A Rumble in Warri

MEND rebels and hostages, Niger Delta, photo: Dulue Mbachu/ISN Security Watch

This blog is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

Monday morning, while sitting in my host office at the Institute for Dispute Resolution (IDR) – a NGO based in Ekpan, Nigeria (a community next to Warri) and headed by Innocent Adjenughure – a thunderous noise caught my attention. I paused as the word bomb came to mind. After all, I was sitting in the heart of the Niger Delta, where up until October 2009 when an amnesty deal was achieved, the resource rich region was wrought with militancy and criminality. The emergence of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a militant umbrella group, in 2005/6 introduced an intensified campaign of violence aimed largely at the country’s oil and gas sector that crippled production by as much as 30 percent.

So I waited and listened. In the absence of emergency sirens or some type of notification, I shrugged, passing it off as an approaching storm.

What I didn’t realize was that nearby the post-amnesty dialogue “Restoring Hope in the Niger Delta”, initiated by the Vanguard Newspaper in Nigeria and sponsored by the federal government and the nine states in the Niger Delta region, was kicking off at the Delta State Government Annex building in Warri. In fact, Innocent and I were scheduled to attend this meeting but mistakenly thought that the program began the following day. So as prominent government officials and stakeholders began to gather just before 11:00, the first of 2 car bombs, planted by MEND and parked on the street outside of the compound, were remotely detonated. Shortly after, the second bomb went off. By noon, participants were fleeing the area in panic, numbers were injured and at least two civilians were reportedly killed.


New ISN Partner: Centre for Security Economics and Technology (C SET)

Centre for Security Economics and Technology (C SET)

We are happy to announce that the Centre for Security Economics and Technology (C SET) has joined the ISN’s partner network.

C SET is based at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. It possesses considerable expertise regarding economic aspects of security and defence. At the interface of the state, the economy, and the military C SET provides a unique forum for interdisciplinary research, consulting, and education.

The Centre was founded in 2007 as a cooperative endeavor between the Federal Department of Defense Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) and the University of St. Gallen’s Institute for Political Science (IPW-HSG) under the direction of Professor James W. Davis, Ph.D.. C SET works in close cooperation with other research institutes of the University of St. Gallen including the Institute for Public Services and Tourism (IDT-HSG) and the Institute of Technology Management (TECTEM).

Welcome to the ISN, C SET!

Security Human Rights

Darfur: The Genocide Question

Burnt Huts in Darfur, Sudan, photo: Radio Nederland Wereldomroep/flickr

Back in November 2008, I wrote a commentary piece on the Darfur conflict for ISN Security Watch (Sudan: China is Key) with the phrase, “the incoming Obama administration can show its resolve to combat genocide.” I can no longer say with conviction that this loaded term is an appropriate description of what transpired in the region.

I have eschewed the label in my analytical reports ever since. All the same, the debate is an important one and warrants further scrutiny. It also highlights the intersection of politics and law in international criminal justice.

What transpired in Darfur, for the most part between 2003-2006, was certainly a grave humanitarian tragedy and an abhorrent counter-insurgency campaign, but did it amount to genocide?


ISN Weekly Theme: Challenging Education

Empty examination desks in Singapore, photo: Richard Lee/flickr

This week the ISN takes a closer look at education, society’s great equalizer. In today’s knowledge economies, education is receiving increasing attention, but are educational policies meeting the needs of our rapidly changing and highly heterogeneous societies? What does an appropriate and effective education in the 21st century even look like?

Our Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Jayne Brady examines the tendency for educational systems to put too much emphasis on English-language learning and on the universality of some educational standards. She calls for more focus on the local capacities and needs of developing countries in particular.
  • A Podcast with Dr Alison Wolf questions some of our core beliefs about education, including the link between education and economic success and the relative efficiency of private and public educational provision.
  • Security Watch stories on Brazil’s comprehensive national strategy that includes an educational focus, and the struggle for girl’s education in Afghanistan.
  • Publications covering the EU-Central Asia Education Initiative, India’s skills deficit, the status of religious coexistence and education in Bosnia and Herzegovina and many more.
  • Primary Resources, including President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech, which emphasized the need to transform education to meet the needs of a new age.
  • Links to relevant websites, including Liz Coleman’s TED talk on the need for radical reform in higher education.
  • Our IR Directory with relevant organizations, including the Civic Education Project and the EG West Centre.

“Okadas” – The Informal Nigerian Subway System


This blog post is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

Prior to arriving in Nigeria, I heard about ‘Okadas‘ which are 2-wheel and 3-wheel commercial motorcycles found throughout cities in Nigeria. In reading up on domestic travel options I found that Okadas were commonly described in a negative light – often associated with the words “dangerous” and “reckless”. However, as I entered Lagos and saw the densely populated metropolis in action I saw the Okada system first-hand, and overall I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Rather than view this system through a negative prism I saw another expression of African, and in this case Nigerian, societal ingenuity at work despite living in challenging conditions. In a land where the development of strong state institutions is constantly being challenged by corruption, which hinders the reliable delivery of public goods  (decent roads and public transportation), civil society emerges as the engine of service; utilizing creative solutions harvested from below that circumvent the restraints that come from above.

After spending a few days in Lagos, the significant role that Okadas play not only to mass city transit but also as a form of employment to many, mainly young males who operate as drivers became clear to me. Bikes are more affordable and fuel efficient than cars, which is important given that gasoline shortages are an all to common feature in Nigeria. Granted, locals will quickly note how Okada drivers tend to aggressively push through traffic, ignore signs and motorists, and often take chances that can lead to fatal accidents. In fact, looking around one can quickly see that most bikes operate without helmets. Regardless, many admitted to using and benefiting from the service- some more often than others. In one particular conversation, a Nigerian friend told me that while she does not normally use Okadas she revealed that when running late for a meeting she has found herself on the back of a bike, cutting through traffic in the hopes of reaching her destination both quickly and in one piece. I also spoke with a few Okada drivers who shared with me the sense of pride they had in both having wheels to get around and being able to use it as a source of income.