27 September 2008

Terrible coverage

Recent coverage of the situation in the Niger Delta has been particularly lacking.

On September 25th, the BBC published an article on its website claiming a mass arrest of over 200 militants. The article has no author and the only source is the "military commander in Rivers state." There are no photos, no request for a response from militant spokespeople, nothing.

In response to this rumor, nigerdeltaunrest asked MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo to verify or deny the BBC's claims. He responded by saying, "it is one big lie!" He went on to say, "MEND is disappointed that the BBC would report a one sided story of an event that has two sides in the conflict. They [the BBC] have access to us through this medium so we are surprised they chose not to."

We also pressed Mr. Gbomo for a response to yet more rumors that the Nigerian military is building up arms for an imminent attack on militant positions. Here is his response from earlier today:

"We do not believe that story about the military amassing helicopters and gunboats for an invasion. It is a joke over here for us. What makes the military believe that an oil war can be won by such conventional methods that did not work for the Americans in Vietnam or Somalia. We do not have fixed positions the way the Germans had in Normandy and besides the only way mosquitoes can be eradicated is by chemical weapons and this they can not use. We are mosquitoes."

19 September 2008

MEND to begin documenting activities

"Hurricane Barbarossa" as the MEND calls its recent wave of intense attacks on oil and military installations--in response to recent repressive government incursions in creek communities--has proven once again that there is no coherent system for visually documenting the human rights abuses in the Niger Delta.

It seems that the MEND has finally come around to recognize the importance of images as part of their larger struggle. As an excerpt from a recent communique states:

"If the Nigerian military is confident of its capabilities, let them be bold to take journalists and photographers to Orubiri to assess by themselves the aftermath of Barbarossa. We will henceforth begin documenting our raids by providing digital cameras and camcorders for each fighting unit."

This is good news for all of us who, in solidarity, wish to show the world the consequences of allowing the current government-industry cabal in Nigeria to operate unseen and unchecked.

11 September 2008

Not another ministry

On Wednesday, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua announced plans for the creation of a ministry dedicated solely to the Niger Delta that will focus on development and youth empowerment. This move comes amid a wholesale restructuring of the governments federal ministries and on the heels of the announcement of a 40 member panel, the so-called "Niger Delta Peace Committee," to begin a "dialogue" about how to resolve the conflict in the area. These two new revelations have risen out of the ashes of the failed Niger Delta Summit, which was roundly criticized and ultimately scrapped over the summer.

What is the government playing at here? The names have changed but the insincerity remains. Layering more levels of bureaucracy on top of a nearly incomprehensible system of existing commissions, development entitities, and so on, is absurd. If pre-existing entities like the NDDC don't work, and this is the message from Abuja when they anounce plans to create redundant structures, why do they still exist? In its attempt to appear concerned and keep busy on the issues of the Niger Delta, the Nigerian government has once again come off looking foolish.

05 September 2008

MEND statement regarding the Niger Delta Peace Commitee

Issued on Friday, September 5th, 2008, by Jomo Gbomo

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) considers the 40-man Niger Delta Peace Committee which is scheduled to be inaugurated in Abuja on Monday, September 8, 2008 as the appetizer on the menu of another banquet of deceit orchestrated by an insincere government to give it a semblance of integrity.

Without the release of Henry Okah, no right thinking militant that has evaded capture can trust that the government wants genuine peace. Treating those in its custody differently from those that are in the creek is sheer hypocrisy. Henry Okah must be a part of the process and not an agenda for debate.

MEND therefore dissociates itself from this peace committee and can assure them that without putting the horse before the cart, they are bound to fail as the Gambari led one before it. Peace in the Niger Delta will be determined from the mangrove creeks and not from air-conditioned rooms in Abuja.