gunshots becoming a normal thing
In the lives of all because they are used to it.
Those whose responsibility is protect lives and properties

Appears to be overwhelmed.
Having to contend with an increasing rate of violent crimes.
Human rights of citizens are being violated
As if there is no law governing the state.
The unexpected death of people shattered the upright.

Those that call themselves to protect lives and properties,
Those that call themselves to maintain law and order
Are running for their dear lives as the youths
Cover them up with their sophisticated weapons
And ammunitions for war.

People weeping and gnashing their teeth
Over untold sufferings, separation, lose and disaster.
Companies and organizations relocating
All because they cannot make business
Or progress in an atmosphere where there is no peace.

The king of the clan and its council of chiefs
Who were suppose to rule and order the steps
Of the people are being overwhelmed by the youths.
Where there is law, there is transgression
And instead of the king and its council to make decisions,

The youths will force decisions in their mouth or make it.
There is no account of checks and balances;
There is total embezzlement and misappropriation of funds;
Suspension of the constitution,
Dictatorship and opposition becoming the order of the day.

People loving evil rather than good.
Total disobedience of parents and constituted authorities.
Total destruction of lives and properties.
People being rendered homeless;
People being left as orphans and widows alike.

A little while there is peace,
A little while there is crisis that threat to life.
I am like a wretched man,
I am always on the run,
From one house to another,

From one location to another
For the safety of life
Like the animals that gallop on spindly legs
As the herd moves past rolling valleys and hills,
Crosses open grasslands,

And traverses rivers and streams
That makes up one the natural wildlife
Spectacles on earth- the great migration.
Always on the run and leaving behind
Our most valued and treasured treasures,

Our certificates,
And our credentials.
Oh! Twilight! Why have you done this?
Why have thou left us with untold sufferings?
Why have thou decided to strike down the helpless victims?

Oh! I am wounded like a lion,
Terrified and the terrors of death crush me;
Ah! I am overcome with horror
And gripped by fear and trembling.
Day in and out,

I am cornered by fear
With the sounds of gunshots
Like that of a drummer beating band of celebration.
The name of a small town of a city
In the state of a country

Which have been silent over the years
Now ringing in the ears and speaking in the mouth
Of everyone both in broadcast stations and newspapers
Those who buy and sell goods and services
Easting up their gains as their goods stays in their warehouse.

The innocents who are in their houses
Are been robed of their money and valuables
And some are being killed out of frustration and hunger.
Men and women,
Girls and boys,

Pregnant women and women with children on their back
Are running helter-skelter
As bullets fly in the air to hit their targets.
Look! See for yourself as they run for cover.
Men have ceased to be men,

Men have become beast for slaughter,
Men have become chicken that is been slaughtered on xmas
Men lying in the streets dead like poisoned rats.
Men falling in the streets as though wounded,
And slowly die in their mother’s arms.

Tears running down like river;
Bones broken and bond in chains,
My soul is in anguish,
My bowels troubled,
My eyes failed with tears,

As men weep in despair;
Children crying for their dead parents
And parents doing likewise.
Women lamenting over their dead husbands,
Men causing the day they were born;

Men stumbling and falling apart
And death doing its worst
And leaving us with nothing but tears.
People being beaten with the merciless blows of life
And people being terrified and crushed by fear.

Oh! I wish I had wings!
I would fly and never come back!

Conflict in Nigeria’s Delta State during 2003 has led to the killing of hundreds of people, the displacement of thousands, and the destruction of hundreds of properties. Among the dead are probably dozens killed by the security forces. Although the violence has both ethnic and political dimensions, it is essentially a fight over money. In Nigeria, control of government often represents virtually unaudited control over resources. Delta State, which produces 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil and receives 13 percent of the revenue from production in the state, has a particularly controversial division of political and government positions and structures, over which representatives of different ethnic groups are struggling. The wholly fraudulent nature of the 2003 state and federal elections in Delta State, as in 1999, means that there is little hope of changing political structures by democratic means, and elections become a focus for violence. In addition, the warring factions are fighting for control of the theft of crude oil, siphoned from pipes owned by the joint ventures that operate Nigeria’s oil industry, known as “illegal oil bunkering.”Illegally bunkered oil accounts for perhaps 10 percent of Nigeria’s oil production, and those who sell the stolen oil, which have low capital costs, make enormous profits from this trade. Both politicians and those who head the illegal bunkering rackets (sometimes the same people) have armed youth militia to ensure their reelection or defend their operations. Among the other factors contributing to the conflict are the widespread availability of small arms, and ongoing impunity for abuses by all sides, including the security forces, since the first round of serious fighting in Delta State in 1997.Finally, the corruption and mismanagement in government that has left the region from which Nigeria derives its wealth poor and underdeveloped, has created a large class of young men who have no hope of legitimate work that would fulfill their ambitions, and are easily recruited into violence.
Because of the sheer scale of the violence over the past year-which many people described to Human Rights Watch as a war-and because many of the alleged abuses have taken place in the mangrove forest riverine areas which have been effectively inaccessible for much of 2003, Human Rights Watch was unable to document these abuses in a systematic and comprehensive way. The following account is based partly on our own research in September 2003, but also upon the reports of informed observers, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government spokespeople, oil company staff, journalists, and the assertions of the political leaders of each of the three ethnic groups involved in the violence-the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo. Ordinary people on all sides have been victims of violence and continue to suffer the consequences of the fighting; but it seems that the Itsekiri, the smallest group of the three, have been the main victims of violence during 2003, largely at the hands of organized Ijaw militia. There is a great need for detailed and unbiased investigation and reporting of the abuses that have taken place, both by official inquiries and by nongovernmental organizations, so that the impunity that has characterized the crisis can be ended. In particular, the scale of the destruction and loss of life in the riverine areas must be urgently documented. Those alleged to be responsible for murder and other crimes must then be brought to justice following due process of law.

