Nigeria rebel group to resume attacks, ends talks

Source: Reuters

* Main militant group to end ceasefire on Sept. 15 * Rebel group vows fresh attacks against oil industry * Hundreds of militants surrender arms in amnesty programme (Updates with MEND to resume attacks, new throughout) By Austin Ekeinde YENAGOA, Nigeria, Aug 22 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s main rebel group said on Saturday it would resume attacks against Africa’s biggest energy industry next month, overshadowing the surrender of hundreds of arms by rebels in a federal amnesty programme. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible for attacks that have wrought havoc on the OPEC member’s oil operations, said it would resume its campaign of violence on Sept. 15. MEND, a loose coalition of militant groups, denounced the hundreds of rebels that have participated in President Umaru Yar’Adua’s 60-day amnesty programme, which aims to stem unrest in the Niger Delta. “The ongoing amnesty programme by the government of Nigeria seems to have achieved separating those who still have the zeal to fight for our freedom from those who were in it for the money,” the group said in a statement. MEND, which declared a 60-day ceasefire in July to allow for peace talks, said it has suspended negotiations with the government. Hundreds of Nigerian militants earlier on Saturday surrendered their weapons, mortar bombs and gunboats during a public ceremony in the Bayelsa state capital Yenagoa. The handover by dozens of militant groups was the largest collection of weapons and ammunition since President Umaru Yar’Adua’s 60-day amnesty programme began two weeks ago. A CHANCE FOR PEACE “We give up our weapons so that we give peace a chance and for all oil companies and other multinationals to come into our region to develop the place,” said Erepamutei Olotu, known as General Ogunbos, during a public handing-over ceremony. Attacks on pipelines and industry facilities along with the kidnapping of oil workers since early 2006 have cost the world’s eighth-biggest oil exporter billions of dollars a year in lost revenues and added to volatility in global energy prices. At the ceremony, former militant leader Ebikabowei Victor Ben, known as Boyloaf, gave a senior government official his flak jacket emblazoned with the logo of Nigeria’s most prominent militant group — the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). “As chairman of MEND in Bayelsa state, I hand over this jacket as a proclamation that we have disarmed and stand by our word. We expect the president to stand by his word and develop the Niger Delta,” Ben told a crowd of hundreds that included former militants, government officials and security officers. Ben was among 25 former militant leaders that surrendered more than 500 weapons, dozens of rocket launchers and mortar bombs and 14 gunboats, which were on display at the ceremony. Ben, whose group handed over the bulk of the weapons collected on Saturday, has warned that failure to develop the Niger Delta would lead to a resumption of violence. Sceptics question whether the amnesty scheme will buy anything more than a short-term lull in the violence, saying the government has done little to create employment or training opportunities for those who do hand over their guns. MEND has said a replacement to take over Boyloaf’s command had already been put in place, somewhat undermining the point of his departure, and other key commanders in the creeks of the delta have shown no such willingness to take part. No mention has been made of other hardliners like Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo or Government Tompolo — against whom the military launched its biggest campaign for years just months ago — joining the amnesty programme. A previous attempt at disarmament under Yar’Adua’s predecessor Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004 broke down as factions argued over the money paid for their weapons. Thousands of guns were handed over but the subsequent five years were among the most violent in the history of the Niger Delta. (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://af.reuters.com/ ) (Additional reporting and writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Tume Ahemba and Jon Hemming)

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s