from Africa in Transition

The Niger Delta: Heating Up?

November 19, 2010

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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This month Delta militants attacked two offshore oil facilities belonging to international oil companies. They kidnapped 7 foreign workers and 12 Nigerians. In response to this renewed militant activity, the Joint Task Force (JTF)—the Nigerian government’s military presence in the Niger Delta—claims to have overrun at least seven insurgent camps in three different Delta states. They also claim that these actions led to the negotiated release of the hostages unharmed.

However, there are unanswered questions. In the past, that local, state and even national governments have paid ransom is an open secret, though they deny having done so. Did they this time?

Further, was there, in fact, any relationship between JTF military activity and the militant decision to release the hostages? In the past, the militants have released hostages when it suited them politically, but also when their care and feeding proved onerous.

Perhaps the most important question is whether the JTF can operate effectively against the militants without further alienating an already disaffected population, which it has failed to do so far.

Ultimately, as I’ve argued, the Delta requires a political, not military, solution. I still think so.

(Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/courtesy Reuters)

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