Nigeria’s fragile Oct. 25 cease-fire with militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta region has come dangerously close to a violent end, as rebels took credit this weekend for an attack on an oil pipeline.
Nigeria’s fragile truce with rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta region has come dangerously close to a violent end, as rebels took credit this weekend for an attack on an oil pipeline some 30 miles west of Port Harcourt.
The rebel group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said that the attack was “a warning strike,” carried out by five speedboats full of armed men, and was intended to send a signal to the government of hospitalized President Umaru Yar’Adua to renew its efforts at engaging the rebels in peace talks. The talks were suspended after Mr. Yar’Adua left suddenly for emergency medical treatment in Saudi Arabia nearly a month ago.
The important benefits of the truce were shown last month, when the Nigerian government announced its highest ever output of crude oil. A return to unrest, a MEND rebel spokesman told the Monitor, would be devastating.
“This is the quiet before the storm,” says a MEND spokesman calling himself Tom, in an interview with the Monitor last week. “MEND wants to do the right thing, that’s why they met with the president.”
But in the weeks since the president’s departure, government negotiations have halted, and rebels are getting “frustrated,” Tom says. “It’s going to be more ferocious. What we expected was the government to utilize the time to address the issue of resources. But they are playing politics with our health. In the past, you would attack a platform and take one or two hostages. This time, you will evacuate the platform completely of its personnel, and burn the platform completely. And for four or five years after that, there is no hope for that platform to produce.”