George Clooney to the Rescue?
Events in the conflict stricken Niger Delta region of Nigeria took a decidedly unusual turn on January 19 as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) issued a statement urging movie actor and People magazine's two time "Sexiest Man Alive" George Clooney to help mediate the standoff between the Nigerian government and the insurgent group. MEND has used kidnappings, bombings, and other violent tactics against elements of the oil industry operating in the Niger Delta in a campaign for a greater share of the oil revenue for the delta's impoverished people. MEND's call comes shortly after Clooney was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace for his advocacy work on Darfur. Excerpts from MEND's statements follows, as reported by AFP:
"The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to draw your attention to the unrest in this oil-rich region of Nigeria which is gradually building up to a crisis that will make Darfur an adjective for child's play," MEND said in an open letter sent to the press.
"We suggest that the UN should take a proactive step to nip the Niger Delta unrest in the bud before it is too late," the letter continued.
"Both sides of the conflict are building up arms for an imminent battle which can only be prevented with the intervention of well meaning and credible peace makers like you," the group said.MEND invited Clooney to come and "see things for himself" in the delta.
In related news, some of the delta's other insurgent groups will participate in peace talks with the Nigerian government in the coming week. MEND refuses to participate in these talks while its leader, Henry Okah, remains jailed in Angola. In a statement issued to Reuters, a MEND spokesman had this to say in reference to recent attacks perpetrated by the group:
"What you are seeing is the calm before a storm. We are working on a major terrifying event that will be a date not easily forgotten like 9/11," the spokesman said. "Those smaller raids serve as irritants and reminders that all is not well and over."
No word yet on whether Mr. Clooney will take MEND up on its offer.