Maria Fantappie, Crisis Group’s Iraq Analyst, discusses the situation in Iraq with Jennifer Rowland of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Showing posts tagged as "politics"
Showing posts tagged politics
The Hidden Costs of a Russian Statelet in Ukraine | William Schreiber
In dismissing the Ukrainian revolution as a “fascist” coup, officials in Moscow have conjured up memories of the turbulent period following the breakup of the Soviet Union, when Russian leaders used similar slurs to justify separatism in Eastern Europe. On March 2, 1992, 22 years ago this week, civil war broke out in Moldova between government and secessionist forces over a narrow strip of land along the Ukrainian border.
Alexander Lebed—the Russian general whose 14th Army unit intervened in the conflict, ensuring the future of the breakaway state known today as Transnistria—boasted of his role in stopping Moldova’s “fascists” leaders. Several years later, Lebed entered Russian politics, declaring, without much irony, that his country needed its own version of Chile’s right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet.
A decade later, the Kremlin has the strongman Lebed pined for, Moldova’s conflict with its separatist region persists, and Russian troops still occupy Moldovan territory in violation of Russia’s international commitments. And now the Russian military has occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, another territory with a large ethnic Russian population and a pro-Moscow secessionist movement, in violation of international law. Moscow’s intentions there remain unclear.
FULL ARTICLE (The Atlantic)
Photo: Bohan Shen/flickr
Analysis: Reconciliation looks remote in Egypt | IRIN News
The seven months since July’s overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt have been among the most violent and divisive in recent times, analysts say, as much of society polarizes along pro-Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and pro-army lines.
Reconciliation seems a distant prospect and more remote now, some argue, than in the immediate aftermath of the army takeover.
“The reconciliation opportunity, which existed after Morsi’s overthrow, has disappeared,” said Issandr el Amrani, an International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst on Egypt. “Now that the officials and media call the Brotherhood a `terrorist organization’ and hold them responsible for all the attacks, [the security forces] have to stick to this point of view.”
FULL ARTICLE (IRIN News)
Let the U.N. Unmask the Criminals of Sri Lanka’s War | Louise Arbour
Louise Arbour, a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is the president of the International Crisis Group
In early 2009, as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, having been herded into an area about the size of Central Park and subjected to relentless shelling. No one has been held accountable for these crimes, and even now the government in Colombo remains intent on burying the past. Only an international commission of inquiry stands any chance of rectifying this omission. So when the United Nations Human Rights Council meets Monday in Geneva, it should seek an investigation. It would be a decisive step toward justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka, in which ethnic Tamil rebels rose against a government dominated by the ethnic-majority Sinhalese, was regularly punctuated with massacres and rights abuses by government forces, as well as by suicide bombings and other attacks on civilian targets by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Since the government’s crushing defeat of the rebels, the predominantly Tamil northern province has been under de facto military occupation, with widespread reports of serious rights violations against the civilian population.
As the fifth anniversary of the war’s end approaches this spring, Sri Lankan officials say they need more time for reconciliation initiatives to take root. They argue that an international investigation will only further polarize Sri Lanka. They have reacted angrily to a new report by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, that advocates an international investigation and heavily criticizes the government.
As the International Crisis Group has documented in a series of reports, the government’s postwar policies have entrenched an increasingly authoritarian regime in Colombo, deepened the rift between Tamils and Sinhalese, and drawn dangerous new lines of ethnic and religious conflict. To date, the government has rejected calls by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into war crimes allegations against both sides that have been documented by the United Nations secretary general’s panel of experts and by nongovernmental organizations like ours, and to adopt reforms that could foster postwar reconciliation.
The United States, which has a record of leadership within the Human Rights Council, would be the best sponsor for a resolution seeking an inquiry. The other members of the council should give it their strong support. They should also reject the Sri Lankan government’s endless delaying tactics and its global public-relations counterattack, which includes a half-hour infomercial that has been shown on American television.
