If he was still alive, I wonder what Ken Saro-Wiwa would make of it all, if he could see his beloved Delta stuck in a vortex of violence that seemingly has no end. For a man who preached peace, he would undoubtedly despair at the continued kidnapping and bloodshed. Thirteen years after his death, there is no end in sight to the curse of black gold.

Just look at today’s headlines. Bloomberg is reporting that the Nigerian security forces have killed six gunmen, whereas AP has the number killed at eight.

The rebels were killed trying to attack a military installation near the Soku gas plant, which is owned by Shell, about 15 miles west of Port Harcourt.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the task force in charge of security in the region, told Bloomberg: “The attack was aimed at crippling our position, taking away our arms and ammunition and damaging the gas plant.”

Meanwhile, MEND, which denies that it was behind the latest attack, has confirmed that it has released a Ukrainian hostage and three Nigerian captives. Two Britons will remain in captivity until the release of one of the group’s reputed leaders, who is currently on trial on charges of gunrunning, treason and terrorism. The hostages were abducted in early September.

MEND has also threatened a new “Oil War” if it was attacked, saying it believed the military was planning to launch an assault on two of its camps in Delta and Bayelsa. “This will be a big mistake as it will lead to another oil war where we are sure of a landslide victory,” it said in an e-mailed statement.

At the end of last week there was yet another conference concerning oil and the Niger Delta in Port Harcourt. The keynote address was by Odein Ajumogobia, the Minister of State for Energy Petroleum

Ajumogobia commented that: “There is today, a clear and unequivocal national, indeed global consensus that the issues in the Niger Delta in particular need to be urgently addressed. The restoration of security and rapid development of the region are however inextricably entwined..”

He assured the audience of the “unwavering and sincere and determined commitment of the Federal Government” which extended “a hand of fellowship and honest partnership to the governments and the peoples of the states of the Niger Delta as we together tackle the enormous challenges that face us.”

The challenges are well known and well documented. The solutions are also well known, but will not be easy. But what Ken taught us is that no solution to the Niger Delta will work without the participation and consent of the people of the Niger Delta.

No solution will be found unless the ecological destruction of the Delta stops, along with the routine flaring and pollution.  No solution will be found unless the people start to benefit from 50 years of exploitation of the land. And the people of the Niger Delta do not need another oil conference to tell them that.

One Comment

  • Amen to that. What is of course particularly tragic is that by killing Ken and the others, the Nigerian military and Shell sent a very clear message to the people of the Niger Delta – that nonviolent organizing will get you killed. Its really only rational to for MEND and others to have concluded that taking up arms was the only option left to them.

    Whether or not the violent option has worked to alleviate the suffering of the people is also open to debate – but it sure has gotten them noticed more. Hopefully all the attention can be translated into political will for real change.

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