Finding a permanent solution to the violence in Delta State will be difficult. It must involve both a dedicated effort by government to resolve the political issues under dispute, including the equitable and effective spending of government resources, and the restoration of law and order through effective, impartial, and law-abiding security force action. Those responsible for murder and other crimes must be brought to justice. A negotiated solution to the demands of the different ethnic groups must be found; and fresh elections should be held in Delta State, as in other states where national and international monitors found the level of fraud and violence surrounding the 2003 polls to be so high that the minimum international standards for democratic elections were not met. One contribution to ending the violence may also be an effort to create a system for “certifying” crude oil as coming from legitimate sources, in order to reduce the demand for illegally bunkered oil, and thus the funds going to those organizing many of the ethnic militia.
Since before Nigeria’s independence in 1960 there have been tensions surrounding the arrangements for the government of the region surrounding Warri, the second most important oil town in Nigeria after Port Harcourt. Warri itself, the largest town or city (though not the capital) of Delta State, is claimed as their homeland by three ethnic groups: the Itsekiri, the Urhobo, and the Ijaw. The Itsekiri, a small ethnic group of a few hundred thousand people whose language is related to Yoruba (one of Nigeria’s largest ethnic groups), also live in villages spread out along the Benin and Escravos Rivers into the mangrove forest riverine areas towards the Atlantic Ocean. The Urhobo, a much larger group numbering some millions related to the Edo-speaking people of Benin City, live in Warri town and to the north, on land. To the south and east, also in the swampy riverine areas, are members of the Western Ijaw, part of the perhaps ten million-strong Ijaw ethnic group, and the largest of the Niger Delta, spread out over several states.
The question of the “ownership” of Warri has been in dispute for decades-since well before independence-and is the subject of heated debate in the Nigerian courts and media as well as in the homes of Warri. It forms the core argument in the presentation of the various ethnic groups as to the underlying causes of the violence of the last decade. Closely linked to the question of “ownership” is that of representation in the formal structures of government, both at local government and state level. Delta State was created in 1991, with several others, by the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Both Ijaw and Urhobo see the current dispensation in the state, in which Itsekiri dominate government structures in the three Warri local government areas (LGAs), Warri North, Warri South, and Warri South West, as unfair. They complain that this dominance means that the Itsekiri and their traditional leader, the Olu of Warri (itself a contested title, having been changed in 1952 from the Olu of Itsekiri), benefit disproportionately from government resources-both at the level of government contracts and appointments, and, for example, when it comes to obtaining “certificates of origin” in order to obtain government bursaries for higher education. Control of government structures also brings other benefits, notably a greater amount of contact with the oil companies, which may lead to the award of valuable contracts. Among the demands of the Ijaw and Urhobo are the creation of new wards and local government areas which they believe would ensure that their ethnic groups are more effectively represented.
Human Rights Watch takes no position on who the “true indigenes” of Warri are, or on the creation of wards or local government areas. However, the long term peace of Delta State clearly depends in part on the resolution of these political issues in a manner that ensures equitable representation of all those living in the state regardless of origin. Above all, the process of arriving at a final arrangement must be seen to be fair. The concept of “indigene” is itself problematic: all those concerned are Nigerians, and should have equal rights in relation to the government of the state where they live.
The first major outbreak of violence in the Warri area in recent years was in March 1997, and centered on the creation, by the then military regime, of a new local government area, Warri South West, and the location of its headquarters. An Ijaw expectation based on official statements that the local government headquarters would be in Ogbe-Ijoh, an Ijaw town, was disappointed when the location published in the federal government gazette turned out to be Ogidigben, an Itsekiri area. From March to May, widespread clashes continued, in which hundreds of people died on each side. More than 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) production were closed down for some weeks. The Delta State government under Military Administrator Col. J. Dungs appointed a commission of inquiry into the violence, chaired by Justice Alhassan Idoko, which met during June and July 1997.The report of the inquiry was never published nor its recommendations implemented or incorporated into a government “white paper” setting out the official response to the inquiry’s findings.
Violence has regularly erupted in the region since then, leading to clamp-downs by the authorities. In October 1998, a curfew was declared in Warri town by the new military administrator, Navy Commander Walter Feghabor, after at least five people were shot dead in clashes between Ijaws and Itsekiris and a large number of houses set on fire. Violence nevertheless continued, in Warri town and in the surrounding creeks, with attacks on leaders of each community. Oil exports were reduced by several hundred thousand barrels a day for several weeks.
In late May and June 1999, at the time of the hand-over from a military to civilian government in Nigeria, serious violence once again broke out in and around Warri, when new local government officials were due to be sworn in for the contested local government area created in 1997.Up to two hundred people were reported to have been killed in raids by ethnic Ijaw and Itsekiri militia on areas inhabited by members of the other ethnic group. The new civilian governor, James Onanefe Ibori, imposed a curfew which remained in place for months. Hundreds of government troops were once again deployed to Warri town and its environs. Newly sworn-in President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Warri on June 11, 1999, and pledged to find a fair solution to the problems. In September 1999, the Delta State Assembly passed a bill moving the Warri South West local government headquarters from Ogidigben to Ogbe Ijoh. Though the intense fighting of 1999 died down, there were new clashes throughout the next four years, in which, cumulatively, dozens of people were killed. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil production were also lost in periodic shut-downs of flow stations following occupation by armed or unarmed youths (a term that in Nigeria can include men up to thirty-five or forty in age), or by other local residents, including women’s groups; in some cases based on grievances with the oil companies, in others on discontent with government.
There has been no systematic investigation of the crimes committed in the Warri conflict since 1997, nor of the number of casualties or damage to property caused. There have been few arrests and even fewer, if any, prosecutions for these killings: either the government security forces have shot dead those involved in violence in the course of arresting them; or if there are arrests, the suspects are released after interventions with the police by their leaders. There are also credible reports from across Nigeria that many criminal suspects are summarily executed while in police custody. Often there are no consequences of any kind for those involved in the violence: there have been none for the political leaders of those who are fighting on the ground. The continued impunity for years of brutal violence is a fundamental cause of the renewed outbreak of fighting in 2003.
Violence in 2003
The latest round of violence began in early 2003, during the lead up to state and federal elections held in April and May (local government elections have still not been held anywhere in Nigeria since 1999).On the weekend of January 31 / February 1, there was fighting in the Okere district of Warri town between Itsekiris and Urhobos, during primaries being held for the Delta South senatorial district by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the incumbent party in both Delta State and at federal level. The dispute centered on the number of wards making up the district, and the boundaries between the wards, which Urhobos alleged disadvantaged them. According to local accounts and press reports, Urhobo youths attacked an Itsekiri area on the afternoon of January 31, and began to loot and burn property. Itsekiri youth collected at the stadium where the primary voting was taking place then retaliated in response to reports of this raid. Over the next couple of days most of a large estate belonging to Chief Benjamin Okumagba, the traditional ruler of the Urhobo in Warri, was destroyed. Government soldiers intervened during the initial Urhobo attack on the Itsekiri neighborhood, and one soldier was reportedly killed in this confrontation. Urhobo witnesses to the events alleged that soldiers patrolling the Okumagba estate were withdrawn before the Itsekiri attack. There were other reports of random shooting or executions by the armed forces during efforts to quell the fighting. Estimates of the number of dead over the few days of violence ranged from twelve to two hundred. The Nigerian Red Cross reported that more than 6,000 people had been displaced.
Violence flared again in March, leading to more prolonged and brutal conflict. The immediate spark for the renewed violence appears to have been a combination of Ijaw political discontent around the same issues of representation that had contributed to the January/February fighting; and a clash between Ijaw militia and the Nigerian navy over illegal oil bunkering.
On March 3, the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), an organization of youth militants with its support base among the Delta State Ijaw, issued an ultimatum giving the Nigerian government seven days to meet a series of demands-including the redrawing of electoral wards in Warri South West local government area, troop withdrawal from Ijaw communities, reversal of the April 2002 Supreme Court ruling that offshore oil revenue belongs to the Nigerian federal government and is not subject to the constitutional requirement that a 13 percent share be returned to the state of derivation, and withdrawal of expatriate oil company staff-or face “mass action” to “reclaim” the creeks of the riverine areas. FNDIC advised the international oil companies to leave the area until the government met their demands.
The March 10 deadline passed without incident. On March 12, however, there was a clash between government forces and Ijaw militia near the village of Okorenkoko on the EscravosRiver south of Warri, in which several soldiers and sailors and up to five militia members were killed. According to FNDIC, the clash happened when “men of the Nigerian Navy under the then commanding officers (CO) of Umalokun (now Warri) Naval Base, Warri, Navy Capt Titus Awoyemi were accosted while carrying out illegal bunkering in the areas of SPDC [the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd, the joint venture operated by Shell] Jones Creek Oil fields. According to other accounts, naval personnel captured the boat being used for bunkering, despite the fact that the people running the illegal bunkering had “settled” (bribed) Capt. Awoyemi so that the navy would take no action. The bunkerers had then hired the youth militia to recapture the boat. Other reports indicated that in the course of the fighting a number of people not involved in the initial clash, including SPDC staff and their escort of three Nigerian police officers, had been taken hostage by armed youths; the Shell staff were released and the police officers kept (and never accounted for; they are presumed killed).The clash between the navy and youth militia then occurred during an attempt to rescue the policemen. Capt. Olufemi Ogunjinmi, the naval CO who replaced Capt. Awoyemi in April, told Human Rights Watch that Ijaw militia had disarmed some sailors, and that when others returned to retrieve the rifles they were again confronted by armed militia and some personnel injured. One sailor and several soldiers were killed. The army reported that they were attacked on the EscravosRiver by youths they believed to be from Okorenkoko, who killed four of their men.
Following this encounter, FNDIC claimed that government soldiers and navy attacked Ijaw villages in the EscravosRiver, including Okorenkoko, from March 13, exchanging fire with FNDIC’s own supporters, of whom several were killed. The Port Harcourt-based NGO ND-HERO, which had a representative stationed in Warri at the time, spoke to people fleeing Okorenkoko who reported that two naval gun boats and other smaller boats had attacked different villages in the area. Journalists also spoke to witnesses who described indiscriminate shootings both by the government forces and by ethnic militia. The commanding officers of the army and navy based in Warri, however, denied to Human Rights Watch that any raid on Okorenkoko or other villages in the area had taken place.
Itsekiri leaders claimed that Ijaw militia then attacked Madangho, Arutan, and other Itsekiri villages near Escravos on March 17, killing perhaps a dozen civilians. Other observers concurred that the Ijaw had launched attacks on Itsekiri villages, which were taken by surprise. Over the following weeks, many other villages were attacked in what appear to have been well-organised raids, and dozens of people killed. Chevron Nigeria Ltd (CNL; the company’s Nigerian registration has not yet been changed to reflect the global merger with Texaco) and SPDC assisted in the evacuation of hundreds of affected villagers, airlifting over 2,000 displaced community members, mostly Itsekiris, who had sought shelter at the CNL Escravos terminal. SPDC also evacuated dozens of people by air that had come to its Escravos flow station; the helicopters used were also reportedly fired upon. According to Bello Oboko, president of FNDIC, who did not deny to Human Rights Watch that Itsekiri villages had been attacked by FNDIC supporters, the raids were carried out because the Nigerian government forces had been using Itsekiri communities as bases from which to target Ijaw militia.FNDIC alleged that sixty people had been killed in attacks by Itsekiri militia or the government forces on various Ijaw villages by the end of March, and published the names of eighteen dead.
The fighting had a severe impact on oil production, both because some flow stations were themselves attacked, and because of the general insecurity. By March 19, SPDC had closed ten flow stations in Delta State as a result of the violence, evacuating employees and losing 126,000 bpd production; four more were closed a few days later, bringing the total loss in output to 320,000 bpd. Chevron stated that it had closed its onshore facilities, and then its main export terminal at Escravos, closing down output of 440,000 bpd. Both SPDC and CNL declared force majeure-an inability to fulfill their obligations due to events beyond their control-on their Nigerian exports. Youth militants destroyed several flow stations after the oil companies abandoned them, including CNL’s Olero Creek and Dibi flow stations; and SPDC’s Otumara and Saghara flowstations, and a logistics base at Escravos. There was minor vandalization elsewhere. Total (formerly Elf; the joint venture in Nigeria is still known as Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd, EPNL) also closed its production in the area. By March 24, combined total loss of production was more than 800,000 bpd, around 40 percent of Nigeria’s usual oil output. FNDIC announced that it had seized eleven oil facilities and threatened to blow them up if government attacks on Ijaw villages did not cease. Not till the second week in April did production begin to resume. As of August 11, SPDC was still down 125,000 bpd, and ChevronTexaco by 140,000 bpd; Total had not restarted its own 7,500 bpd closed in since March. By October, SPDC was reporting production reduced by 80,000 bpd and CNL still by 140,000 bpd.
On April 11, armed Ijaw militia in about seven speedboats attacked Koko, an Itsekiri community and the headquarters of Warri North local government area, situated on the BeninRiver. Because Koko is accessible by road, this raid has been possible to document; villages attacked in the mangrove forest area remain inaccessible because the waterways are effectively closed. During the attack, the militia killed at least one government soldier and perhaps tens of civilians (including four children) and burnt down around fifty buildings, including the local government secretariat and the residential quarters of soldiers stationed in the town on “peacekeeping” duties as a result of the crisis. The militia broke into the armory used by the soldiers and reportedly took 105 rifles as well as ammunition; the army later said that only eight rifles were taken. There was no pre-existing dispute between Koko and neighboring communities that would explain the attack. Koko is not an “oil producing community” in that there is no flow station located there.
Human Rights Watch visited Koko in September 2003. While some rebuilding had taken place, many people who had fled the town had not returned, and traffic on the river, usually a busy thoroughfare, was nonexistent. According to residents, dozens of Ijaw militants carried in up to nine speedboats attacked the village from the river without warning at around four in the afternoon. The youths, dressed in civilian clothes and wearing red or white headbands, were already shooting as they approached the shore at the local government secretariat, where several tens of soldiers were stationed. Residents reported that-although the attack had been rumored for a couple of weeks, so they should have been prepared-the soldiers did not offer any resistance but simply ran away, abandoning the machine gun which was set up at their base on the shore. The machine gun was later taken away by the attacking militia. The militia had also fired a machine gun during the attack; though it was not clear whether this was the one abandoned by the soldiers, or they had attacked with a machine gun already in their boats.
A young man living close by the house of the pastor of the Four Square Gospel Church-itself next to the house where the Major commanding the soldiers in the village was billeted-told Human Rights Watch of a particularly horrific incident. Members of the Ijaw militia came to the building and set it on fire. While the house was burning, “the enemy,” as the young man put it, threw four children, aged from around seventeen down to about six, into the fire. The pastor was away from the village at the time of the attack; the bodies of the children had been buried in the grounds of the house. Professor Lucky Akaruese of the University of Port Harcourt, who is from Koko and has led efforts to report the attack, told Human Rights Watch that it was believed that around forty or fifty people had been killed by the militia-though it was hard to be sure, since some may have run away into the bush rather than being killed. Around ten of the dead had been beheaded. Human Rights Watch cannot confirm these figures. Other eyewitnesses described looting and burning of buildings. One soldier who had been separated from his colleagues was also killed.
The militia remained in the village for more than three hours, until after seven in the evening. They only left when a military armored car came, called by Delta State Commissioner for Housing Dr. Ideh, who lives in the village and phoned for assistance from his house. Neither the Delta State nor the federal government had provided any relief assistance to the people affected by the violence by September: although Governor Ibori had promised that those whose houses were destroyed would be given access to an existing nearby new government housing development, this promise had not been fulfilled.
Residents told Human Rights Watch that soldiers from among those who had been in the village on the day of the attack had informed them that the officer in command had accepted money from the militia in order to offer no resistance. Human Rights Watch was unable to corroborate these accounts-the soldiers based at Koko had been redeployed and replaced-but they are serious allegations which deserve investigation at the highest level by both civilian and military authorities. The major currently in command of the soldiers based in Koko would make no comment on these reports. The officer commanding the 7th Amphibious Battalion based at Warri, Lt.-Col. Gar Dogo, told Human Rights Watch that an internal board of inquiry had investigated the allegations and found them not to be true.
Despite the fighting, which-in addition to causing the displacement of thousands of people, effectively prevented all travel in the waterways once it broke out-the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) decided to go ahead with the three days of voting scheduled for April and May in the three Warri LGAs affected by serious violence.National Assembly elections were held on April 12, gubernatorial and presidential elections on April 19, and state house of assembly elections on May 4.
Violence continued throughout this period, as FNDIC threatened to consider any delivery of election materials an “act of war. In addition to the raid on Koko, headquarters of Warri North LGA, there were clashes in Warri town in early April, and Ijaw militants attacked the INEC offices in Warri South and South West LGAs on April 12, polling day. Voting was prolonged into Sunday. Gun fights between youth militia and the military took place throughout the polling period. Ijaw militia reportedly attacked the Itsekiri village of Ugbuwangue near Warri, on April 14, but were prevented from entering Warri town by the army and navy. The governorship election faced similar problems, and there were further attacks by Ijaw militants during the lead up to State Assembly elections held on May 4.Ijaw militia reportedly attacked Egbokodo, Warri South (near the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company) on April 27; and Orere, Warri North, on April 28, killing several civilians and destroying property. On May 2, Ijaw militia in speedboats approached the naval base in Warri, exchanging fire with the troops stationed there; several members of the militia and at least one sailor were killed. Unsurprisingly, little polling took place on the day.
Although the worst fighting in the riverine areas appeared to have died down by May, there were several further clashes between supporters of the PDP and the Alliance for Democracy (not along ethnic lines) in May, June and July, in Effurun, part of the Warri urban area, over control of the Uvwie LGA. Dozens of people were reported to have been killed in this violence. There were further clashes in Effurun in September.
No sooner had the Delta State government announced, in July, a relaxation of the curfew imposed in February, than violence flared up again. Attacks and counter-attacks continued in the creeks, including an Ijaw attack on the Itsekiri village of Abi-Gborodo in late July (home of secretary to the Delta State government Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan), reportedly in reprisal for an Itsekiri attack on a boat traveling to the Ijaw community of Burutu; further Itsekiri attacks on four Ijaw villages, including Mangorogbene in Sapele LGA followed. Gun battles raged again for several days in mid-August in the McIver market and NPA/Milla areas of Warri. Once again, a heavy deployment of government troops and mobile police was needed to restore order, and the hours of curfew were increased. On August 22, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Red Cross said that they estimated that about 100 people had been killed in the latest outbreak of killing, and 1,000 injured; several thousand had been displaced and taken temporary shelter in church buildings. FNDIC reported that fifty-four Ijaw were killed in the August violence.In late July and early August, further fighting in the riverine areas was also reported, with Ijaw attacks on Itsekiri villages being followed by reprisal attacks on Ijaw communities, once again with dozens of deaths.
By September, Itsekiri leaders claimed more than thirty of their communities had been attacked by Ijaw militia and remained virtually deserted. Meanwhile, Ijaw informants asserted that around nine Ijaw communities had reportedly been attacked either by Itsekiri militia or by members of the government security forces. Counting communities affected is in itself difficult, since one “community” can consist of several distinct settlements regarding themselves as part of the same traditional governance structures. Certainly, thousands of people have been displaced, many of them for months. Numbers of casualties are unknown, but FNDIC claimed to Human Rights Watch a total of around 130 Ijaw dead, including its members; the publicity secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders Forum stated that about 250 Itsekiri had died in 2003-and around 2,000 since 1997. Among the government security forces, the army claimed in September that nine soldiers had been killed since March; and the navy that one sailor had been killed and eight injured.
A handful of oil company or service contractor staff are among those killed and injured in the violence, but there is little evidence that they have been targeted as oil company staff; rather they appear to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, a member of staff of a catering company attached to Chevron’s Escravos terminal-the only fatality among CNL staff or contractors-was killed by a bullet indiscriminately fired from a boat passing by the terminal. Two SPDC contractor staff has been killed. Government security force personnel deployed to protect oil company facilities have been killed and/or kept hostage even when civilians captured at the same time have been released-such as the three Nigerian policemen presumed dead who were escorting Shell staff at the time of the March 12 clash in Okorenkoko. Ijaw militia has continued to take oil company or contractor expatriate staff hostage and demand ransom payments for their release. All have been released unharmed; it is often unclear if ransoms are paid, though the oil companies usually deny such payments. In August 2003, SPDC Managing Director Ron van den Berg circulated an internal memo to all staff stating that, effective immediately, “There shall be NO Cash Payments to communities other than those specified for legitimate business reasons.” This rule would include ransom payments. CNL states that it has taken the same position since July 2002, being “resolved not to pay for work not done or other schemes for extortion.”Three expatriate staff contracted to SPDC was held hostage for ransom in June and released two weeks later. An oil service company expatriate worker for CNL was taken hostage in Warri in late July and held for a week. Another expatriate oil service worker was taken hostage and later released in August.
The Nigerian government has given little if any assistance to people displaced by this violence. Delta State Deputy Governor Elue stated to Human Rights Watch that relief had been given “in genuine cases” but was unable to suggest any budget for that relief, or other contacts for us to speak to in order to obtain further details. In Warri town, some people reported that the federal government had sent some minimal supplies, including mattresses, rice and garri (cassava). Chevron also made a donation of U.S. $50,000 to humanitarian relief, distributed with the assistance of the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH), a U.S.-based NGO that has undertaken development work in the area, including for Chevron; this was matched by $50,000 from the U.S. Embassy.
In these clashes Itsekiri leaders have consistently claimed that the Ijaw are the main aggressors. Though Human Rights Watch cannot confirm this on the basis of its own investigations, due to problems in accessing the communities involved on both sides, we believe-on the basis of interviews with informed observers from numerous perspectives-that Itsekiri villages have been the main victims of organized attack in the violence since March 2003 and that there have been more Itsekiri deaths and displaced persons. The oil companies, who overfly the areas affected, confirm that most of the affected communities remained deserted by mid-September.
The degree to which prominent figures in each ethnic group are able to command the loyalty of the ethnic militia operating in Delta State, and to which there is a unified command structure at all, is not clear. But each ethnic group asserts that the other is responsible for initiating the violence, and that those leaders on the other side should be held responsible for the actions of their “own” people. Itsekiri leaders, for example, stated to Human Rights Watch that they believed that Chief E.K. Clark, a prominent Ijaw figure, should be prosecuted for “war crimes.”While there may not be a unified command among the Ijaw militia, there does appear to be a much greater degree of coordination among the Ijaw youth militants operating in Delta State than there has been in past outbreaks of fighting. Human Rights Watch’s interviews with eyewitnesses of the raid on Koko are in conformity with accounts of highly organized raids on Itsekiri communities by armed Ijaw militants. Armed militias from Itsekiri communities are also operating in the creeks, and the level of organization among Itsekiri fighters seems to have increased in recent months. In Warri town, the violence of August 2003 appears to have been initiated by the Itsekiri. Armed Urhobo militias have also been responsible for violence, though on a lesser scale. In addition, there is widespread “sea piracy” in which armed gangs attack those traveling on the waterways for purely criminal motives. Among those carrying out sea piracy are no doubt people who may on another day be using the same weapons for ethnic/political purposes. On all sides, ordinary poor people are the main victims of violence and of the economic effects of violence. The crisis has caused and continues to cause immense suffering in Delta State.
The government has not only failed to ensure that its security forces effectively protect civilians, but also that the police arrest, investigate and prosecute those guilty of murder and other crimes in relation to the violence. Though there have been some arrests, Human Rights Watch is not aware of any successful prosecutions in relation to the violence in 2003 or previous years.
Government efforts to negotiate an end to the violence have also been inadequate, even though military and police spokespeople have emphasized the need for a political solution to the conflict in Delta State-perhaps in recognition that the terrain of the mangrove forest areas, ideal for guerrilla warfare, would make a military victory difficult to achieve. In early April, President Obasanjo appointed a committee to try to find a solution to the Warri Crisis, chaired by Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma (rtd), former minister of defense. In June, Gen. Danjuma visited Warri, but the committee held no public hearings and did not request formal submissions from interested parties.He was reported as indicating that there was no possibility of any compensation from the federal government to any of those affected by the violence. In September, during a visit to Warri, President Obasanjo said that he was considering the final report from Danjuma, which reportedly had “remained secret even from members of the committee.”At state level, Delta State Governor James Ibori has proposed a “road map” for peace, recognizing the disputes over the local government arrangements and the “need for the ethnic groups to meet and fashion out an indigenous framework that would guarantee a fair, just, and equitable coexistence.” What exactly that would involve in practice, and in particular whether it would require the creation of new local government areas (which under the constitution can only be done at federal level), has not been made entirely clear.In September, President Obasanjo visited Warri and met with leaders of the different ethnic communities. He was quoted as saying that “accommodation should be the focus rather than separation,” appearing to indicate that he did not support the creation of new local government areas. While the level of violence has died down since the period of the elections in March-May, tension remains high and can break out into violence at any excuse. In October 2003, fresh clashes between ethnic militants led to the deaths of more than a dozen people.
I WOULD be obliged if you would publish this rejoinder to the feature story by Maurice Akade which appeared in Concord Magazine of Sunday Concord of 1st July, 1984, Mr. Akade must be congratulated for being bold to write his factual report despite the threats of the wealthy Itsekiri man featuring in the story.
However, by discussing the issue under the general designation of Urhobos and Itsekiris the story touches. Only the periphery of the war leaving the intense heat of it. This is misleading. The war is not between Urhobos and Itsekiris. It is between the Agbarha Urhobo Clan of Warri Local Government area and the entire Itsekiri tribe. The bone of contention is Warri Town.
What is the Warri Question? It is simply this. The Agbarha Urhobo people are owners, founders of Warri Town. They have been in continuous possession. There are other non-Agbarha Urhobos in the extended Warri Urban area of today. The Itsekiris claim that they gave Warri land to the Agbarha people to build their town so they are overlords of Warri including Okere Urhobos. The entire Itsekiri tribe endeavour to use their wealth, learning and manpower to remove and efface the Agbarha people, a single clan and not a large one at that, politically, economically and socially, Systematically they replace the Agbarha with Itsekiris. They do the same to the Okere.
In other words the Itsekiris have been and still are pulling the strings which have caused bloody wars among mankind at all times. Hence, it is a shocking misunderstanding of the question to refer to it as a “senseless squabble.” Even Modakeke is not senseless and is not a squabble. And those who garrulously say “we are tired of it” must be persons who are not deprived of the comforts, and psychological satisfaction of full citizenship in their places of origin and cannot therefore have first hand knowledge of the pain, frustrations and degradation, which the conceited Itsekiri daily hatch for the true Warri Urhobo people. So they are satisfied with playing tennis with Itsekiris at Warri Club. It is a struggle for survival and cannot be brushed naively aside.
All Agbarha Clan lands are within Warri Local Government area. There are Ijaw lands of three Ijaw clans as well. But listen to Mr. O. N. Rewane, a lawyer and spokesman of the Itsekiri position: – “The Agbassa Urhobos are less than 2,000 people out of the present population of Warri Local Government Council area estimated at about 300,000. Over 50 years ago, they occupied two small villages and five hamlets but today all the two villages and hamlets except two (hamlets) have been completely absorbed and urbanised by the Warri City. In the result, Agbassa exists in name only and not in reality.” (See paragraph 9 of Press Handout dated 15th October. 1983), the import of this statement applies squarely to the Agbarha, Okere and Ijaws.
If Rewane says that the Agbarha are a mere 2,000 people who make up the remaining estimated population of 298,000 of Warri City? Does he imply that this number is the influx of non-indigenous residents in his urbanised city of Warri? If so he is one of such non-indigenous residents because his father is a native of Jakpa in Benin River and his mother is Urhobo of Ughelli Local Government area. Is he saying that the rights of the indigenes have passed to the residents and he is the anointed claimant of these rights to the exclusion of his 2,000 indigenes? Have Lagosians lost their rights yet because they are a handful? Or because Lagos has become urbanized?
Mr. Rewane also says that the Agbarha people came to Warri 200 years ago from Agbarha-Otor. The book History of the Itsekiri by William Moore, an Itsekiri of Itsekiri royal blood, says at page 185:-

