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Rumblings of renewed militancy continue in Bayelsa, Nigeria

The violence seen in the lead-up to the gubernatorial election could be just the beginning of trouble in the Niger Delta, says guest blogger Alex Thurston.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / February 13, 2012



• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, www.sahelblog.wordpress.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

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Few were surprised to see that Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), won Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State. The PDP controls not only the presidency but also a super-majority of the nation’s governorships, and it has dominated Bayelsa politics since Nigeria’s Fourth Republic began in 1999. The victor in Bayelsa, Henry Seriake Dickson, had the strong support of President Goodluck Jonathan.

As mentioned in a post last week, Bayelsa, which lies in the Niger Delta, has faced not only political tension but also renewed violence. Some of this violence is electoral, some targets the oil industry, and all of it is in some sense or another political. The election is now over,  but that does not settle questions about where the politics of the region are headed.

For one thing, there are signs of discontent with the electoral process. Turnout was low, reports Leadership. Minor clashes have occurred between rival partisans, reports All Africa. And the deposed former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, is still awaiting a court date in April to determine whether or not he was unfairly prevented from running in this election, reports Business Day. Somehow I doubt that Sylva will win the legal victory he seeks – but the wait for the hearing means that in some ways the election is not completely over, a feeling that could cast something of a shadow over the first two months of Dickson’s tenure.

More important still are the rumblings concerning the possibility of renewed militancy in the Delta. Fears focus in particular on the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose attacks disrupted oil production in the region before some militants agreed to an amnesty deal with the Federal Government in 2009. MEND has claimed a recent pipeline attack as a well as the bombing of the home of the Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe.

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