Sorry for the hiatus, I’m in the middle of a PCS (permanent change of station, i.e. move, for those of you who do not live and breathe acronyms) out of Fort Sill and on to greener pastures.
In December I covered two disparate insurgencies in Nigeria, Boko Haram and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). It’s well past time for an update.
1. MEND called off their ceasefire with the Nigerian federal government on January 30th. The same day a Shell pipeline was “sabotaged” by MEND gunmen and then shut off. President Umaru Yar’Adua brokered the ceasefire with MEND in mid-2009, but then was hospitalized in November and has remained so since.
2. Religious violence in the central city of Jos peaked in the middle of January with somewhere in the ballpark of 500 killed. A week later VP Goodluck Jonathan ordered in the Army to quell the ongoing sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims.
3. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are making valiant efforts to supplant Somali pirates as the scourge of the seas around Africa. It’s too early to tell if the pirates are a part of or affiliated to MEND, but MEND has a well-documented history of attacking offshore oil platforms with speedboats.
A weak central government, sectarian violence, cancelled ceasefire and piracy all equals a troubling recipe for Nigeria. As MEND reemerges following its cancelled ceasefire, they will undoubtedly look to push their fight against international energy companies further offshore. The group needs international media attention to put pressure on the central government, and attacks on international oil companies are a prime means to their end. Through the prism of current conditions in Nigeria, with an even weaker central government and Christian-on-Muslim violence, the death of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf in mid-2009 may end up being particularly troublesome. I expect to see greater penetration into Northern Nigeria by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), as they perceive a weakened central government and threatened (and large) Muslim community will provide fertile grounds for expanded efforts in West Africa.
Bottom line: Nigeria will quickly face a quickly deteriorating situation unless the government is able to clamp down on MEND, quell sectarian violence, reign in young Muslims who feel the central government is reaching out too much to the West and reassert its dominating, yet moderate, position inside its borders.