“During the reign of Olu Irame, a fatal skirmish occurred at Agbassa-Otor, and the quarters which suffered most in casualties resolved to migrate, and so they came to Olu Irame and begged for a place wherein to dwell. He apportioned to them the place Ubumale where they built a town (present town of Agbassa) and settled down.”
William Moore tells us that Itsekiri oddessy began about 1480 by Ginuwa lasted about 66 years before Ode-Itsekiri capital was reached. This is accepted by Itsekiris. Reading at paragraph 1 page 86 last paragraph of page 87 and paragraphs 1 and 3 of page 88 shows that Irame reigned between 1546 and 1588. This makes it at least 400 years on the showing of the Itsekiris that the Agbarha Urhobos built Warri. William Moore was not making a careless mistake. He wrote as an enemy as indeed what follows is virulent vitriolic upon the Agbarha people.
William Moore has produced the order of the Itsekiri dynasties adopted by every Itsekiri writer so far. Where then did the learned lawyer get his authority from to the effect that the Agbarha people obtained the land from one Olu Atogbuwa in the 18th Century. Rewane finds Moore uncomfortable. Surely if Ginuwa’s sons Ijijen and Irame arrived Ode Itsekiri about 1546, they could not have settled down and mastered the locality to be giving lands across the rivers cutting off their island of Ode-Itsekiri to other emigrants like themselves to settle on.
Indeed Professor Otite concludes that the Agbarha people must have been in Warri for about 600 years, a position supported by J.O.E. Sagay in his book The Warri Kingdom written for the proposed celebration that never was of 500 years of the Itsekiri Kingdom falsely called Warri Kingdom. Sagay says that Ginuwa met the Oghara Urhobos at Ugharegin in his passage from Benin, he may not have known that Jesse and Oghara also came from Agbarha-Otor as a second wave of migrants after the Agbarha of Warri.
The situation being what is outlined above, is it not astonishing that non-indigenes of Warri should seek to oust the Agbarha from Warri? Where are the Agbarha to go? Are they really a mere name and not a reality? Then the culture of the Agbarha must be a culture of Phantoms. Have Nigerians not heard of the celebrated Agbassa juju celebrated in Warri biennially? This makes the Itsekiris uneasy. They want to destroy this antiquity in the heart of Warri Town. Their last attempt was in 1981. They could not stop the festival in 1983. All Nigerians and the Police should be wary of their antics against the festival of 1985.
What exactly do the Itsekiri do to fire hatred and discord?
*Policy of Itsekiri only: In dispensing patronages and appointment the state government tries to get all ethnic groups represented as much as possible. For Urhobo government appoints from the three Urhobo L. G. areas. For Warri Local Government area Itsekiri is represented. The Itsekiris are thus always sure of being in government.
Matters of appointments etc. pertaining to Warri Local Government area are referred to the Itsekiri representative who nominates his tribesmen. Thus Itsekiris only are spread over the local government, contracts, honours and official invitations and what have you, to the exclusion of everyone else. To quote the Sunday Concord “the Itsekiris say the Urhobos are adequately represented in other areas of the Delta province.”This argument is a fatuous exposition of greed. It is like saying that the Yorubas of Kwara State should have no representation of any sort in Kwara State because Yorubas are adequately represented in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Lagos states.
*Gestapo policy: Itsekiri monopoly means that information about projects and events reaches them first. They immediately strengthen their interests while writing others off by secret falsehood.
*Uprooting Urhobos and transplanting Itsekiris: As commissioner for local government or as chairman of local government council or planning authority they have interacted with the defunct Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust, seized lands of the Agbarha people and redistributed them to Itsekiris thus importing Itsekiri population into Warri to join hands in seizing Warri. Their ill-motivated Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust, true to its satanic origin, was a brutal weapon of land sequestration until its demise in 1978. Its manipulators perfected the same devices which the Action Group used in the Western Region as contained in the Coker Enquiry report re-echoing one or two names of claimants of Warri lands. One and the same person is a high office holder of two establishments of which he may have interest in one. He writes a letter from the one establishment making a request for land or money. He receives his letter in his other capacity and approves it. Influence with government often helped such infamy. The Agbarha people were systematically dispossessed in this manner.
*Policy of all Itsekiris under the sun being Indigenes of Warri Town: In the fifties when the Action Group coined the pass word by which Yorubas were called “Omo eku aro eji re” the Itsekiri as Action Groupers coined “Oma Iwere.” They now claim that the name Warri is derived from Iwerre and so Itsekiris are children of Iwerre. Ode Itsekiri was and remains the Itsekiri capital. It was not called Iwerre or when was it changed? Iwerre is not the name of a common ancestor.
Itsekiris were not known in present day Warri until recently in this century. How can itsekiris be children of Iwerre? How can every Itsekiri be an indigene of Warri, a place which is neither the native land of his father nor his mother? The propagandists have done it to delude Nigerians and have a whole tribe invade one clan. Everyday on television we hear the news translation in Itsekiri starting with “Oma Iwerre”.
*Policy of credence by establishing presence: In addition to seizing land they change place names to reflect Itsekiri. When one of them was commissioner for local government the nominated council was Itsekiri and similarly, the traditional council of chiefs. New schools were named after Itsekiris. Time-honoured palace-names were replaced by Itsekiri names. Only Itsekiris were invited to official engagements which fell to the council to organize. Employment into council’s service was confined to Itsekiris. All this a make-believe that Itsekiris own Warri.
*Sheer Brigandage: The Itsekiris say that Dore Numa won a suit against the Agbarha as overlord with the Agbarha holding possessory title. The Agbarha say that the verdict was manipulated to protect colonial interest which is true as records now show.
However, the Okere Urhobo won a title suit against the Itsekiri over their portion of Warri lands. The Itsekiri totally disregard it and act as though there has never been such a law suit. And the land Use Act? Also Section 39(2) of the 1979 Constitution? These abolished overlordship. But the Itsekiri stiff-neckedly insist that their Itsekiri Olu who was imported as a stranger into Warri in 1952 for the first time since 1480 is the prescribed authority for the Urhobos. Well may the Itsekiri say that 1952 is a long time ago and that the status quo should remain. The struggle for Nigeria’s independence must have been to such humbugs with small opportunist minds a bother. For the Itsekiris it is not a matter of good conduct. It is a matter of desire completely impervious to the sensibilities of others. Cry Botha!
Itsekiri/Urhobo Feud: The Itsekiris have a well oiled propaganda machinery. They are priests with daggers under their cloaks. While persecuting the Urhobos for showing intermittent sympathy for the Agbarha position they announce to the public that they and the Agbarha are friends but the Urhobos are oppressors who want to use their greater numbers to dominate their Warri and the Itsekiris. Thus they constantly focus on the Urhobos in general and play down the name of the Agbarha who are the core of the problem and whom they scourge. If Nigeria sympathises with far off South African blacks, what wrong attaches to the Urhobos who say that wrong is wrong and “Itsekiri Apartheid” must stop? For the Agbarha it is a struggle for survival. For the Urhobos it is a reaction against backward-looking chauvinism, greed and effrontery.
It is no use saying that it is a senseless squabble. Senseless it must be on the side of the Itsekiris. We have fought many battles on this score and won most. The Justice Idigbe’s Land Use Panel Report of 1977 described the Agbarha position in Warri as without comparison anywhere else in Nigeria. In spite of the Land Use Act the enemy hardens and hurries to carry out its evil plans. It is for the Agbarha not a senseless squabble. It is a wracking and debilitating war. The wealthy, erudite, debonair, ruthless Itsekiris must stop cannibalising us.
I doff my hat to Maurice Akade and his colleague who visited the Itsekiri chief and lawyer, referred to as a major “protagonist in the on-going controversy” for daring to publish. We kook forward to more action of this kind from the press and the authorities to change the situation described by late Justice Chike Idigbe as without comparison anywhere else in Nigeria. May his soul rest in peace. It is hoped that more light has been shed upon this vexed question for the public to identify it for what it is.

