Israel helps former Nigerian rebels trade weapons for land
After fighting big oil, ex-rebels from the Niger Delta of Nigeria have chosen to put down their weapons. Some 20,000 of them, men and women, have been granted amnesty by their government along with free land for developing agriculture.
But people who have long known only conflict and guns don’t remember how to till the soil, raise chickens or milk cows. This is where an Israel management non-profit has stepped in.
For the second time this year, the Galilee International Management Institute has opened its doors to ex-militants from Nigeria. Twenty-three arrived recently for a one-month training course as a group of 30 were heading back home, taking with them Israeli farming and agricultural expertise. The training included hands-on experience working the land, but also courses on basic farm management and business skills.
According to Joseph Shevel, president of the Galilee Institute, Israel was singled out as a successful training ground after Nigeria had sent various other groups to several countries this summer in a pilot program.
It’s not the first time Nigerians have trained in Israel. Shevel says that they’ve been coming for nearly 20 years, since Israel renewed its diplomatic ties with Nigeria in 1992. But the institute never before trained ex-rebels.
“The Nigerians’ land was taken from them by oil companies,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “Nobody cared about them. [The oil companies] kicked out the local farmers and the local farmers started to fight.” The uprising had global consequences. Whenever a rebel would blow up an oil pipeline, world oil prices would rise, says Shevel, who expects 500 more trainees in Israel next year.
Amnesty International is funding the rehabilitation of these former farmers.