Momentum for such an investigation is building. Six United States senators, led by Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called for an international commission of inquiry in a letter sent this month to Secretary of State John Kerry. Three days later a resolution was introduced in the Senate calling for an independent investigation (not necessarily by a commission). Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, other senior European Union politicians and Indian officials also have taken clear exception to Sri Lanka’s failure to pursue accountability for atrocities. Meanwhile, in response to victims’ pleas for justice, a newly elected northern provincial council in Sri Lanka has joined the calls for an international investigation.
But the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected all such recommendations, even when they came from Sri Lanka’s own reconciliation commission. He has also gravely weakened the independence of the judiciary and the police with the impeachment last year of Sri Lanka’s chief justice, placing the possibility of using Sri Lanka’s courts to achieve accountability further out of reach.
An inquiry mandated by an intergovernmental body like the Human Rights Council would produce a more complete record of the scale of civilian suffering, and would challenge the Sri Lankan government’s denials that government forces were responsible for any significant loss of civilian life.
A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression.
By showing survivors of wartime abuses that the international community hasn’t abandoned them, a commission mandated by the council could also undercut growing calls by Tamil diaspora organizations for more radical measures, and encourage victims of rights abuses from all of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities (the country’s main faiths are Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) to continue seeking an end to institutionalized impunity.
Such an inquiry won’t solve all of Sri Lanka’s problems; the island’s crisis of accountability and democratic governance runs too deep and is too complex to be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, increased authoritarianism, Sinhalese ethnic triumphalism and simmering Tamil resentment are clearly not the ingredients for a secure future. Both justice and reconciliation are needed for the Sri Lankan body politic to one day be healed.
The Human Rights Council has an opportunity, and should seize it. A number of the council’s current member states — for instance Chile, Costa Rica, Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Morocco and Macedonia — have led on other human rights issues and should press the council on this one. Sri Lanka’s government is playing a waiting game, hoping the international community will lose interest, while also proffering the crude argument that reconciliation is attainable without justice.
But the costs of doing something now would be very small compared with the years of strife that would be the likely result of letting impunity win in Sri Lanka.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: springm / Markus Spring/flickr
An Equal Share of Wealth Equals Lasting Peace in CAR | Matthew Newsome
While wrangling over Central African Republic’s (CAR) wealth in natural resources played a role in the country’s crisis, its future peace and stability still partly depends on a solution that factors in how to equitably distribute its national wealth.
“The conflict is multifaceted and does reflect tensions between groups over the control for land and natural resources. Neither side is fighting in the name of god, though paradoxically there is a religious tone that has complicated the crisis,” Comfort Ero, the Africa programme director for the International Crisis Group, told IPS.
"Séléka was in the end a consortium of malcontents…It is to a large extent a fight for political power/control and safe guarding communities…" -Comfort Ero, International Crisis Group
Violence between Séléka-aligned Muslims and and the anti-balaka Christian vigilante militias has killed two thousand people and displaced a quarter of the country’s four million population since Séléka rebels staged a coup last March.
FULL ARTICLE (Inter Press Service)
Doubts over Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts | Gabriel Domínguez
The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly come under fire from critics for failing adequately to investigate war crimes and promote reconciliation with the country’s Tamil minority following a decades-long civil war.
Last week, it said it was considering a process similar to South-Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Colombo sent a high-level delegation to South Africa to see, according to a spokesman for Nimal Siripala de Silva, Sri Lankan minister for water, who led the five-member team, “what lessons it could learn.”
During their two-day trip, the Sri Lankans held talks with South African officials about the “procedures and experiences of the commission” that was set up almost two decades ago to probe political crimes committed during the apartheid era. The ColomboPage newspaper reported that the visit was aimed at exploring the possibility of using the South African mechanism for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.
FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)
The Arrest of El Chapo: What’s Next for Mexico?
The arrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera – known as “El Chapo” or “Shorty” – ended a 13-year manhunt for the kingpin who reputedly heads the world’s largest drug cartel. Mexican marines captured Guzmán on 22 February in a bloodless early morning raid on an ocean-front condominium in his home state of Sinaloa.
The successful operation was a coup for Mexico’s intelligence services and U.S. counter-narcotics agents whose collaboration and persistence finally led to Guzmán’s capture. It may also provide a political boost for President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval ratings have tumbled amid concerns over the economy and continued insecurity. Less clear is whether the arrest will enhance the security of Mexican citizens who live in regions still plagued by high rates of murder, extortion and kidnapping. Crisis Group’s Mexico/Central America Project will analyse the government’s efforts to counter organised crime in vulnerable regions in upcoming reports on Ciudad Juárez and the state of Michoacán.
In this Q&A, Mary Speck (@speckmary), Crisis Group’s Mexico and Central America Project Director, discusses the significance of Guzmán’s arrest for the narcotics trade, for the state’s fight against organised crime and for Mexicans caught in drug-related violence that has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives over eight years. (See Crisis Group’s report, Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico.)
Q: How did “El Chapo” Guzmán and the Sinaloa cartel become so powerful?
Guzmán was born in a region of Mexico where trafficking has long been a way of life. Nicknamed Mexico’s “golden triangle”, the mountainous area where the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa meet has been a source of narcotics for at least a century. Generations of small farmers in this remote, impoverished region have cultivated opium poppies and marijuana, selling their harvest to local bosses who would take charge of smuggling it across the U.S. border. Cocaine (grown in South America) was added to the mix beginning in the 1970s and 80s, when Colombian cartels began to seek alternative routes to the U.S. By the late 1990s, much of the cocaine heading to U.S. markets went via Central America and Mexico. The most enterprising (or ruthless) Mexican drug bosses became cartel kingpins in charge of distributing vast amounts of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and, eventually, methamphetamines to the U.S. and around the world.
Guzmán’s humble origins and business acumen are part of his legend: a farmer’s son mentored by local mafiosos rises to head a multibillion dollar drugs network said to have operatives not only in the Americas but in Europe, West Africa and South East Asia. His cartel was reportedly responsible for innovations such as transporting drugs under water on “narco-submarines” and via tunnels beneath the Mexican border. He even opened a cannery that shipped cocaine to Mexican-owned groceries in the U.S. disguised as canned chilli-peppers. Guillermo Valdés, a former director of Mexican intelligence, in an interview with El País called Guzmán a man “of great imagination and entrepreneurial creativity. He is a business genius”.
Unlike the rival Zetas cartel, which had a reputation for taking over drug routes by force, the Sinaloa cartel is reportedly a more decentralised network of criminal groups that generally prefer to operate under the radar, using a vast web of patronage to secure popular support and to corrupt elected officials and security forces. But Guzmán’s organisation does not shun violence: its battles to take over Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, both key drug crossings and markets on the U.S. border, cost thousands of lives, especially between 2007 and 2011.
Q: How important is this arrest to the Mexican government? Has it dealt a decisive blow to the cartels?
Guzmán’s arrest has great symbolic importance: this is a man who not only ran a gigantic criminal enterprise but also achieved mythic status in Mexico, the subject of corridos(ballads) celebrating his power, wealth and defiance of authority. His escape from prison in 2001 (allegedly in a laundry cart and most likely after having paid massive bribes) only added to his aura of invincibility. By taking Guzmán – and by doing so in a carefully planned operation without bloodshed – the government has shown that Mexico has the will and ability to bring even the most powerful narco to justice. That is a huge blow against impunity.
Guzmán is not the only powerful trafficker to fall over the past year. In July and August 2013, troops took the top leaders of two rival cartels in Tamaulipas, near the U.S. border: Miguel Ángel Treviño, or Z-40, of the Zetas cartel, and Mario Armando Ramírez, of the Gulf cartel. In January of this year, federal police and soldiers captured leaders of two cartels that compete along the Pacific Coast: Rubén Oseguera González, son of and second in command to the head of Jalisco-Nueva Generación and Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the most-wanted leaders of the Knights Templar, a cult-like group of meth traffickers and extortionists in Michoacán.