Part of Warri Crisis of tribalism
While the Ijaw and the Itsekiri have lived alongside each other for centuries, for the most part harmoniously, the Itsekiri were first to make contact with European traders, as early as the 16th century, and they were more aggressive both in seeking Western education and in using the knowledge acquired to press their commercial advantages; until the arrival of Sir George Goldie’s National Africa Company (later renamed the Royal Niger Company) in 1879, Itsekiri chieftains monopolized trade with Europeans in the Western Niger region. Despite the loss of their monopoly, the advantages already held by the Itsekiri ensured that they continued to enjoy a superior position to that held by the Ijaw, breeding in the latter a sense of resentment at what they felt to be colonial favoritism towards the Itsekiri.
The departure of the British at independence did not lead, as might have been expected, to a decrease in tensions between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri. With the discovery of large oil reserves in the Niger Delta region in the early 1960s, a new bone of contention was introduced, as the ability to claim ownership of a given piece of land now promised to yield immense benefits in terms of jobs and infrastructural benefits to be provided by the oil companies. Despite this new factor, rivalry between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri did not actually escalate to the level of violent conflict between the two groups until the late 1990s, when the death of General Sani Abacha in 1997 led to a re-emergence of local politics.
The title one of the city’s traditional ruler, the Olu of Warri, was formerly known as the Olu of Itsekiri. When the title was changed by Awolowo’s Western Nigeria government from Olu of Itsekiri to Olu of Warri in 1952, members of the other tribes (Urhobos, Isokos and Ijaws) saw this as an attempt to impose an Itsekiri ruler over them. The title dispute has led to series of clashes between the tribes in Warri over sovereignty.
In 1997, The Federal Government under the late Gen. Sani Abacha created a number of local government areas, including a Warri South-West Local Government Council, whose headquarters it located at Ogbe-Ijoh, in the Ijaw area of Warri. But due to Political pressure by the Itsekiri on the Federal Government, the headquarters of the same local government council was relocated to Ogidigben, an Itsekiri area of Warri. That singular act of indiscretion on the part of the Federal Government widened the scope of the ethnic rivalry by getting the Ijaws embroiled in a skirmish that has now assumed military dimensions. Since the outbreak of the destructive tripartite war, the Federal Government, whose act of indiscretion triggered it off, in the first place, has sat on the fence, leaving the State Government to bear the brunt of the resultant conflagration.
Riots ensued, hundreds died, and six Shell Nigeria (SPDC) installations were taken over by youths, leading to a drop in oil production. The crisis is known as the “Warri Crisis.”The headquarters have since been relocated to Ogbe ijaw by the Delta State House of Assembly, a decision that brought relative peace back to the city.
The issue of local government ward allocation has proven particularly contentious, as the Ijaw feel that the way in which wards have been allocated ensures that their superior numbers will not be reflected in the number of wards controlled by politicians of Ijaw ethnicity. Control of the city of Warri, the largest metropolitan area in Delta State and therefore a prime source of political patronage, has been an especially fiercely contested prize. This has given birth to heated disputes between the Ijaw, the Itsekiri and the Urhobo about which of the three groups are “truly” indigenous to the Warri region, with the underlying presumption being that the “real” indigenes should have control of the levers of power, regardless of the fact that all three groups enjoy ostensibly equal political rights in their places of residence.

