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Environment

Nigeria's Calamities

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 18, 2010 11:38 PM

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Last week, there was a horrifying story out of Nigeria, in which

the attackers set upon the villagers with machetes, killing women and children in their homes and ensnaring the men who tried to flee in fishnets and animal traps, then massacring them, according to a Nigerian rights group whose investigators went to the area. Some homes were set on fire.

It was the latest, tragic episode of an ongoing vendetta between Muslims and Christians in Jos, Nigeria. Today, a NYT op-ed by a Nigerian journalist puts this incident in a larger perspective. The picture that unfolds in the op-ed crystallizes--at least to me--the kind of complexity that must bedevil environmental security scholars. For example, here's the writer, exhibiting a weary, almost anesthesticized view of the normalized disorder in Nigeria:

But even if we decided to make more of a big deal out of our calamities, Jos, terrible as what happened there was, would have to patiently wait its turn. While ethno-religious violence takes place in Jos, people in Ebonyi State, who speak the same language and share the same religion, are massacring one another over natural resources. Disgruntled militants in the Niger Delta are threatening to cripple the economy by vandalizing more petroleum pipelines. Politicians are assassinated regularly in the western states; the elderly fathers and mothers of prosperous children are kidnapped and held for ransom in the east. And we know it's just a matter of time before riots between Muslims and Christians break out again up north.

That's a hell of knot for anyone to untie, especially environmental security experts, who examine the linkages between conflict and natural resources, among other socio/political factors. So I'm wondering if someone like Geoff Dabelko at the Woodrow Wilson Center, or anyone from the Center for for a New American Security (they have a program called Natural Security), could provide a a big-picture, environmental security perspective of Nigeria. Is there one overriding resource issue that runs through all the country's aforementioned crisises? I'm not even sure what natural resources the people in Ebonyi State are killing each other over. You can start by explaining that one, then perhaps help me make sense of the whole, if that's possible. I guess what I getting at here is that Nigeria--judging by that snapshot above--is obviously beset by a number of seemingly unrelated "calamities." Still, separate natural resource conflicts appear to be a common denominator. So if you're an environmental security expert, do you approach these cases individually, or is there one meta issue that must be tackled above all, before all the crisises metastasize beyond repair?

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