News / Africa

Nigerian Hostage Release Shows Military Shifting Approach

The 19 nineteen oil and construction workers taken hostage by Niger Delta militants and freed last week sit together in Port Harcourt, 18 Nov 2010
The 19 nineteen oil and construction workers taken hostage by Niger Delta militants and freed last week sit together in Port Harcourt, 18 Nov 2010

The rescue of 19 hostages in the Niger Delta represents a shifting approach by Nigeria's military who worked more closely with local groups to secure their release.

There is nothing new about hostage taking in the Niger Delta where militants regularly kidnap oil workers for ransom. But last week's release of 19 foreign and local hostages does show what appears to be a new strategy by Nigeria's military to address the insecurity.

Major General Charles Omoregie commands the Delta's military task force. He says the release followed raids on seven camps of the main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND. There were no deaths and no ransoms paid after former MEND fighters helped negotiate the release of two Americans, two Frenchmen, two Indonesians, one Canadian and 12 Nigerians.

Local journalist Michael Ikeogwu covers hostage taking in the Niger Delta. He says this operation by the Joint Task Force - or JTF - is far different from its 2009 attack on the Gbaramatu Kingdom where civilians were killed and houses burned.

"Ex-militants gave information to JTF about the plans of MEND. I think the operation should be commended. I think that the military has taken a step to avoid civilian casualties," said Ikeogwu. "Their target is now those who are behind the crimes, who are behind MEND. Their target is MEND members."

Delta State council chairman Austin Ojde says the military's new approach will continue to help diminish local support for the militia.

"Nobody is supporting militants. They come from another place," said Ojde. "That is why you can see that there are no casualties because the people of the community will help to assist the JTF to make sure they carry out the job without injury of casualty."

President Goodluck Jonathan commended the military for resolving the hostage crisis without the loss of life and promised to continue retraining programs for former militants who accepted last year's amnesty program.

Niger Delta human rights activist Joseph Oke says the Jonathan administration deserves much of the credit for this new approach by the Joint Task Force.

"This is the first time JTF has entered the militant area, the violent area with guns and with all the weapons, yet there was no life lost. It is the cooperation of the people because the people  have bought into the amnesty and they have seen the positive response of government," said Oke. "The people of the Delta know this is just an act of criminality."

President Jonathan is from the Niger Delta. So resolving the violence there is central to his campaigning for next year's presidential election.

John Campbell is a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

"People in the Niger Delta believe that their region is entitled to a larger percentage of the wealth that is produced by the oil than they presently receive," he said. "Residents are angry and disaffected from the government, and hence it is no surprise that there is an insurgency."

President Jonathan has the opportunity to capitalize on the amnesty program that he helped start as vice president to former president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. But Mr. Jonathan also has the challenge of convincing voters that he is capable of containing Delta violence following October bombings in the capital Abuja that were claimed by MEND militants.

The president appears to have alienated some northern leaders by initially absolving MEND of responsibility for that violence, blaming instead a terrorist group from outside Nigeria that he said was being sponsored by "unpatriotic elements within the country." President Jonathan later sought to clarify those remarks by saying that it was not MEND alone and that some former MEND members were acting without the consent of the larger group.

The military's new approach to Delta kidnapping notwithstanding, the Council on Foreign Relation's John Campbell says it is a problem that can not be solved by force.

"The insurrection has considerable acquiescence, if not support, from the people who live in the Delta," he added. "Because of the nature of the Delta, a military solution is simply impossible."

Campbell says the military must be part of a political solution to end what he calls the alienation of the people of the Delta so the benefits of Nigeria's vast oil wealth are felt more equitably in the areas where that oil is produced. 

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid