Niger Delta erupts into violence once again
It’s all kicking off again in the Niger Delta, with hundreds reportedly killed and thousands displaced following a new offensive by the government’s armed forces.
The oil-rich area of Nigeria that has seen years of violence, human rights abuses and environmental devastation, recently returning to the UK headlines after a British oil worker was kidnapped. And it looks set to make news again next week, as a US court hears a new case against oil giants Shell, who have for years been accused of complicity in the execution of activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Fighting in the Niger Delta recommenced on 13 May 2009, as the Joint Task Force (JTF) – comprising troops of the army, navy and air force – launched helicopter gunship attacks on local communities including the Okerenkoko and Oporoza , in the belief that armed groups are hiding among the communities.
Exact casualty figures aren’t yet known. According to reports that we’ve received, hundreds of bystanders – including women and children – have been killed and injured in the crossfire between the JTF and armed groups.
The 20,000 people who live in the area of the attack are effectively trapped and thousands have fled their homes. Many houses have been burned to the ground and people are hiding in the forest, with no access to food or medicines.
It’s a hugely volatile region, awash with poverty, corruption, oil, arms and gangs. Armed groups and criminal gangs have sought control of natural resources in recent years, leading to violent clashes with the JTF. The JTF has frequently been accused of using excessive force and killing civilian bystanders.
Like the DRC, it’s another example of how precious natural resources can bring more violence and poverty to a region, when they should bring peace and prosperity. More info on the campaign for justice for Ken Saro-Wiwa at: http://remembersarowiwa.com/
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