AFRICANGLOB – The relationship between oil and terrorism is not a new find. Since the turn of the century analysts and panellists have lunched on this topic and churned out from in-depth exclusives to conspiracy theories, one of such is perhaps the 2004 Documentary, the Oil Factor by Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy.
However, most of these reports and theories on oil and terror have focused on the Middle East crisis and the US-led Western World’s interventions. The Oil Factor, for example, builds its story from the perspective of the US-led War on Terror being primarily motivated by its interest in the abundant oil in the Middle East. Like earlier stated, these are not new postulations. What is perhaps more current is the rising state of terror in Africa coinciding with the boom in exploration of oil in Africa. Terror groups whether styled as Islamists, separatists, rebels or freedom fighters, are increasingly focusing on oil and in many cases seeking to control it.
In the past decade, militant groups in the Oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria had, in the mantra of emancipating their people, sought to not just disrupt the exploration of oil in their lands, but to also trade in this oil through illegal bunkering. Though the Niger-Delta Militants’ activities have relatively calmed since the Nigeria Government’s amnesty programme, many have alluded to the sharing of Nigeria’s oil proceeds as the main grievance fuelling the insurgency in north.
Libya’s oil crises is currently the most pronounced in Africa with militant groups in the country’s east seizing and controlling oil fields. Ever since the fall of the Gadaffi regime, militant groups that fought to oust him have taken illegal oil trade. In March, militants at the militant-held port of al-Sidra tried to export oil through a North Korea-flagged tanker. Although the Libyan authorities claimed to have taken control of the tanker, the vessel eventually broke through. Hope seems to be on the horizon as the militant group in control of major oil ports have agreed a deal with the Libyan government to release the three ports under their control. However, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni declaration that the crises has ended may be a little bit premature considering the fact that there are several other militant groups in Libya who profit from attacking oil ports politically and financially.
The situation in South-Sudan is not so dissimilar. This newest African country, having engaged in decades-battle for secession from the North, a battle in no little way motivated by a desire to control its vast oil resources, gained its independence in 2011. But all the joy and enthusiasm of the new independence and control of its vast resources have fizzled away with the bloody clash between its two main leaders, nay tribal groups- the Dinka and the Nuer. The warring factions, Government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir’s on one side and rebel soldiers loyal to his former vice and political opponent Riek Machar on the other, unsurprisingly concentrated their efforts to seize and control oil fields. Although both sides are now under a testy ceasefire agreement, a lasting solution to the crises is still nowhere near.
The Republic of Congo, Angola and Algeria are among a host of other Oil producing African countries to see their oil production threatened by crises and militant forces. It now seems that in Africa, where ever the oil goes, terror visits.
The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) in its 2003 report gives a partial background to this phenomenon, thus; “Terrorist organizations have always been interested in targeting oil and gas facilities. Striking pipelines, tankers, refineries and oil fields accomplish two desired goals: undermining the internal stability of the governments they are fighting, and economically weakening foreign powers with vested interests in their region”. That background is incomplete because it does not take into account the weak government institutions, corruption and patronage, tribal conflict and government’s indifference to the woes of oil-affected communities – that is common, if not prevalent, in these oil-producing African countries. These factors are well sounded in Consultancy Africa Intelligence’s “Nigerian Warning” to Kenya- another African country on the verge of an oil boom.
Oil producing African Countries need to address the factors enumerated in the preceding paragraph as these oil–targeted terror becomes more potent in deflating their economic success. For example, Libya’s Oil exploration fell from 1.4 million barrels per day before the 2011 revolution to around 300 thousand currently while South-Sudan is virtually surviving on foreign aid.
By: Douglas Imaralu