Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Niger Delta: a widening war?

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niger_delta_militants2.jpgRebels fighting for greater control of Nigeria’s oil wealth have raised the stakes in their campaing of bombings and kidnappings by threatening to extend attacks to offshore oil installations. Nigeria’s most prominent militant group earlier announced the launch of an “oil war” against oil companies and security forces in the restive Niger Delta. The four-days of fighting since the announcement have been the heaviest since the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta began its campaign of violence against the oil sector in early 2006. International oil markets, depressed in recent days by the impact of the credit crisis on the global economy, finally began taking notice of the escalating violence in Nigeria’s oil-producing region on Wednesday.

Security sources say more than 100 people may have been killed by the fighting, which has spread to at least seven villages in Rivers state.

Security sources and militants say this is a military offensive long planned by the government. The military disagrees saying the fighting was provoked by militant attacks.

The fighting comes just weeks after Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’Adua handpicked new military chiefs and announced the establishment of a new ministry dedicated to the Niger Delta problem.

Colonial borders. Does Africa have a choice?

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Lord Lugard, founder of Nigeria

The lines of Europe’s carve up of Africa were finally taking shape. On March 11, 1913, Britain and Germany agreed who got which bits of a swampy corner of the continent that few in either of the cold and distant countries had heard of.

Two states that did not exist at that time put the border agreement into effect again on Thursday with Nigeria formally handing over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.

How should Nigeria’s windfall oil cash be managed?

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nigeria_poverty_hawker.jpgNigeria’s revenues from oil exports have reached unprecedented levels as global crude prices rally, yet the majority of its 140 million population remain mired in poverty. Africa’s top oil producer set up an “excess crude account” five years ago to save windfall oil earnings and try to help promote long-term economic stability.

But infighting among the three tiers of government — federal, state and local — on how the revenues should be shared out has seen them squandered.

Is justice being done in Simon Mann’s trial?

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Simon MannEton-educated British mercenary Simon Mann has gone on trial in Equatorial Guinea for his role in a 2004 coup plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
 
The state prosecutor is seeking a jail term of nearly 32 years for Mann, who has admitted in a British TV interview this year that he plotted to topple Obiang.
 
Mann’s defence lawyer has argued that his client was a “mere instrument” in the plot, but not one of the main organisers. The prosecution has named Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as one of the businessmen conspirators who invested in the coup plot. Mark Thatcher denies knowing about the coup and is not on trial in Malabo.
 
So, with Mann’s trial and the death of notorious French mercenary Bob Denard last year, is the era of the “dogs of war” over in Africa? Or will Equatorial Guinea’s huge oil riches soon tempt others to hire foreign guns for a violent takeover of power?
 
Is justice being done in the case of Mann, or should others be with him there in the dock?
 
obiang_nguema1.jpgThe rule of President Obiang, who overthrew his dictatorial uncle Francisco Macias Nguema in a 1979 coup, has been sharply criticised by international human rights groups who accuse him of abuses and restricting political freedoms. Some might argue that a “regime change” such as the one plotted by Mann might have been good for Equatorial Guinea. What do you think?

Rebels reject Niger Delta peace summit

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niger_delta_rebels.jpgNigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua moved quickly after taking office a year ago to try to  address the causes of unrest in the Niger Delta, where a violent campaign of sabotage against the oil industry has cut production and contributed to an unprecedented rise in world oil prices.

Yar’Adua announced plans for formal talks and freed two jailed militant leaders when he took office, but the peace process has made little real progress since then, with the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) continuing to blow up oil pipelines and kidnap foreign workers.
The government has called a summit for July meant to involve all stakeholders, but MEND and another group — the Ijaw Youth Council — have said they will not take part. Yar’Adua has said the summit aims to address the frustrations of the Niger Delta communities, who have seen their land and water polluted by oil production, but he has also said his government will not tolerate the presence of armed militants in the region.

What’s the verdict on Nigeria’s Yar’Adua?

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Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua took office a year ago promising to pursue free-market reforms launched by his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, vowing zero tolerance for corruption and listing seven national priorities including improving power supply and reducing food insecurity.

A year on, his critics say economic reforms are grinding to a halt, his anti-corruption efforts are just window-dressing and his cabinet is largely a collection of ineffective bureaucrats who are but a shadow of an all-star cast in the former administration.

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