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THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN FEMALE COMBATANTS IN OPERATION: A CASE STUDY OF THE NIGER DELTA CRISIS
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The incidence of female combatants in Africa is a recurrent decimal. This problem has really pre-occupied not only scholars of strategic persuasion, but also in the violence and peace studies and those in the humanitarian scholarship have also not been left out. This is because of the numerous effects and the problems it posits for both local and international peace especially the psychological and traumatizing multiplier effects it has on the domestic social space. Although, the concept of female combatants is being confronted with serious theoretical and conceptual clarification, what is vivid is that, Africa’s experience presents a case and picture of irregularities and conventionalism ( Aghfer, 2010:23).
Females make up almost several thousands of those recruited for wars. The internecine wars in Africa and the numerous conflicts of different dimensions and colourations on the continent have given rise to the crisis of female combatants. The child- soldier syndrome (Amadu, S and Wale,I, 2003:137-166) in Africa was not exclusive of the great percentage of the females who served in the different categories of the wars. For instance, girls make up of almost half of the 300,000 children involved in wars in Africa (Geoffrey, 2010:11). Research has shown that girls are used extensively in combat in a wide range of international conflicts. In some cases by groups who have had the support of Britain and the United States. Among countries involved are Colombia, Pakistan, and Uganda in Africa, the Philippines and Democratic Republic of Congo, also in Africa. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there were up to 12, 500 girls in armed groups. In Sri Lanka, 43 per cent of 51,000 of children are
girls. (Richard, 2009:218). The point here is that the problem of female combatant is not peculiar to Africa, though the worst examples are being experienced in Africa.
The percentages of the girls in the areas cited above are just extracts of the total percentage of the female soldiers in wars in Africa. However scholars have looked at this issues form different dimensions. Paradoxically, despite the contributions to warfare by female combatants, they continue to be seen but not heard. Their roles are usually in the area of logistics and administration at the point of recruitment but they find themselves in real combat when the need arise.
The Niger Delta crisis have been explained from different dimensions ( Samuel , I: 2009), Suberu, L: 2010), Akanni, J: 2011), Eghosa, L:2012} the crisis of female combatant remains highly inexhaustive. Celestine, B, (2010) and Angela, F(2011) have both looked at the issues of girls used as spies by the Niger Delta militants but the issue of the females as combatants in the Niger Delta being used in all the ramifications of war and the subsequent effects of this on post violence Niger Delta is largely neglected. In fact, the amnesty and rehabilitation programmes of President Yar’adua even failed to address the total realities of the female combatants. Vividly capturing this position was Bubaraji, J (2011:45) who was of the opinion that the programmes of rehabilitation of President Yar’adua mentioned nothing about the females who took part in the crisis but only the male combatants are adequately catered for in the programme.
This position partly informs the dimensions of this work and seeks to establish that female combatants were actively involved in the Niger Delta crisis and that their roles in the Niger Delta crisis were of combat nature alongside their male counterparts. There is also the need to establish the fact that they were not rehabilitated in the post crisis amnesty programme and
this neglect has led to negative effects especially on the female combatants and by extension on the society.
It should be stressed that the idea of female combatants in this context is understood from the perspective of female mercenaries either forced or engaged to fight wars on behalf of a group, interest or for other reasons peculiar or distant from direct concern of the mercenaries but which the female mercenaries are directly or indirectly committed to. The regular female combatants in the National armies are not part of this category. Although, the idea of female combatants is not alien to the traditional African setting but the difference is the degree and dimensions of the trans-national colouration it has assumed. In the pre-colonial African setting especially in the Yorubaland, in Nigeria, male and female mercenaries are engaged to fight on behalf of empires and kingdoms. Often times, their support are enlisted when necessary because of their identified prowess and abilities not necessarily for financial benefits but for some other social and political reasons (Ayinla, 2004:118) the required recognition and pride of place that the female combatants are supposed to enjoy is always lacking despite their prowess.
The contemporary situation especially in the Niger Delta was largely directed towards pecuniary benefits and primordial sentiments (Eghosa, 2007:12) but more essentially by seeming patriotic commitment to the emancipation of the Niger Delta environment. This work is essentially located partly within the vortex of the contemporary realities and the conditions of the engagements of the female combatants in the Niger Delta. The nature of the contemporary problems of violence and the degree of the engagement of these combatants also partly underscore the availability of the female recruits into electoral crimes and mayhem in the Niger Delta. Convincingly, Jinadu Adele(2009) got this situation more clearly when he posited that the rate at which women are being used in the Niger Delta environment for
stealing of votes, assassination and for all forms of crimes explains the reality of the need to properly engage and rehabilitate these women. Their responses to crimes and modus operandi do not only send jitters but also tells a deep story of a trained and fearless group that could be used for violence and war any day.
This position informs the relative significance of the women combatants in the Niger Delta conflicts and why it is worth this intellectual investigation. By focusing on the roles of the female combatants in the Niger Delta and the role of the domestic factor that has thrown up this class; it underscores a bottom-up rather than the realist top-down analysis of national security formulae. This is because of the nature of the recruitment of these combatants, the nature and period of training and the responsibilities of being a combatant.