"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


off the mend

This is not good:
A militant group in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta says it is ending the ceasefire it declared last October.

Jomo Gbomo, who said he was a spokesman for the group Mend, said it did not believe the government would restore control of resources to local people.

Mend has demanded that residents be given a greater share in profits from oil resources and land.

It warned oil companies to prepare for what it called an all-out onslaught against installations and personnel.

Analysts say it is not yet clear if this statement comes from the whole of Mend - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - or just a faction that did not accept the offer of an amnesty from President Umaru Yar Adua.
Let's set aside for a second the question of whether President Yar'Adua is in any condition to guarantee amnesty offers. The fact is, the amnesty doesn't solve the real issue underlying MEND's militancy. There's a reason that MEND is active; the people of Nigeria's delta region have suffered horrific environmental devastation while seeing very few material benefits from the exploitation of their land. Part of this is the oil companies' fault, but the biggest issue is corruption by federal and regional leaders who siphon off oil money that is supposed to be for the public benefit.

Given the low-intensity, anti-oil company violence that began in the delta nearly twenty years ago, it's not surprising that a militant organization would eventually form as a result of those grievances. (It's also not surprising that they would get involved in banditry-style piracy, but that's another post.)

Does having a sense of why MEND exists excuse their methods? Of course not. They commit horrible crimes. But until the solution matches the problem - that is, until the people of the delta get more than a pittance of the profits from the oil - they're unlikely to stop.


Anonymous maji said...

I'm not fully convinced by the interpretation that usually is given about MEND and the oil conflict in Niger Delta region.
Of course a better distribution of the oil revenues and an increased democracy and participation in that area would help to solve many problems.
And, by the way, a less disruptive intervention operated by foreign oil companies would definitely give peace to Nigeria. (and a better environment too)
But on the other side we should also keep in mind that MEND and all the other groups that are operating in Niger Delta now (and in the past) have a lot of responsabilities.
Lack of strategy, most of the time these groups are guided by simple greed and struggle for power, they are ethnically motivated (Ijaws against Yorubas
and Hausas the two largest groups in Nigeria): what they do better is bunkering (breaking pipelines to steal the oil) and kidnapping.
This will not help neither the peace process, neither the environment.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010 5:25:00 PM

Anonymous Andrew said...

This is a sad commentary on how much oil means to 3rd world countries. Well know that I think about it to every country including the US. At least when a proper government is in place the corruption is kept to a minimum. In the middle east and africa they leave the door wide open for this kind of thing...

Thursday, February 04, 2010 10:06:00 AM


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