Account of 2004 crisis in EKPAN— NO fewer than seven persons were feared killed at the weekend in Ekpan, in the war-ravaged Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State. Similarly, several persons were injured as armed youths engaged themselves in a gun duel. The injured ones are currently receiving treatment at the Ekpan General Hospital.
The cause of the weekend’s fracas could not be ascertained as at press time but it may not be unconnected with the unending crises in the council area. The two factions in the protracted crisis in the troubled local government rendered conflicting accounts as to the genesis of the weekend’s bloody face-off.
An account said attempts by some displaced indigenes of the town to return to their homes were frustrated by a group in charge of the affairs leading to the fracas. The returnees were allegedly attacked by the elements on ground. The other account said some armed youths invaded the town in three buses, allegedly with the intention to kill some key players in the affairs of the community. Nevertheless, the town boiled for several hours on Saturday as the youths engaged in a free-for-all fight, leading to the death of no fewer than seven persons and several others sustaining injuries. Property running into several millions of naira were also destroyed.
Among the deceased were four youths who were reported to be returning to their Ekpan base after months of asylum elsewhere due to the crisis. Also killed was a driver of the interim chairman of Uvwie Council of Chiefs, Chief C.O.M. Agbofodoh, the Unvevworo of Uvwie whose name was given as Scot Abugu.
Two other persons also fell to the stray bullets of the warring youths during the hot exchange of gunfire. Those who suffered losses in the weekend hostility included the vice-chairmanship candidate of the PDP in the next council polls in Uvwie, Mr. Peters Iffie whose father’s one storey building was razed. Several cars and other valuable property belonging to the Iffies were vandalised in the family compound at Ekpan.
The Unvevworo (Chief Agbofodoh) himself was not spared as the youths invaded his house and that of his son, Newton, who returned from Europe in the early hours of the day. Agbofodoh who claimed that the youths were after his life said he was holding a meeting in his house when it was invaded. The cars in his compound were vandalised.
His words: “The gate was locked so they could not come in. But when they heard sounds of gun shots apparently from the police, they were scared away thinking that some policemen from a nearby police station were coming.” The incident sent residents scampering for safety.

Obasanjo Lists Government Plan to Stop Warri Killings
Uneasy calm enveloped the restive town as at press time. PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo explained that the Federal Government was approaching the Warri communal crisis from the political and legal angles. President Obasanjo gave this insight in his monthly media chat on NTA Network programme.
He said the political solution required the involvement of government and leaders of the various ethnic groups, adding: “The problem in Warri is that three groups that have lived together for a long time, Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ijaw, are quarrelling. I have talked to the leaders of the three groups about this problem. I am happy they are not talking of eliminating each other, whether it is Itsekiri, Ijaw and of course the Urhobo. They are talking about accommodation. So, if that is what they are talking about, then dialogue is needed, because it is through this they can work out accommodation.
Slain Oil Workers: Harriman Asks Warri Residents to Help Arrest Assailants
Abuja — Ms Temi Harriman of the House of Representatives has tasked her constituents in the Warri Federal Constituency of Delta State to assist security agencies in identifying the people behind killings of oil workers and naval personnel in Olero Creeks in Warri, Delta State. In a statement condemning the killings, Ms Harriman (PDP, Warri) while lamenting that the killing tended to cloud the traditional hospitality of the Warri people called on government to quickly restore the rule of law in those areas of Warri that have been characterized by violence.
She spoke in response to last weekend’s killing of seven personnel of the Nigerian Navy and ChevronTexaco including two expatriates by yet unidentified persons. In the statement issued yesterday, Ms Harriman assured the expatriate community in Warri that the killing did not mean a turnaround of the good relations with the international community which she said dated from the 14th century.
Ekpan Oil Spill – Chevron Must Take Responsibility –Utuama
Warri — Delta State Deputy Governor, Professor Amos Utuama, has advised Chevron Nigeria Limited to take full responsibility for the massive oil spill which ravaged the largest fish farm in the state.
He also urged the company to pay adequate compensation to ameliorate the suffering the farmers.
Utuama, who visited the fish farm in company of the state Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Bello Orubebe, and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Victor Otomewo, described the spill as massive, and contrary to the claim by the oil firm that it is not responsible for the disaster.
According to him, the Ekpan Fish Farm which the state government had used as a reference point in its human capital development agenda, is being threatened by the oil spill.
“This farm has been a model; every time we have occasion to address our youths, he (the governor) usually tell them and refer them to this farm to see what our youths and women have been able to do to establish the biggest fish village in West Africa,” he noted.
Management of Chevron had denied that the spill is from its abandoned jetty, claiming that only eight litres of oil was spilled and that it had carried out a Joint Investigation Visit with the state Ministry of Environment and other relevant agencies.
However, in another development, the Nigeria National Fitters Association (NNFA), an offshoot of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), is heading for a collision course with a contracting firm, Marubeni Nigeria Limited, over the hiring of 40 expatriates for the National Independent Power Project (NIPP) in Ogorode, Sapele Local Government Council of the state.
According to the association, the policy contravenes the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Local Content Development Act which puts the upstream sector more in the hands of Nigerians.
NNFA, at the weekend, threatened to disrupt the operations of the company except it adheres to the local content policy and engage its members in the multi-billion Naira project.
Its Zonal Chairman, Morrister Idibra, and Secretary, Clement Ukpebitere, in a protest letter addressed to the National Assembly, a copy of which was made available to newsmen in Warri, said it is unreasonable for a Nigeria firm to engage over 40 expatriates in a job that local fabricators could handle with dexterity being, professionally certified.
According to them, Nigerian fitters have not failed in their jobs but their major challenges have been the influx of foreigners who he said are not better than their Nigerian counterparts.
“We have tried to hold meeting with them but persistently they failed to respond and so we are saying we would no longer tolerant the situation where jobs meant for our youths and which could reduce restive are given to foreigners.”
They accused the Federal Government of allowing such dubious practices despite its local content policy which seeks to ensure that most activities of the oil industry are carried out in Nigeria and to some extent by oil producing communities with participation of manpower and expertise in the locality.