Most of the recent high-level arrests have been carried out by military units, acting on information provided both by Mexico’s own intelligence services and by U.S. agents. Mexico remains overly reliant on the army and navy, which have been accused of serious human rights violations, to carry out operations that should be handled by civilian forces. The perception that police are incompetent and corrupt is still a major obstacle to security in Mexico.
Q: What will happen in Sinaloa and in other regions affected by drug-related violence?
In Guzmán’s home state, there is apprehension that a succession crisis within the cartel could provoke bloody infighting and/or territorial struggles with rival groups. The arrest was good for Peña Nieto, writes columnist Jorge Zepeda Patterson, but it may not be good for the inhabitants of the Pacific Coast states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Nayarit and Durango, which have suffered less violence than other drug transit areas. Analyst Alejandro Hope predicts that without Guzmán’s leadership the Sinaloa cartel will fragment into smaller, more diversified groups that “engage in all forms of rent extraction, from kidnapping to extortion to theft”. Such groups may not pose a threat to the Mexican state, but they can wreak havoc on local communities.
Some communities in Sinaloa have reportedly begun to form “self-defence” groups – local vigilante militias. That process might accelerate should rival cartels start to move in. The Peña Nieto government has sent troops to control the vigilante militias that, as International Crisis Group has reported, have become dangerously powerful in the southern Pacific Coast states of Michoacán and Guerrero, while offering to incorporate them into rural and municipal police. How many are willing to join legal entities and how they will be monitored remains unclear. Armed, poorly supervised local militias can end up selling “protection” through force and intimidation, thus perpetuating the extortion rackets they were created to eliminate. They are also vulnerable to penetration by rival cartels.
Q: Are arrests, such as that of Guzmán, sufficient to tackle the problem of organised drugs-related crime?
The arrest of leaders alone is unlikely to significantly weaken organised crime: other caposmay emerge from within the organisation or other gangs move in to take over the former leader’s territory, sometimes resulting in even more violence. More important in the long run is developing police forces and a justice system capable of enforcing law and order in the neighbourhoods and towns where traffickers and other criminals have become de facto authorities. Shortly after taking office, Peña Nieto presented the outlines of a violence prevention strategy focused on high-crime communities, but critics contend the government is repackaging existing social programs rather than providing additional resources for new initiatives.
The reconfiguration of Mexican cartels following the arrest of top leaders makes it all the more urgent for President Peña Nieto to fulfil his promises to make crime prevention, including social programs and community policing, a central focus of his government’s security strategy. It is no accident that trafficking organisations often emerge in marginalised communities, with little access to education or government services – places like the birthplace of “El Chapo” in Sinaloa. The Mexican state needs to demonstrate that the drug lords largely responsible for the carnage of recent years will be punished. It also needs to fill the institutional vacuum that allows organised crime to thrive, convincing the residents of Sinaloa and other regions penetrated by criminal gangs that the state can provide security, education and other services designed to prevent crime and spur economic development.
PHOTO: REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Cross Purposes: Beijing, Washington and the Korean Peninsula | Daniel Pinkston and Yanmei Xie
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.
But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s own statement, while forceful, was far less specific. “China will never allow chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula”. Kerry had said the two sides agreed that the North “must take meaningful, concrete, and irreversible steps towards verifiable denuclearisation, and it needs to begin now”. Wang stressed that the “top priority at the moment is to grasp the opportunity and resume talks”.
