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BOUDREAUX, Ray. "What does Resistance Look Like? The Niger Delta Model"
Article published on 27 October 2011
last modification on 24 October 2011

by r-c.
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MEND: The Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta

Residents of the Niger Delta have fought the oil companies for decades. They’ve fought for better protections and regulations to stop the oil spills that were destroying their ability to fish, farm, and survive with dignity on unpolluted land. They fought for more oil revenue to come to the Delta in a cruel exchange for losing their way of life. They fought dictatorships and elected politicians alike, who both favored oil drilling in the Delta, while taking all the royalties from it…..as do our two national parties here.

The Nigerians fought peacefully for decades. They organized, they protested, and they created large united movements fighting for justice. They became effective, and so their leaders were murdered and arrested by government and private oil company hit squads. In 1995, after leading a protest movement against Shell, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was infamously executed at Shell’s behest.

After decades of frustratingly unsuccessful peaceful struggle, a few years ago some smaller Niger Delta outlaw groups united to fight together by any means necessary, to force the oil companies to change their practices. The need for change was urgent: it was fight, face toxic death, or become new slum dwellers in cities, working for peanuts at jobs they hated, if they could even find jobs. This is how MEND was born.

MEND, the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, have engaged in everything from destroying oil pipelines and giving away free oil, to occupying oil platforms, guns mounted on their fishing boats. They’ve kidnapped foreign employees for ransom, and bombed oil company offices. They’ve declared war against big oil in the Delta.

Can you blame them? What threat is more fundamental, more existential than taking away a community’s ability to feed itself? Native Americans fought back as their buffalo were slaughtered, Native Mapuche warriors in Chile fight logging companies fouling their rivers and destroying their hunting habitat, tribes in West Papua, Indonesia fight against mining by capitalists Freeport-McMoRan, who, in their insatiable quest for gold and copper, are polluting rivers and killing fish the tribes rely on. MEND is fighting back, just like countless people who’ve relied on the land have done, against corporations who decide that someone else’s land, food, and way of life can be sacrificed for the benefit of civilization, profits, and investor dividends. And they use the violence of the state to make sure it is in the end, even if it means killing every last Indian or buffalo. (I’m not sure about that last part of this last sentence… take it out if you want to)

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