Tuesday, July 21, 2009

MEND and Nigerian Elections

Since I may be going to Nigeria in 2010 for a large project, I thought I should try to understand what exactly MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and the government are up to with the recent amnesty plan, release of MEND leader Henry Okah from detention and the 60 day cease-fire that took effect on July 15.

MEND is a mixture of criminals and those wanting oil revenues to be shared more equitably in the Delta. My impression - and if anyone has some good information it would be welcome - is that the majority of MEND soldiers are simply the tools of some wealthy local criminal organizations more interested in extortion of funds from oil companies and keeping it for themselves. If that is truly the case, then why would the government provide a sweeping amnesty and why would a ceasefire only operate for 60 days?

If the government ruling party (the PDP) is making a deal, then it appears it is all related to securing its hold on the country, if not expanding it, during the election. If that is the case, will funds extracted from the oil companies end up in the PDP coffers? Since negotiations between MEND and the government will continue during the cease fire, I would think that the final deal between them will result in MEND helping, through intimidation and violence, the PDP to secure a massive election victory.

Anyone having deeper insight into Nigeria and MEND is welcome to comment.

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