Clearly the U.S. and China have a mismatch in priorities. Even though both posit denuclearisation as a goal, Beijing and Washington have contradicting prescriptions. The U.S. employs diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, containment, and deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to denuclearise. Many in Washington believe Beijing holds the real key given the North’s economic dependence on China. But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the Kim regime and possibly change a delicate geopolitical balance. So China utilises diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as instruments with which to encourage the North Korean leadership to denuclearise, but it is willing to live with a de facto nuclear North Korea in exchange for stability in the present. Kerry himself acknowledged this when he said the Chinese “will not allow a nuclear program” in the North and added: “over the long run”.
Certainly a public consensus is emerging in China that believes Beijing’s unconditional support has led to some excessive North Korean behaviour contrary to China’s interests. Xi Jinping’s administration is trying to re-set boundaries. China almost certainly would deliver a harsh reprimand if North Korea were to conduct another nuclear or missile test, or start a military skirmish with the South, for example. But the red lines that would trigger serious punishment – and what the punishment would be – remain unclear.
Both the U.S. and China wish to avoid a war on the peninsula and therefore share an interest in managing Pyongyang’s behaviour. However – and here’s the fundamental difference in viewpoints – the risks and costs associated with managing Pyongyang are qualitatively different from those associated with the actions that might be required for denuclearisation. Pyongyang’s “normal” intransigence can be countered with short-term, easily reversible steps such as temporarily slowing down economic cooperation or tightening border inspections. Making Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons almost certainly would require more drastic actions, some of which could threaten Beijing’s bottom lines of no instability, no sudden regime change, no unified U.S. ally on China’s border. Managing Pyongyang’s behaviour helps maintain the status quo; denuclearising North Korea risks changing the status quo.
Setting the table to resume the Six-Party Talks appears to be good enough for China. The framework allows Beijing to play its preferred role of mediator, garnering good-will for its efforts while ensuring minimum costs to its relations with the parties involved (the U.S., both Koreas, Japan and Russia). The Chinese consensus is that the North Korean nuclear issue is ultimately a “U.S.-DPRK” problem that can be solved if the two parties would only sit down and hammer out an agreement, so Beijing may well feel it has done its part if it can get the parties to reconvene talks. Having the parties at the table also gives Beijing a structure for monitoring and managing tensions.
The barriers to talks therefore remain significant. Washington wants Pyongyang to take verifiable and irreversible steps towards dismantling its nuclear program, including implementing its previous denuclearisation commitment. China, however, wants the U.S. to lower its threshold for talks, or in Wang Yi’s words, “show flexibility”.
U.S. policymakers very likely see the limits of cooperating with Beijing, but at this stage choose to paper over differences in public. Lauding China’s commitment to denuclearise the North, Kerry also could be aiming to bind Beijing to a position it might find difficult to abandon. But Beijing has its own ideas. China’s stated goal actually is “the denuclearisation of the peninsula”, a nod to Pyongyang’s assertion that Washington’s nuclear umbrella must be retracted from Seoul.
In short, there is little sign of Beijing moving towards Washington’s pressure-driven approach in the absence of Pyongyang crossing China’s red lines. Evidence suggests quite the opposite. On the heels of Kerry’s visit to Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin travelled to Pyongyang where he reiterated China’s desire to foster the “healthy and stable development of bilateral relations”, including by “respecting each other’s interests and expanding pragmatic cooperation”. China may be willing to apply pressure on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. But when the table is set, Beijing will likely congratulate itself for fulfilling its responsibilities, and the ball will then be in Washington’s court as to whether talks alone are sufficient.
PHOTO: REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool
Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Deadly School Attack
In the early hours of Tuesday 25 February, about 50 gunmen from the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram stormed a co-educational, federal government boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, about 65km from the state capital, Damaturu. The attackers locked a dormitory and set it on fire, killing many students inside. Students who tried to escape were shot or knifed to death. In all, there were 59 fatalities; all killed were males; some female students were abducted, others ordered to quit school and go get married or be killed in future attacks. The school’s 24 buildings were completely burned down.
What has been the government’s reaction?
