SDN’s Samuel Agboola reports
October 16, 2014 marked the beginning of another small successful milestone for SDN in the ongoing journey towards a process of reconciliation and peace following the conflict in Rumuekpe.
Rumuekpe was rocked by inter-communal violence between 2005 and 2008, as armed gangs waged pitched battles over access to oil contracts and payments, which Shell distributed to whichever gang controlled access to its oil infrastructure. (Read a report on the conflict and its causes here).
During our meeting with the elders and some key community representatives in September it was unanimously agreed that SDN should mediate between two parties involved with the conflict and we were very happy to be able to assist.
The two parties chose SDN office as the venue of the meeting as it was deemed a neutral and safe space where security that was guaranteed and people could speak their minds freely and without prejudice. The ideas and solutions to the issues emanated from the parties while SDN only facilitated the process.
According to one of the elders, ‘We did not come for judgment today but to take our son back to the community.’ The ‘Son’ is a community member that was chased away from Rumuekpe during the conflict and is now looking to be reintegrated. The position of the elders was to ensure he is able to return to the community with them because they realise that they have lost many souls during the crises and cannot afford to lose anybody again.
But tensions and mistrust are still high, and people remain wary of each other. The meeting did not secure the return of the exiled community member at this time, but a step forward was made and further talks are planned between the two parties.
SDN engagement in the Rumuekpe peace process is slowly leading to gradual return of displaced persons, rebuilding of destroyed houses, construction of water supply facilities and efforts at return to normal life in the community with efforts to establish legitimate community governance structures.
But we are not there yet…