N’Delta crisis: Fresh killings in Warri
Peace remained elusive in the Niger Delta on Saturday as troops of the Joint Task Force in Delta State razed Benikrukru community in the Gbaramatu clan of Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state.
Report also indicated that the soldiers advanced toward another community identified as Kokodiagbene after the Benikrukru operation. Kokodiagbene community, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt is adjacent to Benikrukru.
Many persons, including an octogenarian, identified as Kuku Olobio, were reported dead during the Saturday raid.
Although the Commander of JTF, Major Gen. Sarkin Yarkin-Bello, could not be reached for comment on Saturday, he had last Thursday told journalists that there would be no let up in the military operation.
Bello said the raids would continue until the wanted militant leader, Chief Government Ekpomukpolo, popularly known Tompolo was found dead or alive.
He also tied the withdrawal of the troops to the discovery of the 12 military personnel declared missing in a clash with the militants in Gbaramatu.
It was gathered that the latest raid at Benikrukru, followed the earlier pattern with the JTF using jet bombers, gunboats and warships on the community.
A source from Benikrukru said, ”The community was burnt down this morning. Many people were killed in the air and land raids on the hapless community. The JTF was about to cross over to nearby Kokodiagbene when I escaped from the area.”
Also, some ethnic and political as well as youth leaders in the region have gone underground as the detectives embarked on manhunt for them as a result of their alleged relationship with the militants.
Sunday Punch gathered that wanted leaders, who had a prior knowledge of the planned action, had since fled their homes.
”We (JTF) are after some political and ethnic leaders who have been fingered as sponsors of militant operations and some of them who have benefited from the unwholesome activities of the militants. Some youth leaders are also under surveillance.
“We are aware that some of them have taken cover but they can only run but cannot hide. It is a total onslaught this mess they call militancy once and for all,” our source who craved anonymity added.
Meanwhile, President Umaru Yar‘Adua has directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Paul Dike, to establish military bases at the two militants‘ camps seized by the JTF in Delta State.
The hideouts identified as Camp 5 and Iroko Camp were seized by the federal troops on Saturday and Monday, respectively.
A source in JTF told our correspondent that the President gave the directive to facilitate the monitoring of the activities along the waterways in the area.
The centrality of Camp 5 in particular, the source added, would ensure easy monitoring of the creeks in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo states and keep the trouble makers under constant check.
He added that the Presidency was happy over the seizure of Camp 5 and Iroko Camp where the militants have held sway over the years and he has directed the Chief of Defence Staff to establish full military presence in the camp.
Similarly, another Army officer in JTF said the president had barred the authorities of JTF from taking orders from the governors and other political leaders of the Niger Delta on the ongoing military action in the region.
Yar‘Adua, according to him, asked the brass hats of the security outfit to rely solely on the rules of engagement and orders emanating from the Defence Headquarters.
Meanwhile, the President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, on Saturday raised the alarm that the JTF troops had invaded Warri on the manhunt for innocent Ijaw persons.
Ekiyor in a text message to our correspondent said, “Killings continue as soldiers now invade Warri in search of successful Ijaw business for extinction.
Also, the Delta Waterways Security Committee on Saturday said the peace process in the state was on course. The committee in a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Patrick Origho, said, “Everything was being done to ensure that normalcy returns to the creeks of the state, which was the scene of conflict in the past one week between a group of armed youths and JTF.
However, the JTF has approved the request of a committee set up by the state government to distribute relief materials to displaced persons to carry out its assignment.
The JTF, however, said only wooden boats would be allowed to convey the items to the communities.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Kingsley Otuaro, pledged to cooperate with the authorities of JTF and stand by the displaced persons.
The National Emergency Management Agency has also distributed relief materials, including foodstuff, toiletries, beddings and other essential materials to the displaced persons.
The Director General of NEMA, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Audu-Bida (retd), said the Federal Government was concerned about the plights of the victims. Bida latter visited the JTF headquarters in Delta State where he interacted with the leadership of the security agency.
The spokesman of JTF, Col. Rabe Abubakar, on Saturday said three more hostages had been freed by the agency from the militants‘ dens in the state.
Abubakah said, “The Joint Task Force, Operation Restore Hope, had early this morning rescued three more Filipinos kidnapped by the militants in the eve of the ensuing hostilities in Gbaramatu , Warri South-West Local Government of Delta State. The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope has arrested eight suspected crude oil thieves, destroyed about 1,000 illegal crude oil refining plants and impounded eight barges in the creeks of Delta State in the past six months.
The illegal refineries were located in the creeks of the state while the barges used for the alleged oil deals were seized during the regular patrol of the creeks and waterways of the state by operatives of the security outfit.
Besides, no fewer than six suspects have been apprehended by JTF in connection with the perennial crisis in Ekpan, Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State.
The Urhobo community had been engulfed in violent crisis in recent times, a development which compelled the authorities of JTF to deploy troops in the area following the apparent helplessness of the police.
The suspects, including a prominent chief in the community (name withheld), were paraded before newsmen by JTF’s Sector One Commander, Col. Jamil Sarham, in Effurun, the headquarters of Uvwie Local Government Area, on Thursday.
Sarham, who also took journalists to Benneth Island, Warri South Lolca, Government Area, a notorious area of illegal oil operations in the coastal axis of the state, said the JTF was irrevocably committed to eliminating the operations of the oil thieves in the Niger Delta.
He said, “The JTF is committed to bringing the illicit trade (crude oil theft) to its knees in the Niger Delta region, we (JTF) have zero tolerance for illegal bunkering and other criminal activities along the waterways.
“JTF has zero tolerance for illegality, especially those activities that tend to undermine the economy of the nation. We would not relent in our efforts to ensure that illegal bunkering is brought to its lowest ebb in the region.
“We have also destroyed 1000 illegal refineries in the last few days. So long as this (crude oil theft) continues, JTF will not relent in its efforts to rid the area of these illegalities.”
However, contrary to the opinion in some quarters, Sarham explained that the JTF lacked the power to release oil facilities seized for illegal deals, adding that those accusing the authorities of the agency, especially its Commander, Maj.-Gen. Yarki Sarki-Bello, of seeking gratification to free impounded items were embarking on cheap blackmail to discredit the security agency.
Sarham said even Yarkin-Bello was not empowered to release any suspect or impounded oil equipment by the Defence Headquarters, which supervises the agency.
He said the Federal Government had inaugurated a special committee to determine the fate of seized items of illegal oil trade, adding that the mandate of JTF ends when if hands over impounded items to the federal committee.
“It is not within the power of Maj.-Gen. Sarki-Bello to release any item. Any person who says he does not know how the system works is a pathological liar,” Sarham said.

Bombs explode in Warri, Nigeria; militants step up threats
Nigeria militants set off bombs, step up threats
By Jon Gambrell (AP). Lagos, Nigeria — Militants in Nigeria’s oil-producing region detonated two car bombs Monday (March 15 2010) near a government building where officials were discussing an amnesty deal, showing their resolve to resume attacks after an agreement to bring peace and economic benefits to the area unraveled.
Two people were injured and windows were blown out of the meeting room in an attack that was heard on live TV. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, warned that the bombings in Warri are part of a new wave of attacks coming to Delta state, which remains deeply impoverished despite its oil wealth.
“The deceit of endless dialogue and conferences will no longer be tolerated,” the group said in a statement e-mailed to reporters just before the attack.
The bombings did not immediately affect global oil prices, which in the past have risen after pipelines and oil companies operating in Nigeria were attacked. MEND’s attacks last year cut Nigeria’s oil production by roughly 1 million barrels a day, allowing Angola to surge ahead as Africa’s top oil producer.
MEND e-mailed a statement to reporters Monday minutes before the bombing, urging that the government building and nearby facilities be evacuated. Just before the bombs went off, Delta state spokesman Linus Chima told The Associated Press that “there is nothing to worry about at all.”
On the live broadcast carried by African Independent Television, a Nigerian satellite channel, an explosion could be heard, halting a speaker in mid-sentence. A man’s voice then urged those inside to remain calm. Footage broadcast later showed flames and smoke rising from a nearby roadway. Witnesses said the blasts blew out windows in the meeting room, where three state governors and a federal minister had gathered.
“I think it was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the peace talks,” Chima said afterward. He said two people were hurt but did not identify them.
A government-sponsored amnesty deal to offer cash payments to militants foundered in recent months in the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who pushed for the deal last year but has not been running the country since late November due to illness. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the Delta, is the acting president but hasn’t pacified the militants.
“They obviously feel time has run out and they needed to launch a new string of attacks,” said Kissy Agyeman-Togobo, a political analyst with IHS Global Insight.
The militants have used car bombs before. In April 2006, MEND claimed responsibility for attacks on an army barracks and an oil refinery in which two people were killed. It also detonated a car bomb outside a state governor’s office in December 2006.
MEND said in its statement that in coming days it would attack installations and oil companies across the Niger Delta, including those of the French oil company Total.
“We obviously are monitoring the situation very closely and maintaining a very high level of vigilance,” said Total spokeswoman Phenelope Semavoine.
Militant groups in the Niger Delta have attacked pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company employees and fought government troops since January 2006. They demand that the federal government send more oil-industry funds to Nigeria’s southern region, which remains poor despite five decades of oil production. They also criticize oil giants for polluting rivers with spilled oil and flared excess gas produced when drilling.

JTF holds six over Ekpan crisis
Saturday, 17 July 2010
The Joint Task Force (JTF) codenamed Operation Restore Hope yesterday paraded six suspects over the protracted crisis in Ekpan, near Warri, Delta State.
The arrest and subsequent parade of the suspects yesterday was the fallout of Condon and search operation conducted in Ekpan community.
The JTF on Wednesday stormed the town in trucks and Armoured Personnel Carriers. The troops were later joined by the police
The Nigerian Compass on Saturday learnt that the security agents had stormed the troubled community combing for weapons apparently used in the crisis which had torn the community apart.
Sources said that the operation which was carried out in conjunction with the police in the state fetched undisclosed amount of weapons.
Although security agents could not give details of the operations and the quantity of arms recovered, sources said that there was thorough combing for weapons in the town especially around the troubled areas.
A weapon was recovered from the home of a prominent chieftain (name withheld) of the community. The youth leader and Uvwie Chief had been arrested by the Police and taken to the State Command in Asaba for questioning, a source said.
Police spokesman, Charles Muka, confirmed the arrest but said the operation was carried out by the soldiers in the Warri area.
JTF Sector 1 commandant, Jamil Sarham yesterday confirmed the operation while parading the suspects.
Sources later said that one licensed double barrel gun was found in the home of one of the arrested key players in the Ekpan crisis.
It could not be established however whether more arms and ammunitions were recovered in the community which had been embroiled in communal crisis for weeks.
There was calm in the town while the operation lasted even as commuters and motorists went about their normal duty with out been molested or harassed.
It was learnt however that the crisis degenerated after the American oil giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), signed an agreement with the community amounting to N75 million for the building of a women’s center and subsequently released the sum of N25 million as first installment for the commencement of construction work.
It was gathered that since the release of the first part of the money to the Ekpan Development Committee, the community had not known peace as interest groups had been fighting among themselves to control the fund.

Ekpan crisis: Uduaghan probes sources of arms
Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, on Tuesday, ordered investigation into the sources of arms and ammunition used during the last Saturday mayhem in Ekpan, Uvwie Local Government area of the state.

