oil field burning

Resistance Profile: Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (MEND)

Editors note: this material is excerpted from a Deep Green Resistance  database called “Resistance Profiles,” which explores various movements, their strategies and tactics, and their effectiveness. Image credit: public domain.

Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (MEND)

  • Active: 2005 – 2013
  • Location: Nigeria
  • Type: Underground Resistance Movement
  • Success: Medium

Goal

Majority or total control of oil production/revenues in the Niger Delta (for the Ogoni people) and withdrawal of the Nigerian military from the Niger Delta.

Strategy

Totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil in the Niger Delta, force the multinational oil companies to discontinue operations, and likely precipitate a nationwide budgetary and economic crisis.

Tactics

  • sabotage of oil infrastructure
  • bombing near military, government or oil industry infrastructure or buildings
  • theft
  • guerrilla warfare
  • kidnapping of foreign oil workers for ransom (MEND has a very good record of returning them unharmed)

MEND uses speed boats in swarm-based maneuvers to quickly attack targets in succession. Multiple highly maneuverable, well trained and armed units have kept the government and Shell’s defensive systems off-balance defending their sprawling networks (1,000 oil wells, 6,000 km of pipeline over 70,000 square miles).

Very effective use of system disruption: targets have been systematically and accurately selected to completely shut down production and delay and/or halt repairs.

Organization

MEND, an umbrella organization, has evolved into a conglomeration of distinct militant groups with constantly shifting alliances and loyalties. Command and control is believed to be hierarchical. Leaders are frequently deposed or replaced by rivals, due to internal conflicts over proceeds from criminal and political activities, and due to Ijaw tradition of choosing tribal leaders on a rotational basis

Above/Underground

Underground cells with a few spokesmen that communicate with the international media

Security

Leaders are always on the move and extremely cautious. They do not take telephone calls personally, knowing that soldiers hunting for them have electronic devices capable of pinpointing mobile phone signals. During raids, fighters wear masks to protect their identity. All communication with the media is conducted using aliases. MEND does not reveal identities of its rank and file and conducts all recruiting clandestinely. The fluid and contradictory organization structure may or may not be by design but is very effective at obscuring the leadership and increasing the operational security of key individuals

Recruitment

Draws its fighters from communities across the delta: ethnic militias in the west and from cults (criminal gangs) in the east

Effectiveness

Has not yet achieved its goal, but its strategy and tactics have been effective, resulting in a cut of more than 28 percent of Nigeria’s oil output from 2006 to 2009. In August 2009, the government offered a 60 day amnesty: militants who handed in their weapons were pardoned for their crimes, given job training and were paid US $410 per month until they found work. But the ceasefire and amnesty ended in December when MEND attacked a Shell/Chevron pipeline amidst questions about President Yar’ Adua’s health and impatience with the slow pace of job growth.

Further learning

Articles

2 thoughts on “Resistance Profile: Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (MEND)”

  1. If the main or only goal is to distribute oil revenue more equitably, why should any environmentalist care about this? Ken
    Saro-Wiwa died fighting for the environment and against oil extraction, not for money.

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