When Local Law Impedes Conflict Resolution: Women's Oil Protests in the Niger Delta
African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, vol. 10 #1 (March 2020, Forthcoming)
29 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 24, 2019
Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region hosts a long-standing conflict among residents, the government, and foreign oil companies operating in rural areas. Both peaceful and armed cadres of men have led mobilizations against extractive operations but then all-female demonstrations arose relatively suddenly, seemingly separate from men, starting in 2002. Based on qualitative field data, this ethnographic case study explores how women’s perceptions of law informed their decision to protest in response to their oil-related grievances from 2002-2012. It asks why women avoided the use of formal state law, remaining embedded in localized traditional law, for formal, rights-based legal matters. The main findings are that women see written law from the state as inherently good but corrupting individuals as the reason it cannot be galvanized for conflict resolution. They also perceive a binary between local and state law, with indigenous leaders acting as gatekeepers controlling access between the two legal planes. This study suggests that traditional law may impede women’s ability to resolve their oil-related problems in Nigeria.
Keywords: gender, social movement, law, Nigeria, natural resources
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