Seven persons have so far been arrested by security agencies in connection with the incident.
Uduaghan gave the order when he visited the 93 Battalion, Effurun, headquarters of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, the Operation Restore Hope.
The governor, who reviewed the security situation in the area with community leaders and security agents, directed the Commander of the JTF, Brig.-Gen. Lawrence Ngubane, and the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Ekpan Police Station, Mr. Abel Edibogi, a chief superintendent of police, to institute an enquiry into the sources of weapons used by the rioters.
Although no death was recorded in the crisis, which broke out on Friday 25th June 2010, many persons sustained severe injuries.
Uduaghan in the wake of the incident imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the community, to prevent loss of lives and property.
Ekpan, a suburb of Warri, is where some strategic business units of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, some oil multinationals and service companies are located.
Our correspondent learnt that the crisis was caused by the bail granted a prominent indigene of the community by a state high court in Kwale, last week.
The suspect was arrested in 2005 in connection with the alleged murder of another indigene of the community.
His triumphant entry and the accompanying celebrations were said to have angered some members of the community, who took to the streets.
The suspect was manhandled on Friday night by some protesting youths.
However, Uduaghan in his public reaction to the incident on Tuesday, said the manner in which the suspect entered the community after two years� detention at Kwale Federal Prison, was not enough excuse for the aggrieved parties to take up arms.
He warned the security agencies not to allow the perpetrators of the bloody crisis to escape unpunished.
He also ordered that seven suspected masterminds of the riot, who were brought before him, be remanded in the custody of the JTF until further notice.
The governor, before his departure, summoned the leaders of the community to the next weekly meeting of the State Security Council in Warri, on Friday.
Uneasy calm reigned in the area on Tuesday.
Policemen attached to the Quick Response Squad, Warri, led by Mr. Folorunso Ajayi, a superintendent of police, and officers from the Ekpan Police Station, embarked on patrol of the community on the order of the Commissioner of Police in the state command, Mr. Hezekiah Dimka.
Dimka, in a telephone interview, confirmed the arrest of seven persons and added that, �the police were on top of the development in the area.�
Meanwhile, the President of the Movement of the Ijaw International, Mr. Andrew Ekiokenigha, said that the Federal Government and the oil companies must show greater commitment to the development of the Niger Delta.
Ekiokenigba, who spoke with our correspondent in Yenagoa on Thursday, said this would curb hostage taking and militancy in the oil-rich region.
He also said most of the youths involved in militancy, hostage taking, restiveness and pipeline vandalism were qualified graduates without jobs. He urged the government and the multinational oil firms to employ people from the region.

Nigeria: Oil Spill Destroys Ekpan Fish Farm – 6,000 Farmers Affected
Wednesday 04-Aug-2010
Warri – Oil spills allegedly oozing from a sunken tug boat at the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) jetty, may have destroyed the biggest fish pond in Delta State with an estimated 100 million worth of fish affected as a result of the pollution.
Some of the farmers operating the farm have lamented their loss which they claimed affected 2,000 fish ponds.
Delta State Commissioner for Environment, Bello Orubebe, who visited the farm recently, declared the area, which includes Ugboroke, New Layout, Ekpan and Agadaga as a disaster zone as more than 6,000 fish have so far died with more on the verge of dying.
The commissioner ordered the immediate sale and consumption of fish from ponds not yet affected by the spill, pending a thorough laboratory results, saying that government was shocked by the incident.
Orubebe said: “The governor expressed shock over the incident lamenting that hard working Deltans are being plunged into poverty. He is on top of the matter; he commiserates with you over this loss. Meanwhile, don’t sell these polluted fish, they are contaminated, they now contain bio-degradable content which is harmful.
“From my preliminary view of the substance, the pollutant is a petroleum substance; the total result will be released after a laboratory test. Our concern is to get the polluters to pay; we will work with other agencies. I have seen the source of the pollution at Chevron yard, the annoying thing is that they have not condoned the area. I will give them 48 hours to come out with a remedial plan and adequate compensation, they cannot avoid their responsibility.”
He also disclosed that over 6,000 farmers are affected and expressed the need for a proper documentation of the exact numbers of farmers affected but promised that his ministry would in conjunction with other agencies carry out examination to ascertain whether the remaining fish could be sold to avoid a “colossal loss.” The president of the Ekpan, Uvwie Fish Farmers Association, Mr. Rufus Ekwale, who conducted our correspondent around the fish pond, said their ordeal began last week, when they started noticing shining oily substances in the ponds.
According to him, further investigation revealed that a sunken tug boat allegedly belonging to the American oil giant, was emitting substances suspected to be diesel into the Ekpan river, being their main supply of water to the fish ponds.
Ekwale said they immediately dispatched letters to the Chevron management, the state governor, the Commissioner for Environment and the Delta State Environmental Protection Agency (DELSEPA) and other relevant agencies in the state.
“As I speak to you now, no response has come from Chevron management but today Wednesday the commissioner for Environment was here personally to conduct some tests and went as far as visiting the source of the pollution and even issued a press statement,” he lamented to reporters.
Consequently, Chevron who they said was responsible for the spill, has not sent any representative to the farmers, who said they have lost million of naira to the spillage, lamenting that they borrowed money to start the fish business.
According to him, though the actual estimate of fish lost so far to the oil spillage cannot be ascertained, he said investigations were ongoing and called on the government to come to their aid.
Corroborating, Chairman Board of Trustees of Ufuoma United Farm, Ekpan, Chief Joshua Ughere, appealed to government and multi-national companies doing businesses in the state to solution to the problem.
“We are calling on the government and multinational agencies to come to our aide; we borrowed monies to start this business but now all our fish are gone. The pollution started last week, now it has spread all over the ponds. If we are not helped we will run out of business.”

Themes derived in this poem
 Bribery and corruption in an oil producing town in a city of a state of a country.
 Embezzlement and Misappropriation of public fund
 Greed, money and power.
 Dictatorship.
 Suffering and torture.
 Untold stories, pains, disaster, lose and separation.
 No accounts of checks and balances.
 No protection of human rights
 No protection of lives and properties.
 Kidnapping.
 Opposition of power and government.
 Betrayal of trust
 Misunderstanding and conflict between the old, young, leaders and followers alike.
 Raping and stealing.
 Difficulties, hatred, problems and inhibitions.
 Man slaughter.
 Weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 Lose of lives, properties and valuables.
 Ammunitions and sophisticated weapons of war.
 Death of the innocent.
 Widows and orphans.
 Lose of loved ones and cherished ones.
 Man inhumanity to man.
 Violation of fundamental human rights.
 Disobedience to constituted authorities.
 Loving evil rather than good.
 Destruction and calamity.
 Injustice and immorality.
 Oppression and killing
 Hypocrisy
 Self-exile
 Discrimination and dehumanization.
 Political oppression.
 Friendship and betrayer
 Violence.

Proverbs14:12 states clearly that “there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof are ways of death” so most times I ask myself several questions like ‘are they living and loving the world?’ Are they allowing the world to live through them? Are they pursing power, position, wealth, fame and success by all means and by any means? Are they compromising in order to get what they want? Who are they covenanted and connected to? What and who is the power behind them? Are they moving with the crowds and not with the clouds? What kind of lifestyle are they displaying and living? What gets their attention? On what do they spend their time, talent, interest and money on? Who is at the centre of all these?
And I strongly believe that the answer to all these questions will tell me where there final destination at the end of their lives. But the fact and the truth of all these is that if Jesus is not at the centre of it all, it means the centre cannot hold and it will come crumbling down one day. Apart from Christ Jesus, we are helpless and sinful- Psalm 51:5 says “we are all born in sin” which means we are all are sinners from birth, sinful from when our mother conceive us. But we cannot remain it because if we continue to live in sin is bondage and alienation from God. – 2 Peter 2:19.
These people fail to ask themselves that if they die instantly, where they will spend eternity in. And none is thinking about death or dying and they don’t even think of death to be anything but they know they will all die someday without considering their soul.

Below here is something similar to the poem above.

Nightfall in Soweto by John Pepper Clark
Nightfall comes like a dreaded disease
Seeping through the pores
Of a healthy body
And ravaging it beyond repair.

A murderer’s hand
Lurking in the shadows,
Clasping the dagger
Strikes down the helpless victim
I am the victim.

I am slaughtered every night in the streets
I am cornered by the fear
Gnawing at my timid heart;
In my helplessness I languish.

Man has ceased to be man
Man has become beast
Man has become prey.

I am the quarry to be run down
By the marauding beast let loose
By cruel nightfall from his cage of death.

Where is my refuge?
Where am I safe?
Not in my matchbox house
Where I barricade myself against nightfall

I tremble at his crunching footsteps,
I quake at his deafening knock at the door
Open Up! He barks like a rabid dog.

