Intelligence Brief: M.E.N.D. Escalates Instability in Nigeria

Posted in Africa | 27-Apr-06

Security conditions in Nigeria show no sign of improvement. A new Ijaw tribe militant group in the Niger Delta, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D.), is tallying up the number of successful attacks against government security forces and multinational oil companies. M.E.N.D. is a shadowy organization that first came to prominence on January 11, 2006 when it kidnapped oil workers based at Royal Dutch Shell's offshore EA oil rig. While the workers were released, M.E.N.D. has proven to be a capable, armed organization. For instance, since January, M.E.N.D. has killed at least 24 soldiers and police, kidnapped 13 oil workers and caused severe damage to several critical oil pipelines. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Iran, Nigeria"]

One of M.E.N.D.'s most recent attacks occurred on April 19 in the oil city of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta. The organization detonated a car bomb at the Bori Camp military base, killing two people. After the attack, M.E.N.D. released an e-mail statement cautioning that the incident "serves as a further warning to the Nigerian military, oil companies and those who are attempting to sell the birthright of the Niger Delta peoples for a bowl of porridge. In the coming weeks, we will carry out similar attacks against relevant oil industry targets and individuals."

M.E.N.D.'s sudden rise comes directly after a reduction in attacks from the Niger Delta's most prominent Ijaw militant group, the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (N.D.P.V.F.). After the N.D.P.V.F.'s leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, was arrested on charges of treason on September 20, 2005, he called on his supporters to cease hostilities; this was an effort on his part to portray his organization as non-violent so the government would have difficulty prosecuting him. Since his call for an end to hostilities, the N.D.P.V.F. remained uncharacteristically silent, and now M.E.N.D. has stolen the spotlight. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Nigeria"]

M.E.N.D.'s motivations for fighting appear to be the same as N.D.P.V.F., and M.E.N.D. has called for the release of Dokubo-Asari. It is quite possible that after N.D.P.V.F.'s ceasefire, militants from the organization founded, or greatly assisted, M.E.N.D. in an effort to continue attacks against the government and multinational security forces; this strategy would have the benefit of avoiding implicating N.D.P.V.F. and Dokubo-Asari in the renewed violence. While this is a possibility, M.E.N.D. may indeed be a new organization as there is no lack of Ijaw militant groups willing to use violence to achieve their interests. Indeed, in recent days, even the N.D.P.V.F. appears to be taking up arms once again; N.D.P.V.F. spokesman Colonel Sunny Tari announced the start of Operation Isaac Boro, an armed offensive, saying that N.D.P.V.F. would work with other Ijaw militant groups in achieving their joint objectives.

Factors Behind Instability

The attacks by Ijaw militants will continue for the foreseeable future. This is possible because the Ijaw militants have a strong support base within the Niger Delta. Despite the fact that 95 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange is earned from oil exports, and that the majority of this oil is pumped out of the Niger Delta, the delta's inhabitants live in poverty, many without electricity or running water. The Ijaw make up the bulk of the population in the delta, and while many do not agree with using violence in order to achieve their objectives, they at least sympathize with the cause of the tribal militants. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Nigeria"]

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