MEND and the FNDIC at Odds

©2007 by Wordworks2001

When the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) became known to the world outside the mangrove swamps of Nigeria’s oil producing region, in January 2006, it seemed bent on proving its bonafides. Over the course of the next 12 months, it did just that.

When it said it was going to kidnap expatriates, expatriates got abducted. When it said its forces were going to attack a certain oil company’s facilities, by golly it happened.  With the exception of one major threat that I know of, MEND has always talked the talk and walked the walk.

To the federal government of Nigeria, MEND is a criminal gang.  Sometimes they are called “youth” by the media. Others consider them freedom fighters in a glorious cause. Whatever they are, they have proven to be an effective fighting force.

The group was born in the hovels of Niger River delta villages all along and into the mangrove swamps of Bayelsa and Delta States.  Started by desperate young men with no hope of a bright future, they basically were a group of thugs bunkering oil and extorting as much protection money as they could from the oil companies and anyone else willing to pay their demands.

Then something happened.  It still is a mystery exactly what that was, but apparently a benefactor or godfather injected a considerable amount of cash into the area and formed the dissident young men into a well equipped, well trained and disciplined guerilla fighting force. Speculation runs from a well-heeled oil bunkerer to a disenchanted army general, but it is obvious MEND had the resources, both in arms and humans to become a potent force.

Several of the militant groups that had sprung up in the area during years of social, economic and medical neglect were not at all altruistic. No Robin Hoods here.  These groups often said they had the interests of certain villages in mind.  But their profit was not the village’s gain.

MEND sought to bring all these various entities under one umbrella and did so quite effectively for some months. But I learned recently that all was not well in the loose confederation the various militant groups had formed.

The two biggest entities, MEND and the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Community  (FNDIC) have severed their affiliation with one another. The FNDIC never was comfortable with cooperating with MEND in the first place. The goals of the two organizations clashed and were destined to be bones of contention throughout the short but effective partnership.

MEND started out as a paramilitary organization and seemed to be heading towards a political one.  They realized that military power was a necessary element for any successful political endeavor in Nigeria, so they established that first.

The FNDIC’s members had been extortionists all along, gleaning from the oil companies and expatriates that worked for them, any cash they could get.  Not much more than highwaymen, the affiliation with MEND, in my opinion, was to add legitimacy to their organization.

The goals of MEND and the FNDIC have always been in conflict.  The cause of this break in the confederation between the two is unknown, but the effect it will have on the vision of autonomy most militants state publicly is what they want, remains to be seen.

Another important question: What has this rift done to MEND’s relationship with the other members of the coalition it tried to form? Will the group have to alter its plans? Only the future will tell.

LINKS

BBC

The Independent

Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant. He resides in Indiana and works in Nigeria, where he is currently located.  He blogs at http://wordworks2001.blogspot.com

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