A leaking oil head (left) spews oil and gas in Ogoniland. The oil heated by the sun becomes highly flammable.
Africom – it’s about the oil. It has always been about the oil. Peaceful and secure living conditions for the residents of the Gulf of Guinea have nothing to do with it. See the recent headline in Bloomberg:

Securing African Oil a Major Role for New Command

May 18 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. military’s new Africa command will help safeguard West African nations’ oil and other energy production against rebel or terrorist attacks, the general organizing the command said today.

The U.S. wants to help countries such as Nigeria, its fifth- largest supplier of oil, improve its military’s ability to thwart the kind of attacks by militants (my emphasis, see the quotations about the militants below) who in the past year halted production by about 600,000 barrels a day.

“You look at West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, it becomes more focused because of the energy situation,” U.S. Army General Bantz Craddock, head of the European Command, told reporters in Washington. Safeguarding energy “obviously is out in front.”

This kind of safeguarding will have the opposite effect of its alleged intentions. None of us will be safer. Of course farther down in the article is a bit of the cosmetic coverup:

U.S. lawmakers’ will likely examine whether the command’s mission is well defined and ensure that training and equipment provided to African security forces isn’t used to suppress internal dissent or threaten other nations, Lauren Ploch, an analyst for the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, said in a May 16 report.

Unfortunately, it looks like the US military already has a hand in suppressing internal dissent (consider Nigeria and Equitorial Guinea) and threatening other nations (consider Somalia.) I’m hoping the Democratic congress will look at this more critically. Though I’m not holding my breath. And I’m hoping if we get a Democrat in the White House, it will be someone who understands you can’t do diplomacy with a military force. Diplomacy must be lead by diplomats, people who talk, who talk for a living, who can make deals, and who keep talking.

Four US oil workers, being held hostage in the Niger Delta, were recently allowed to talk to reporters. The US has worked with the Nigerian Federal Government and labelled the Delta protestors as terrorists. The hostages had been held 11 days at the time of the interview. I have watched and read many interviews with hostages and captives. The words of these four are the most passionate endorsement of their captors cause I have heard. Stockholm syndrome aside, in their circumstances it would be foolish to be critical of ones captors. But what these four have to say has already been reported in many other sources, and there is power and conviction in their words.

Stop treating Niger-Delta people like animals, 4 American hostages tell FG (Nigerian Federal Government) By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South Posted to the Web: Saturday, May 19, 2007

The hostages: Mike Roussel (anchor operator), Chris Gay (anchor operator), Larry Plake (anchor operator) and Kevin Faller (barge foreman), all workers of Global Industries, a Lagos-based oil servicing company to the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) spoke to the Saturday Vanguard exclusively in the base camp of the militants, Thursday evening.
. . . “the people are starving; they want schools for their children. That is the most important to them. They want jobs also, they don’t have money. Just look at the water they bath with and drink, which tells you right away that something has to be done.
“I want the Nigerian government to bring us out of here to enable me go home to my family as soon as possible. The government should come in here and try to help these people out and their children. Everybody needs education because without education, you have nothing and here, they don’t have schools”, he said.

Kevin Faller, who quivered, as he spoke said he had learnt many lessons from his stay so far in the creek. In his words: “Yes, I have learnt many things, the nature of how these people are being treated, how they have to live and you see, everyone is a human being and not an animal and these people deserve the good things of life like others too. There is no way they would not be provoked to carry arms and do what they are doing when they are not provided with basic amenities.
“They are very poor and from what I can see, there are no schools, hospitals, no roads and if something happens, it will take a long time to get to the hospital and maybe, the person being rushed to the hospital will die before they get there. It hurts to see human beings live the way these people are living in the Niger-Delta, no one deserves to live like this”, he added.
. . .
“our eyes have been opened to a lot of things we didn’t know about the sufferings of the Niger-Deltans. The militants have showed us a lot of things that we did not know before of their position. Things like how they live, how they are treated and all that, it is not right, I must say.“They have nothing. And what they have at all is from their own land. Have you not seen their houses, they bring down trees to make their ramshackle buildings, they bath and drink from the same water they pollute. The food they eat here, we cannot eat it.
“I want the government to understand the plight of these people first. Let the eyes of the leaders of Nigeria be opened on the real problems of the Niger-Delta people. It is only when their eyes are really opened that they can tackle it. A human being does not have to live the way these people are living in the creek. They should have schools, hospitals, houses to live, not these ramshackle huts they live in, not things they have to build like what we have seen. There should be electricity and spring water. In fact, so many things are missing here”, he asserted.

Meanwhile, the militarization continues:

Nigeria, others raise special force on Gulf of Guinea
Abuja, Nigeria, 05/19 –

Nigeria and seven other countries have set up a special force to monitor their common interests in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, the Defence Minister Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, has said. The Minister told a briefing here Thursday, the establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Guard Force (GGGF) by Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial-Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Angola, DR Congo, and an unnamed country, (emphasis mine) had become imperative because of growing interest of the international community in the area.
. . .
“The Gulf of Guinea with an estimated 30 billion barrels of crude oil reserve is the largest single bloc of crude oil deposit in sub-Saharan Africa and it is fast becoming an important and strategic area in the emerging global oil politics,” the Minister added.

Gee, I wonder who that unnamed country could be? And who are they defining as potential enemies? It does not look good for the people who live in the Delta.

From the crawl along the top of the home page of United Ijaw:

****”The Nigerian State tolerates leaders from the Niger Delta so long as they support the enslavement of their people. But the moment they show signs of independent thinking and preparation for action or opposition to the negative policies of the Nigerian State, all the coercive apparati of State power and might are brought to bear on them without pity or without human touch”….Gani Fawehinmi****

****Only the fear of a volcanic social eruption from below can stop barbaric behaviour by holders of political power – Gani Fawehinmi ****