The case of Rumuekpe Community (Rivers State) narrates the human consequences of oil exploration and weak governance. Rumuekpe typifies a modern conflict zone, with repeating cycles of criminal and political violence. In order to break these cycles, community resilience needs to be built and faith must be restored in government and institutions. SDN facilitated the capacity building process and dialogue between various community factions. We also invested time in supporting community members to create a collective vision of peace and development as a necessary prerequisite to strengthened governance and reduced instability.
Contemporary conflicts are characterized by on-going repeated incidences of violence, calling for greater diplomacy to mediate disputes and a holistic approach that addresses their root causes. Rumuekpe community in Rivers State is just one of many communities across the Niger Delta region that suffered from the consequences of deadly conflict caused by poor governance and oil exploration that neglects basic human rights. Repeating eruptions of violence in the region can have local and regional repercussions, destroying livelihoods, increasing the instability of the most populous African country and West Africa region and costing global oil consumers of oil billions in increased prices, among others.
Restoring faith in collective action is crucial to building faith in institutions, which, once strengthened can better prevent these cycles of conflict. SDN’s peacebuilding efforts in Rumuekpe were designed to facilitate dialogue and discussion, enabling the community to witness the benefits of working together.
SDN established a community forum in which security issues could be discussed. Participation was broad-based, including armed groups, police and oil companies. SDN included all relevant stakeholders, by fostering dialogue, violent relationships could be transformed into peaceful and communicative ones. This collaborative effort was able to develop an action plan for community improvements.
By engaging the differing stakeholders in conversation, greater achievements were made for the development of the community. Demonstrating citizens the successes of dialogue over conflict in securing community improvements.
Following negotiations, the Total oil company agreed to the sponsorship of a local primary school, as well as committing to the skills- training of 27 people, 5 of whom are gang members. Additionally, merit-based scholarships were to be given to students, also funded by Total. It was agreed that local contracts were to be given to qualified local contractors for construction and rebuilding in the community.