Monday, May 18, 2009

Yar’Adua Grows a Spine on the Niger Delta Crisis

It appears the Yar’Adua government is taking its cue from Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan President whose military has just decimated the once feared LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) aka -Tamil Tigers, the terrorist separatist movement that held sway in northern Sri Lanka for 26 years under the leadership of Velupillai Prabhakaran, who was killed in the government onslaught.

Like MEND and other Niger Delta militant groups, the LTTE started off as a self-determination movement for the cause of an independent Tamil Nation in 1976 and soon metamorphosed into one of the most violent and ruthless terrorist groups in the world. The LTTE engaged in bombings of government, commercial and tourism infrastructure. Kidnapping and murder of opposition voices, extortion, intimidation and high profile assassination of political figures in South East Asia was their forte. The LTTE pioneered suicide bombing as a tactic and invented the suicide belt, which was used by a female Tamil Tiger in the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Ghandi, then former Prime Minister of India opposed to the LTTE cause.

Mr. Yar’Adua should pursue this campaign to conclusion, but must prevent it from escalating into a huge humanitarian crisis. Provisions should be made for the evacuation of innocent civilians from the conflict zones. A ceasefire for 48 to 72 hours accompanied by a massive information campaign by radio, air-dropped-flyers and television announcing the ceasefire window and urging the evacuation of civilians from the conflict zones should do. Wide media coverage should be given to the evacuation process and the militants sternly warned against holding back any civilian population they might want to use as hostages or human shields as the Tamil Tigers did, and still in the end, were defeated.

The fact of the matter is that true liberation results only from peaceful resistance movements. Mahatma Ghandi freed India from the British through this method just as Martin Luther King won civil rights for African Americans through his non-violent civil rights movement. Even the Great Nelson Mandela won his battle against apartheid only after he renounced violence. There is a good reason why the ANC rules in South Africa today and not the Inkatha Freedom Fighters of Mongosuthu Buthelezi. The terrorists in Palestine make it difficult to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the compelling argument of insecurity that they provide the Israeli authorities by their terrorist actions.

Were MEND and its ilk Niger Delta militant groups legitimate, they would recognize how out-of-date nihilist separatist terrorist movements such as theirs’ are. A critical look at these Niger Delta militant groups reveals that they are but only the visible element of what is indeed a very large criminal industry involving the militants themselves, gunrunners, hostage negotiators, pirates, “oil bunkerers”, politicians and corrupt government officials of agencies charged with supervision of the oil industry and development of the Niger Delta. None of them really has the interest of the locals at heart.

They murder moderate locals who seek a non-violent approach, steal crude oil by breaking oil pipelines, in the processes degrading the environment through oil spillages. They use the ransoms they extract to finance profligate life-styles - Asari Dokubo, former Ijaw Youth Congress boss, and MEND sponsor, owns a couple of grand mansions in Abuja and Port Harcourt, a fleet of luxury cars and runs a harem of three wives and several concubines. The Yar’Adua government would do the present day generation of Nigerians and posterity a world of good by routing out these militant groups now before they metamorphose into larger and intractable terrorist organizations like those in the Middle East. Yar'Adua should eschew political correctness (in the Nigerian context) and do every Nigerian a favour and excise this cancer that is the Niger Delta militant movement organizations.