Nightfall Nightfall!
Why were you ever created?
Why can’t it be daytime?
Daytime forever more?
A poem I discovered and it’s a brilliant poem and I’ve already memorized it off by heart! Its so heartfelt and dramatic, it has a lot of imagery and has a story behind it about a black man living in a shanty town fearing dark. Nightfall is like a representation of all the evil bad things that come out at night. It really puts you into the heart and soul those who had to deal with the terrors of poverty and oppression under Apartheid.
The Soweto uprising or Soweto riots
The Soweto uprising or Soweto riots were a series of clashes in Soweto, South Africa on June 16, 1976 between black youths and the South African authorities. The riots grew out of protests against the policies of the National Party government and its apartheid regime. 23 people were killed on the first day including several teenager Blacks. The riots continued and resulted in the deaths of 566 people, mostly Black, until the end of the year. Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial was later set up in Orlando West in the memory of the 12 year old Black boy who was one of the first victims of police shots.
June 16 is now celebrated in South Africa as Youth Day. Another June 16th has just passed and is still coming again and we are joining and our brothers in South Africa in celeberating the lives of the children who died while fighting against apartheid in Soweto. It is African’s children’s day! Do you know that one time in South Africa, it was not easy to walk through their streets if you have a black skin? The cost of freedom is not cheap at all! On this faithful day, 16th June 1976, children and youths took to the streets in Soweto. They were protesting against the wrong treatment. They wanted better education: the police responded with teargas and live bullets and so many of them died.
Roots of the uprising
The origin of the protests are traced back to 1949 and the Eiselen Commission’s inquiry into the edification of non-whites. The commission recommended drastic changes, which were implemented through the Bantu Education Act of 1953. The legislation caused many mission schools, through which the majority of black children were educated, to lose government aid and close. Funding for black schools was drawn from taxes paid by black people, who were generally impoverished. The result was a very uneven distribution of teaching resources in black and white schools.
Similarly, the Coloured Person’s Education Act of 1963 made coloured education the responsibility of the Department of Coloured Affairs and barred coloured children from white schools. In 1965 the Indian Education Act consigned Indian education to the Department of Indian Affairs.
The funding available for Bantu education was diverted to building schools in Bantustans between 1962 and 1971, and no new schools were constructed in urban areas for non-white students during this time. In 1972 the state committed itself to generating better qualified labourers by improving the education system and between 1972 and 1976 forty new schools were built in Soweto. The learning population in the township multiplied threefold, but still only one in five Soweto children attended schools.
Causes of the protests
Black students in Soweto protested against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974 which forced all black schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50-50 mix as languages of instruction. The Regional Director of Bantu Education (Northern Transvaal Region), J.G. Erasmus, told Circuit Inspectors and Principals of Schools that from January 1, 1975, Afrikaans had to be used for mathematics, arithmetic, and social studies from standard five (7th grade), according to the Afrikaans Medium Decree; English would be the medium of instruction for general science and practical subjects (homecraft, needlework, woodwork, metalwork, art, agricultural science). Indigenous languages would be used for religion instruction, music, and physical culture.
A 1972 poll had found that 98% of young Sowetans did not want to be taught in Afrikaans. The association of Afrikaans with apartheid prompted black South Africans to prefer English. Even the homelands regimes chose English and an indigenous African language as official languages. In addition, English was gaining prominence as the language most often used in commerce and industry. The 1974 decree was intended to forcibly reverse the decline of Afrikaans among black Africans. The Afrikaner-dominated government used the clause of the 1909 Constitution that recognized only English and Afrikaans as official languages as pretext to do so. While all schools had to provide instruction in both Afrikaans and English as languages, white students learned other subjects in their home language.
Punt Janson, the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education at the time, was quoted as saying: “I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I’m not going to. An African might find that ‘the grootbaas’ only spoke Afrikaans or only spoke English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages”‘.
The decree was resented deeply by blacks as Afrikaans was widely viewed, in the words of Desmond Tutu, then Dean of Johannesburg as “the language of the oppressor”. Teacher organizations such as the African Teachers Association of South Africa objected to the decree.
The resentment grew until April 30, 1976, when children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike, refusing to go to school. Their rebellion then spread to many other schools in Soweto. A student from Morris Isaacson High School, Teboho ‘Tsietsi’ Mashinini, proposed a meeting on June 13, 1976, to discuss what should be done. Students formed an Action Committee (later known as the Soweto Students’ Representative Council) that organized a mass rally for June 16 to make themselves heard.
In a BBC/SABC documentary broadcast for the first time in June 2006, surviving leaders of the uprising described how they planned in secret for the demonstration, surprising their teachers and families (and the apartheid police) with the power and strength of the demonstration (see ‘Radio’ section below).
The uprising
On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of black students walked from their schools to Orlando Stadium for a rally to protest against having to learn through Afrikaans in school. Many students who later participated in the protest arrived at school that morning without prior knowledge of the protest, yet agreed to become involved. The protest was intended to be peaceful and had been carefully planned by the Soweto Students’ Representative Council’s (SSRC) Action Committee, with support from the wider Black Consciousness Movement. Teachers in Soweto also supported the march after the Action Committee emphasized good discipline and peaceful action.
Tsietsi Mashininini led students from Morris Isaacson High School to join up with others who walked from Naledi High School. The students began the march only to find out that police had barricaded the road along their intended route. The leader of the action committee asked the crowd not to provoke the police and the march continued on another route, eventually ending up near Orlando High School. The crowd of between 3,000 and 10,000 students made their way towards the area of the school. Students sang and wove placards with slogans such as, “Down with Afrikaans”, “Viva Azania” and “If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu”.

A 2006 BBC/SABC documentary corroborated the testimony of Colonel Kleingeld, the police officer who fired the first shot, with eyewitness accounts from both sides. In Kleingeld’s account, some of the children started throwing stones as soon as they spotted the police patrol, while others continued to march peacefully. Colonel Kleingeld, drew his handgun and fired a shot, causing panic and chaos. Students started screaming and running and more gunshots were fired.
The rioting continued and 23 people, including two white people, died on the first day in Soweto. Among them was Dr Melville Edelstein, who had devoted his life to social welfare among blacks. He was stoned to death by the mob and left with a sign around his neck proclaiming ‘Beware Afrikaaners’ (sic).
The violence escalated as the students panicked; bottle stores and beerhalls were targeted. The violence abated by nightfall. Police vans and armoured vehicles patrolled the streets throughout the night.
Emergency clinics were swamped with injured and bloody children. It is not known how many injured children sustained bullet wounds because doctors refused to collect such details for fear that police would target the families of such children. In many cases bullet wounds were indicated on hospital records as abscesses.
Emotions ran high after the massacre on June 16. Hostility between students and the police was intense, with officers shooting at random and more people joining the protesters. The township youth had been frustrated and angry for a long time and the riots became the opportunity to bring to light their grievances.
The 1,500 heavily armed police officers deployed to Soweto on June 17 carried weapons including automatic rifles, stun guns, and carbines. They drove around in armoured vehicles with helicopters monitoring the area from the sky. The South African Army was also order on standby as a tactical measure to show military force. Crowd control methods used by South African police at the time included mainly dispersement techniques, and many of the officers shot indiscriminately, killing many people.
Casualties
The accounts of how many people died vary from 200 to 600, with Reuters news agency currently reporting there were “more than 500” fatalities in the 1976 riots . The original government figure claimed only 23 students were killed. The number of wounded was estimated to be over a thousand men, women, and children[
Political context
The repression of the African National Congress and its allies in the 1960s following the Rivonia Trial and the unsuccessful intervention in Zimbabwe’s liberation war led to a brief period of relative internal peace in South Africa, but by the mid 1970s the victories of the MPLA and Frelimo in Angola and Mozambique showed that white colonialists could be beaten by military force and at the same time a new Black Consciousness Movement was giving new confidence to young blacks. In this context the Afrikaans issue was, in the view of many participants in the uprising, merely the spark that set the tinder alight – young blacks were looking for the issue over which to confront the apartheid state.
The political context cannot be properly understood unless one places it in a regional setting. The Cold War had resulted in a number of local proxy wars when the various liberation struggles became linked with the global power balance between the USA and the USSR. In this regard Southern Africa was a local theatre of the Cold War. The perceived victory of the liberation forces in neighbouring Mozambique thus provided a trigger for the South African youth to take to the streets.
After the uprising, the African National Congress (which had been rebuilding its underground organization in the country) was quick to offer the young militants an opportunity to receive military training and the ANC also rapidly sought to provide a political focus to the rioting by distributing leaflets calling for the overthrow of the apartheid regime and the freedom of Nelson Mandela. By November 1976 Murphy Morobe, one of the original leaders of the student revolt was back in Soweto, having received military training, attempting to build a cell of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC’s military wing
Aftermath
The aftermath of the uprising established the leading role of the ANC in the liberation struggle, as it was the body best able to channel and organize students seeking the overthrow of apartheid. So, although the BCM’s ideas had been important in creating the climate that gave the students the confidence to strike out, it was the ANC’s non-racialism which came to dominate the discourse of liberation amongst blacks. The perspectives set out in Joe Slovo’s essay No Middle Road – written at just this time and predicting the apartheid regime had only the choice between more repression and overthrow by the revolutionaries – were highly influential.
The Soweto Uprising was a turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa. Prior to this event, the liberation struggle was being fought outside of South Africa, mostly in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), South West Africa (later Namibia) and Angola. But from this moment onwards, the struggle became internal and the government security forces were split between external operations and internal operations.
The clashes also occurred at a time when the South African Government was being forced to “transform” apartheid in international eyes towards a more “benign” form. In October 1976, Transkei, the first Bantustan, was proclaimed “independent” by the South African Government. This attempt to showcase supposed South African “commitment” to self-determination backfired, however, when Transkei was internationally derided as a puppet state.
For the state the uprising marked the most fundamental challenge yet to apartheid and the economic (see below) and political instability it caused was heightened by the strengthening international boycott. It was a further 14 years before Mandela was released, but at no point was the state able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s as black resistance grew.
Many white South African citizens were outraged at the government’s actions in Soweto, and about 300 white students from the University of the Witwatersrand marched through Johannesburg’s city centre in protest of the killing of children. Black workers went on strike as well and joined them as the campaign progressed. Riots also broke out in the black townships of other cities in South Africa.
Student organizations directed the energy and anger of the youth toward political resistance. Students in Thembisa organized a successful and non-violent solidarity march, but a similar protest held in Kagiso led to police stopping a group of participants and forcing them to retreat, before killing at least five people while waiting for reinforcements. The violence only died down on June 18. The University of Zululand’s records and administration buildings were set ablaze, and 33 people died in incidents in Port Elizabeth in August. In Cape Town 92 people died between August and September.
Most of the bloodshed had abated by the close of 1976, but by that time the death toll stood at more than 600.
The continued clashes in Soweto caused economic instability. The South African rand devalued fast and the government was plunged into a crisis.
The African National Congress printed and distributed leaflets with the slogan “Free Mandela, Hang Voster”, immediately linking the language issue to its revolutionary heritage and programme and helping establish its leading role (see Barush Hirson’s “Year of Fire, Year of Ash” for a discussion of the ANC’s ability to channel and direct the popular anger).
International reaction
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 392 strongly condemned the incident and the apartheid regime.
Henry Kissinger, United States Secretary of State at the time, was about to visit South Africa at the time of the riot, and said that the uprisings cast a negative light on the entire country.
African National Congress (ANC) exiles called for international action and more economic sanctions against South Africa.
In the media
Images of the riots spread all over the world, shocking millions. The photograph of Hector Pieterson’s dead body, as captured by photo-journalist Sam Nzima, caused outrage and brought down international condemnation on the Apartheid government.
The Soweto riots are depicted in the 1987 film by director Richard Attenborough, Cry Freedom, and in the 1992 musical film Sarafina!. The riots also inspired a novel by Andre Brink called A Dry White Season, and a 1989 movie of the same title. In the 2003 film Stander, the Soweto riots start Captain Andre Stander’s disillusionment with apartheid, and he seeks forgiveness from the father of a protesting student he killed.
Radio
Twenty years on from the uprising, in June 1996, the Ulwazi Educational Radio Project of Johannesburg compiled an hour-long radio documentary portraying the events of June 16 entirely from the perspective of people living in Soweto at the time. Many of the students who planned or joined the uprising took part, as did other witnesses including photographer Peter Magubane, reporter Sophie Tema, and Tim Wilson the white doctor who pronounced Hector Pieterson dead in Baragwanath hospital. The programme was broadcast on SABC and on a number of local radio stations throughout South Africa. The following year, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service broadcast a revised version containing fresh interviews and entitled The Day Apartheid Died. The programme was runner-up at the 1998 European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) TV & Radio Awards and also at the 1998 Media Awards of the One World International Broadcasting Trust, and was highly commended at the 1998 Prix Italia radio awards. In May 1999, it was re-broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as The Death of Apartheid with a fresh introduction, providing added historical context for a British audience, by Anthony Sampson, former editor of Drum magazine and author of the authorised biography (1999) of Nelson Mandela. Sampson linked extracts from the BBC Sound Archive that charted the long struggle against apartheid from the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, through the riots of 1976 and the murder of Steve Biko, and right up to Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and the future president’s speech in which he acknowledged the debt owed by all black South Africans to the students who gave their lives in Soweto on 16 June 1976.

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