Amnesties for Peace in the Niger Delta: A Critical Assessment of Whether Forgiving Crimes of the Past Contributes to Lasting Peace
The idea that a government would pardon a group or a class of persons involved in politically motivated violence is not new. The earliest recorded amnesty dates back to 411 BC when the Athenian general and democratic leader Thrasybulus offered amnesty to the 30 tyrants he overthrew. Since then, amnesties have been applied to the Prussian War and the American Civil War, just to name a few. Despite a long history, amnesties remain controversial. The idea of pardoning those responsible for atrocities and destruction in exchange for peace and conflict resolution is not easily accepted. Yet, experts continue to argue that amnesties work. The two most symbolic amnesty programs in recent history are the 1995 Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in South Africa and the 2009 amnesty program in the Niger Delta. While much attention has focused on the South African case, there has been little systematic analysis of the Niger Delta amnesty program's effectiveness, implications, and sustainability. This study seeks to conduct an in-depth assessment of the Niger Delta's amnesty program to evaluate: -the essential conditions that enabled the amnesty and peace to endure over the last five years; -the level of inclusion in the amnesty program (over 20,000 pardons granted) and whether it correlates with the endurance of this particular political settlement; -the role of state and non-state armed groups, the private sector, and civil society; and, -the extent to which the amnesties were gender-inclusive. In addition, the research team will: -conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of the nature, drivers, and expressions of violent conflicts in the Niger Delta region; -assess the impacts that the amnesty program has had on conflict mitigation, peace-building, national stability, and the potential for conflict reoccurrence; -map out the experiences, challenges, and lessons facing the amnesty program as a form of political settlement in the Niger Delta; -evaluate the implications for sustainable peace and nation-building in Nigeria and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa; and, -assess the extent to which the amnesty program was inclusive, and whether this inclusiveness contributed to its durability. The Centre for Population and Environmental Development will implement the project. Researchers will apply a mixed methods approach, including gender and social analysis. The project will also offer an opportunity for junior researchers to strengthen their knowledge and skills.