18 February 2009

Recent Attacks in Equatorial Guinea

Recent reports have claimed that gunmen from Nigeria sped into Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, and attacked the presidential palace. The government of EG seems committed to blaming Niger Delta-based "sea pirates." Spokesman for the MEND, the largest and best-equipped militant group in the Niger Delta denied involvement, saying, "we were not involved in trying to oust the despot." In a second communication, the spokesman said:

A Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) investigation has confirmed the Nigerian government as the brain behind the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 to install a dissident based in Spain as Head of State. Militants from the Bakassi axis who were recruited for the operation with monetary inducement has given us details of the state sponsored terrorism which involved the Ministry of Defense, National Security Adviser and the Presidency. The Eastern Naval Command Headquarters in Calabar, Cross Rivers state played a major role in the plot as liaison between the government and the Camp commander through a naval intelligence officer in the rank of a captain. The Navy and military Joint Task Force patrolling the area also ensured that the fighters left and entered Nigerian territorial waters unchallenged.

Since the MEND is the only group that might have the capability to make an attack so far from home, and their spokesman has denied involvement, it seems unlikely there was any involvement from Nigerian militants. When militants attacked an oil rig 70 miles offshore it spiked the price of oil tremendously because it showed a high level of capacity by militant factions. If, in fact, Nigerian groups are able and willing to attack a government installation hundreds of miles away, we should take serious heed. Nevertheless, without a plausible motive or tactical capacity, the attack seems unlikely to have come from Nigeria.

It seems more likely that there is some sort of insurgency afoot in Equatorial Guinea that the government would rather blame on foreign agitators than face publicly. The country has been under dictatorial rule for some time, and an argument for internal tension, and a government campaign of misinformation, seem much more plausible.

09 February 2009

Chevron is acting disgracefully

Chevron is apparently attempting to recover nearly $500,000 in expenses related to it's nearly ten year trial versus a group of Nigerian villagers who claimed the company colluded with the Nigerian military (read
SF Chronicle article).

The villagers thought the company should be held responsible for deaths and injuries sustained during a peaceful protest of an oil platform in the Niger Delta. Unfortunately, the judge didn't agree and Chevron was found not guilty. The decision is being appealed. More coverage of this situation is available on this blog and on the Internet.

Chevron made nearly $24 billion in profits last year. Why do they need to counter-sue villagers, most of whom make less than a dollar-a day? Clearly there is the intimidation factor--don't sue us or we'll sue you back.

Whatever the case, this disgraceful action is not constructive towards building peace and stability in a region that provides Chevron with so much of its bread. The arrogance of the company is really astonishing after barely repelling charges of collusion in murder; they can't leave well enough alone and have decided to strike at those simply seeking redress.

Coventry Report released

To download the full report by Canon Davis, click HERE

06 February 2009

Coventry Cathedral and Peace and Reconciliation in ND

Ahead of the forthcoming release of his organization’s formal report, Canon Stephen Davis of the Coventry Cathedral shared some of his thoughts on the possibilities of peace in the Niger Delta. Coventry Cathedral is one of the world’s oldest religious-based centers for reconciliation. The Cathedral has been extensively involved in Nigeria since 2002 when it played a key role in bringing about the Kaduna Peace Declaration which was signed by the most influential Muslim and Christian leaders in the State.

Here is what he said:

Any realistic attempts to deal constructively with the conflict in the Niger Delta must address the roots of conflict such as ethnic differences, poverty, high unemployment, corruption, revenue distribution and electoral malpractice.

Addressing the roots of conflict is not optional. It is critical to a sustained peace with justice in the Niger Delta.

Peace without justice is a temporary peace. It is merely a lull in the conflict, a prolonged cease-fire.
In the immediate to mid term corruption is the greatest challenge facing the Nigerian nation and one of the most critical issues where significant, clear and irreversible progress is required.

The potential for peace and reconciliation is very much a product of the measures the Federal Government of Nigeria takes in corruption control, illegal weapons and border control, its approach to issues perceived as injustices by the Niger Delta population and its engagement with militia leaders through dialogue.

The political godfathers are powerful and have shown the ability to sabotage peace efforts on several occasions. The power of the political godfathers to intervene must be curtailed before any prospect of a sustained peace could be seriously contemplated.

MEND has agreed to follow the UN weapons destruction process defined by the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs. Weapons destruction should occur under independent third party expert scrutiny and be conducted to international standards.

Efforts to end the conflict in the Niger Delta are unlikely to see a sustained peace without the involvement of neutral international mediator.

Conflict with militia can cease immediately a credible agenda for peace discussion has been agreed.
A restorative social justice plan as distinct from criminal justice will increase the opportunity for a sustained peace and should be designed to strengthen democracy and peace in the Niger Delta. The plan should include:

Peace agreement;
Amnesty guarantees;
Security system reform;
Macroeconomic plan;
Sustainable development;
Reconciliation; and a
Truth Commission.

The peace process should commence immediately. The first step will be the appointment of an independent international facilitator acceptable to all parties whose first taskwill be to secure agreement of the parties to an agenda for peace discussions. The militia leaders have stated that immediately upon agreement for such an agenda being reached the militia will cease all conflict.

A detailed background to the conflict and the peace and reconciliation process are set out in Coventry Cathedral's 300 page Report on the Potential for Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta which will be released within the next week, coincidentally being one year since Henry Okah was extradited from Angola to Nigeria.

03 February 2009

Oil Companies Won't do it Alone

Some of the words spoken by the newly appointed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette, are troubling. While he correctly charges the Oil companies with failing to live up to their agreements with communities and the nation, the minister at no point mentioned the role of the government in facilitating development and infrastructure construction implementation.

This is problematic because it shows a lack of leadership and vision on behalf of government. From the tone of the minister, the government is content to sit back and allow Oil companies to construct roads and job programs on their own. The role of the state is to do these things, not to leave them to the whim of disinterested parties. Without local or national government leadership it is absurd to expect the Oil industry to do anything altruistic. Their business is to make money. To lament their inaction while refusing to regulate or hold them accountable is disingenuous--after all, the job of government is to regulate what happens in the territory and ensure the livelihood and well-being of citizens.