GULF OF GUINEA (March 18, 2008) Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Kait, executive officer of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) teaches procedures for underway replenishment to Lt. Nsikan Friday and Lt. Mohamed Olanrewaju Zubair of the Nigerian Navy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class RJ Stratchko, 080318-N-8933S-016)

US Navy ships continue to ply the Gulf of Guinea. In mid April HSV Swift docked in Nigeria and conducted joint training with the Nigerian Navy. It was written up in the Vanguard:

The exercise to be conducted at the Western Naval Command’s area of responsibility, will focus on the Automatic Identification System aimed at enhancing Nigerian Navy’s capability to monitor vessel traffic in Nigerian waters.

The French Navy has been visiting Nigeria as well:

Abuja, Nigeria (April 16) – A French navy frigate is due in Nigeria Saturday on a five-day visit, just as a US warship arrived in the African nation for a week-long ‘transiting’ visit, PANA reported. The French warship – AVISO NAVY LIEUTENANT LE HENAFF – will arrive the commercial city of Lagos 26 April, and will conduct joint training exercises with the Nigerian Navy (NN).

Earlier on Monday, US warship HSV SWIFT arrived Nigeria for a visit tagged “transiting the Gulf of Guinea.” The ship has already commenced a joint training exercise with the NN.

MEND’s response has been to escalate their activities:

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, (MEND) has warned oil companies working along the coastal region of Nigeria to be ready for war, just as it said the military was not in a position to protect them.

“MEND will offer materials such as explosives to communities that have now realised that it is better to destroy oil facilities in their territory since they do not benefit them in the first place.

And they made their intentions and opinions quite clear:

“On Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 2230 hours, commandos from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), sabotaged a major Shell Petroleum Company pipeline at Adamakiri in Rivers State of Nigeria. That pipeline crosses from the Cawthorn channel to Bonny,” the group said in an e-mail signed by Jomo Gbomo and sent to journalists.

The group also said it provided logistics to the group that attacked a Chevron facility in Delta State on Thursday.

Regarding the Naval visits MEND said in the statement signed by Jomo Gbomo:

“Today’s attack was prompted by the continuous injustice in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where the root issues have not been addressed …

Then finally, to show our way of saying “welcome” to the US Naval warship, USS Swift which is transiting the Gulf of Guinea.

“Mr president, your warships do not intimidate us. Instead they only embolden our resolve in fighting the Goliaths of the world that support injustice.

“We have nothing to loose because he that is down need fear no fall. Our waters and farms have been polluted by oil companies with double standards. Our girls are raped by soldiers of the Nigerian army with impunity and protesting youths are assaulted and killed daily. Even journalists from your country can not visit the region to report the truth without being arrested and embarrassed.

In an rational world the parties involved would be attempting to work towards a political solution. As Adam Wolfe writes in his blog, in a post titled AFRICOM cannot MEND the Delta:

Now some might try to make the argument that MEND is really just made up of “dead-enders” and greater US cooperation in patrolling the area would bring stability to the region. But wouldn’t a political solution to the Delta region be better than an intensification of the asymmetrical warfare between a larger patrol force (trained by the US) and MEND?

And asymmetrical warfare is what AFRICOM is setting up to engage.