Confident Nigerian rebels show their strength
In recent years many groups have arisen among the angry young Ijaw men living and fighting on the creeks of the delta, home to Africa's largest oil industry.india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 17:07 IST
The rebels are masters of the waterways around their base, confidently churning up the Niger Delta's rivers in heavily-armed attack boats decked out in the banners of their god of war.
But when it comes to remembering the current name of their organisation, the ethnic Ijaw militants can seem a little less sure of themselves.
"We are the Niger Delta Volunteers," barked the commander of one fast fibreglass skiff, packed to the gunnals with masked gunmen wearing body armour and brandishing belt-fed machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
From the back of the boat came a second, urgent voice: "MEND! We're MEND!"
"That's right," continued the commander. "We're the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta -- MEND!"
"We've been suffering for a long time in this Niger Delta. The Nigerian government has enslaved us. They came to take oil from our villages. The federal government comes here to kill us," hesaid.
The brief confusion of the war boat leader is understandable. In recent years many groups have arisen among the angry young Ijaw men living and fighting on the creeks of the delta, home to Africa's largest oil industry.
One by one the Federated Niger Delta Izon Communities (FNDIC), the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), the Egbesu Boys, the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) and the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) have raised their banners.
The groups wax and wane in influence. Some are co-opted by government or politicians, some fade away, some fall into infighting and some try to convert themselves into short-lived popular political movements.
But all are united by a common complaint: Nigeria's 30-billion-barrel oil reserves are the rightful property of the delta's 14-million-strong Ijaw tribe, and have been unjustly taken by the federal government and foreign oil majors.