Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jonathan Lets Bakassi Appeal Window Close; Efik King Joins Cause with Ambazonian Separatists: Nigeria Update, 7-13 October 2012

Secession of the Bakassi Peninsula is in the air again as the deadline for appealing its cession to Cameroon is allowed to pass, and the Efik king and other leaders begin envisioning a Bakassi Republic carved out of pieces of both Nigeria and Cameroon.  Read on ...

Appeal Window Closes, Angering Efik and Others in Nigeria.  Despite a last-minute lawsuit by Bakassian activists, Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathanallowed an October 10th deadline to pass, thus closing the window of opportunity for appealing a 2002 ruling by the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) ceding the Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon.  Nine Bakassians in Cross River State in southeastern Nigeria had filed a lawsuit this week against the federal government over the question of sovereignty over the disputed peninsula.  The plaintiffs, a group called the Free Bakassi Association, asked the court to void the Green Tree Agreement of 2006, in which Nigeria acquiesced to the I.C.J. decision, and to order the Nigerian government to retake the disputed area by any means necessary.  But on October 8th, Mohammed Bello Adoke, the Nigerian minister of justice, announced that the deadline would be allowed to pass without appeal.  But Adoke promised to press Cameroon on the rights of Bakassians and other Nigerians living in Cameroonian territory.

Betrayed Bakassians Mull an Efik Republic to Straddle Nigerian-Cameroonian Border.  As the Nigerian government allowed the window on appealing the Bakassi cession to close on October 10th, furious Bakassians on both sides of the (now utterly officially demarcated) Nigerian–Cameroonian border took to the streets to protest.  Liyel Imoke, governor of Nigeria’s Cross River State—where many of the Efik ethnic minority live, including those displaced from Bakassi years ago when the territory was first transferred—pleaded for calm.  More pointedly, supporters of the once-sovereign Efik kingdom marched on the governor’s office, and Ekpo Abasi Otu, the obong of Calabar—the current hereditary ruler of the Efik-dominated Calabar Kingdom—said on the 10th, according to media, “that the Efik were considering the invitation by the people of Southern Cameroon to form a republic as the Federal Government [of Nigeria] had sold their ancestral land to Cameroon.  The coordinator of the Save Bakassi GroupMaurice Ekong, said that this was “the beginning of a long struggle for sovereignty.”  Also in Cross River, Cletus Obun, who heads the Cameroon Border Communities Association (C.B.C.A.), said this week that his group will petition the United Nations for a plebiscite and “will embark on serious mobilisation across local government areas bordering Cameroon in collaboration with the Efiks in Bakassi and the Southern Cameroon for an independent state of Abazonia.”  Efik and other ethnic groups in southwestern Cameroon, including many in the Bakassi Peninsula and many in the areas that used to be the British-ruled Southern Cameroons colony before a merger with Cameroon, newly independent from France, have been pushing for decades for a separate nation, to be called either Ambazonia or Ambazania (as opposed to Obun’s “Abazonia” (a new spelling, or a typo?) above).  Efik activists in August declared an island off the coast of the Bakassi Peninsula the “Republic of Bakassi.”

The obong of Calabar

Meanwhile, sources are reporting that the Cameroonian government’s security forces are cracking down in Bakassi and Efik in Nigeria have been unable to contact relatives on the Cameroonian side of the border.

Jonathan Offered Okah Amnesty for Blaming Bombs on Political Enemies, Court Hears.  In the trial of the accused Ogoni separatist bomber Henry Okah, which began last week in Johannesburg, South Africa (as reported at the time in this blog), the court screened a 2009 interview with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network, shot after he’d been granted amnesty by the Nigerian government, in which he said, “There are still thousands and thousands and thousands who are prepared to fight and continue fighting,” adding, “I don’t look like I am contributing to violence; I am participating in fighting for my rights.”  When asked if he was repentant for past violence, he said, “I’m not.  Why should I be?  What we want is our land.  ...  I think in a few months, if government doesn’t address the real demands ... very soon, there will be a resumption of violence.”  Okah, alleged leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), is being accused of masterminding a wave of car-bombings in Nigeria in the year following that interview.  In another interview heard by the court, Okah claimed that after the 2010 car bombings a representative of Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, phoned him in South Africa and asked him to get MEND to retract its claim of responsibility so that Jonathan could “blame the attacks on northerners who are trying to fight against him to come back as president, and if this was done, I was not going to have any problems with the South African government.”  Okah refused the offer, he said in the interview, and a few hours later was arrested.

The Ogoni flag
New Igbo Youth Movement Says It Lured 1,000 Away from MASSOB.  The head of publicity for a new Igbo group in southeastern Nigeria, the Association of Igbo Youths (AIYO), registered in 2007, said on October 5th that at least 1,000 members have fled a longer established groupMASSOB, to join AIYO, citing as a cause that MASSOB does not look at those that have been imprisoned, widowed, or orphaned as the result of MASSOB violence.  MASSOB stands for Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra.  AIYO, by contrast, according to the publicity head, Charles Chikeli, is a “youth vanguard” which promotes “peace, love, and oneness of the Igbo in accordance with the laws of the country.”


On October 6th, battles raged for half an hour in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State in northern Nigeria, between the Islamist insurgency group Boko Haram and the federal government’s anti-terrorist Joint Task Force (J.T.F.), but there were no reports of casualties.  Six Boko Haram fighters were captured and arrested, some with the help of the citizenry.

Around the same time, two people in the village of Dogon Kuka, in northern Yobe, were killed when unknown gunmen opened fire on them.

A bomb blast near a television studio in Jalingo, capital of Taraba State in Nigeria’s mixed-Christian-and-Muslim east-central Middle Belt region, injured eight people on the night of October 6-7, including a woman and five children.  Boko Haram is suspected.

On October 7th, also in northern Yobe State, Nigerian troops killed approximately 30 suspected Boko Haram fighters in a battle that lasted several hours.  Among the dead, according to an army spokesman, was “the notorious, one-eyed Bakaka, the field commander of Boko Haram in Damaturu and a close associate of Abubakar Shekau,” the apparent leader of the terror network.  Hospitals also reported five uniformed men among the dead, presumably government soldiers.  Ten insurgents were arrested, and a gigantic cache of weapons and other equipment was recovered.

The “one-eyed” warlord Bakaka, recently neutralized—
though he seems to have full stereoscopic vision in this photo
On October 8th, in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, an afternoon bombing of a military convoy killed 20 civilians and burned 50 homes.  An army lieutenant and six other military personnel were also apparently killed in the explosion, which prompted Nigerian troops in the area to “go berserk” in an impoverished neighborhood, opening fire, according to witnesses, and mowing down and killing 30 people that included civilians as well as those later identified as Boko Haram fighters.  They also set over 100 buildings, including houses and shops, and 35 vehicles ablaze.  Since military sources would not confirm any details of the alleged rampage—and claim no one other than two soldiers were injured in the initial blast—it is possible that there was only one wave of fires, attributed by different sources to either soldiers or the terrorist bomb.  One resident said, “The atrocities going on in Maiduguri is worse than what obtains in Somalia.  People are being killed and their wealth destroyed by the soldiers.”  In Kano, in north-central Nigeria, two police officers were shot and killed by gunmen on motorcycles on October 9th while protecting medical workers administering polio vaccine door to door.  Police have arrested eight suspected Islamist militants in connection with that incident.

Two days later, also in Kano, two officers with the Nigerian Federal Road Safety Commission (F.R.S.C.were shot and killed by unknown gunmen, presumed to be Boko Haram.  An additional officer was injured.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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