Adding fuel to this theory has been the renewed outbreak of violence in Nigeria’s southern, oil-rich Niger River Delta. On October 30, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has long advocated a redistribution of oil wealth and a greater control of the region, broke its on-again, off-again peace with the government by launching a rash of attacks on oil facilities throughout the Delta.
The belief that it would be a contained and limited fight was countered by the group’s most recent communiqué which stated: “In the coming weeks, (MEND) will launch a major operation that will simultaneously affect oil facilities across the Niger Delta.”
In addition to grappling with MEND, the Nigerian government has been simultaneously engaged in fighting the northern-based Islamic militant group Boko Haram. This group, which holds links to North Africa’s al-Qaeda branch, has long been fighting to have Sharia law imposed on all northern Nigerian states. In recent days it has threatened: “Any Muslim that goes against the establishment of Sharia (law) will be attacked and killed.”
Even though a dozen states in the north operate under Sharia law, they remain under the control of secular state governments. Still this has not prevented outbreaks of heavy fighting between the sect and government forces, fighting which escalated heavily in July 2009 when Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police custody.
All of this fighting comes behind the backdrop of an upcoming January 2011 general election. The election has exacerbated tensions between Nigeria’s Muslims and Christians with the decision of current president, Goodluck Jonathan, to seek reelection.
The cause for controversy is that Jonathan, a southern Nigerian, has gone against the unwritten agreement of the ruling People’s Democratic Party that power be split between a candidate from the north and south every two terms. Jonathan is completing the term of President Umaru Yar’Adua who died in May 2010.
Adding to Western unease over the potential for sectarian violence in Nigeria is its role in already being a staging area for terrorist strikes. This fear announced itself front and center when Nigerian citizen Umar Farouk Abdulmmutaallab was accused of attempting to blow up a Northwest Airliner in Detroit on Christmas day 2009, an action which prompted the US Government to include Nigeria as a “country of interest,” one believed to be a sponsor of state terrorism.
While some believe Iran’s latest sanction violations to just be a case of “tweaking” Western powers in an attempt to demonstrate it is still a global player, others see a darker motive.
Through sponsorship of such terrorist organizations as Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda or the Taliban, Iran has been the prime agent behind sowing international discord since 1979. As “U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once neatly opined, “Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism.”
What is not up for debate, however, is that in all the talk over Iran’s nuclear program is the unmistakable fact that Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons to destabilize the world. Nigeria just may prove to be the latest country to prove that unfortunate point.
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