President Goodluck Jonathan has called the attack “a callous and senseless murder … by deranged terrorists and fanatics who have clearly lost all human morality and descended to bestiality”. A military spokesman in Yobe State, Captain Lazarus Eli, said troops were “in pursuit of the killers”, but military authorities offered no further details. Many commentators on social media and radio/television talk programs dismiss these reactions for being insufficient.
What is the local reaction?
This incident, and several other attacks this month, are seen as further examples of the failure of the government and the military to protect Nigeria’s citizens. The rising casualties from recent attacks are fuelling an already considerable anger, not only in the north east, which is worst hit by the violence, but across the country.
Why are the militants increasingly targeting civilians?
Because they are soft targets. The militants accuse communities – especially those with significant Christian populations – of collaborating with government security forces. Their terror tactics are intended to compel compliance with their ideology. (For more on the historical and ideological roots of the movement, see our 2010 report Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict.)
Why are they targeting schools?
They say secular, state schools are the main conduits through which Western values, which they consider un-Islamic and therefore corrupting, are being transmitted to the local society.
President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 2013 and launched a military offensive in May to crush the rebels. Why is this not working?
The military operation has been difficult for several reasons. First, this is an unconventional, asymmetric war (in which the attackers generally avoid direct combat but attack soft targets like schools and remote villages). Second, the military initially had little or no capacity (training, equipment, special units, etc.) for operations against such insurgents. Lastly the terrain is vast and difficult. The three states where Boko Haram is most active (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, all covered by the state of emergency) total 154,000 sq km: larger than the U.S. state of Georgia and nearly two thirds the size of the UK. The number of soldiers deployed would need to be considerable to provide adequate protection to all possible targets, especially remote communities. Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Geidam and Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima have recently criticised the military’s performance, insisting more resources are needed to defeat the increasingly well-armed and apparently emboldened insurgents. The military’s performance has been compromised by rivalries with other security agencies. There are indications of possible sabotage by military elements who support, or are sympathetic to, Boko Haram’s demand for an Islamic state to counter the corruption and dysfunction of the current government. Military authorities also suggest they are not getting maximum cooperation from the security forces of neighbouring countries, particularly Cameroon.
What are the implications for the 2015 elections?
The Independent National Electoral Commission warned in December 2013 that it might not be able to conduct elections in the three states (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) under emergency rule if the attacks continue into next year. These states are among sixteen in which the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is quite strong. Some opposition politicians are already alleging that Jonathan is allowing the poor security situation to persist, or even deteriorate, in order not to hold polls in those states. A general or presidential election that leaves out these three states could give Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a significant advantage at the polls. If Jonathan wins re-election that way, the opposition will likely vigorously challenge his victory; the 2011 post-election violence in the north killed more than 1,000.
However, conversely, there are those who believe the government’s management of the conflict reflects poorly on the Jonathan administration and therefore continued attacks could dim the president’s chances of re-election.
Boko Haram recently said it will strike oil installations in the Niger Delta and assassinate leading political figures nationwide. How serious is this threat?
Security sources say they do not underestimate Boko Haram’s capacity for wreaking havoc. In 2011, Boko Haram carried out suicide-bomb attacks on the national police force headquarters as well as the complex housing all UN agencies in Abuja, the Nigerian capital – about 850km away from the attackers’ base in Borno State. (See our commentary at the time.) No target anywhere in the country is entirely secure. Boko Haram cells have been uncovered in the south, including Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Some suspected members were arrested recently in Port Harcourt, the largest city in the Niger Delta and hub of the country’s oil industry. The possibility of the group striking oil facilities cannot be ruled out.
If the group is planning to attack oil installations in the Niger Delta, would they do this on their own or possibly in collaboration with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)?
Collaborating with MEND is highly unlikely. The two groups have strikingly opposing ideologies, interests and goals. Boko Haram views MEND as part of the “infidel” southern Nigeria; MEND views Boko Haram as part of a “Hausa/Fulani/Islamist” plot to dominate the country (especially the oil-producing areas) for its own purposes.