Observers of Guinea’s political crisis have raised concern that the seeds of Africa’s next civil war are being sown in that country. Giving credence to this alarm is a sprawling camp, where white contractors are getting military training to an estimated 1,500 to 4,000 men from one of Guinea’s smallest ethnic groups.
The trainees, say a camp employee, a government official and several diplomats, are almost all Guerze, the tribe of Guinea’s troubled leader.
The camp is one more sign of the growing instability in this West African nation of 10 million, where President Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara was shot at and lightly wounded by his own presidential guard last Thursday. Isolated and increasingly fearful for his safety, Camara appears to be tapping the dangerous sentiment of tribal allegiance in a bid to hold onto power.
Dictators have used such tactics throughout the continent, in some cases plunging countries into civil war. War in Guinea could also spread across the region along ethnic lines, because Guinea shares its largest ethnic group, the Peul, with five neighboring countries.
“We worry that he is recruiting and training this ethnic militia so that it can carry out blows below the belt,” said Mamadou Baadikko, president of the Union of Democratic Forces, an opposition party. “If this doesn’t stop, the risk of civil war is real.”
The 45-year-old Camara led a military coup last December, hours after the death of former strongman Lansana Conte. His first speeches were stirring, promising to crack down on corruption in the dirt-poor country and to hold elections in which he would not run. Many hoped he would reach out beyond his immediate clan because it makes up just 0.05 percent of the population, and because he is Christian in an 85 percent Muslim country.
But nearly all the top ministries were handed to men from his ethnicity. And only a few months later, Camara, 45, began hinting that he planned to run for office.
When opposition leaders led a rally on Sept. 28 to demand he step down, the presidential guard opened fire on the thousands of protesters, killing at least 157. Witnesses say the protesters were mostly Peul, while the soldiers who attacked them were overwhelmingly ‘forestier,’ the ethnic groups from Guinea’s forested southeast, including the Guerze.
It was just a few weeks before the massacre that residents of Forecariah, a dusty town 80 miles south of the country’s capital, began seeing buses arrive loaded with young men who spoke only forestier dialects.
The training camp for the militia is inside the former campus of the national gendarmerie academy in the village of Kalia, 2 1/2 miles up a dirt road from Forecariah, said a camp employee who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. He said that in mid-summer, the academy’s director and staff were replaced by men from the president’s ethnic group.
Eighty percent of the recruits, he said, are Guerze. The rest are from the related forestier tribes. Only a handful are from the country’s major ethnicities, including the Peul, which make up 40 percent of the population, and the Soussou, which account for 20 percent.
Local residents said the foreign trainers were speaking English and two other languages which sounded like Hebrew and Afrikaans.
Parked outside were several four-wheel drive vehicles and a large bus with license plates beginning with “AG,” designated for the “Armee Guineene,” French for the Guinean Army. Locals say the bus ferries the men to and from the camp.
Idrissa Cherif, the junta’s minister of communication, said media reports that mercenaries are in Guinea are “lies.” He said Israelis are at the camp in Kalia on an official mission to train the Guinean army.
“Yes, there are Israeli citizens here,” Cherif said. “They are training our army … why do they want to tarnish the image of my country by calling them mercenaries?”
But the Israeli government said no permits have been issued to Israeli companies or individuals to operate in the security sector in Guinea. “Those doing so are acting in violation of Israeli law and may face criminal charges in Israel,” said Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
2023: Lawyers’ Group Urges Wike To Run For President
The Chairman, League of Patriotic Lawyers, Abubakar Yesufu, has called on Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike to join the presidential race.
He said Wike’s performance as governor shows that he would provide good governance if elected as President of Nigeria.
Briefing newsmen, last Thursday, in Lagos, Yesufu urged Nigerians to support Wike should he heed the call to run.
According to him, “All those currently parading themselves as candidates cannot match Nyesom Wike’s impeccable credentials. Wike has demonstrated clearly that he is ready and eminently qualified for the job, come 2023.
“In education, infrastructure, housing, healthcare delivery, agriculture, social welfare, sports, arts and culture, Wike stands out like a giant amongst midgets.
“Indeed, Nyesom Nwike’s strides among his peers, have earned him the name Mr Project. The name was reemphasised by no less a personality than the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
“We are entering a defining moment the nation’s history. There is a sacred duty on all men and women of good will: Christian or Muslim, PDP or APC to rescue Nigeria from the abyss of destruction from which she is dangerously headed.
“The prospect of making APC return because of lack of good choice is scary and unthinkable.
“Wike has the knack and daring courage and his achievements in Rivers State, a highly cosmopolitan state, are eloquent testimonies of the preparedness of Governor Nyesom Wike.
“I would be taking this message across the country, especially the youths, whose votes might be compromised on the altar of idealism.
“We are going to redirect the orientation and thinking of the youths to ensure those who muffled their voices on the quest for better Nigeria, either at Lekki toll gate, Alausa, Wuse in Abuja or Kafanchan, are not allowed to stage a comeback to power.”
Identify Illegal Refinery Sites, Operators Now, Wike Orders LG Chairmen …Demands Transfer Of DPO, NSCDC Officer Implicated In Act …Promises N2m Bounty On Each Site
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the 23 local government chairmen to provide a comprehensive list of illegal refineries and their operators within their jurisdiction.
Wike gave the ultimatum at a meeting with the council chairmen and heads of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police Force, the Directorate of State Service (DSS), and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at Government House, last Friday.
The governor challenged the council chairmen to prove that they were not complicit in the noxious business that has continued to threaten the health of Rivers people and the national economy.
Wike stated that as a responsible government, it would be unwise for them to fold their hands and do nothing to safeguard residents of the state from the death that is forced upon them by criminal-minded operators of artisanal refineries.
“Now, every council chairman must go and identify where illegal refineries are taking place. If you identify one, you get N2million. So, go and identify as many as you can. I will pay N2million for each one. And I am going to fight against this. Our people are dying, and we owe our people the responsibility to protect them, to save them from death they never caused.
“So, you must, and you’re given 48 hours to go and identify all illegal refinery sites, and those who are in charge of them.”
Wike emphasised that any of the council chairmen who is afraid to join in the fight against the criminals operating the illegal refineries should be ready to resign.
According to the governor, part of their social contract with their people was also to protect them and stop any illegal economic practices in their domains.
“I’ve called you here to tell you that it’s a total war. It is either we do it or we don’t do it. We cannot allow what is going on to continue. Two things: our people are dying; it’s shortening our own revenue.
“You check from Federation Account, Akwa Ibom and Delta states are getting more, why? Because, these boys of the cartel have caused so much problems for us. So, we will not allow it.”
The Rivers State governor also frowned at security agencies for the role some of their personnel have played in aiding and providing cover to the operators of the illegal refineries in the state.
The governor urged the state Police Commissioner, Mr Eboka Friday, to redeploy out of the state, a particular DPO in Emohua Local Government Area who operates an illegal refinery in the area.
“It’s unfortunate for this country how security people will be involved in illegal bunkering. I can’t believe it. Mr. CP, I thank you for transferring the DPO in Rumuji, who owns a refinery. But the man must leave here, not transferred. He must leave this state. I can’t be governor here and a security man owns an illegal refinery. No, it is not possible…the man has to go. Take him to wherever they allow bunkering.”
Wike directed the CP to immediately arrest Chief W. J. Wocha, Fubara Ohaka, and Chief Promise Ezekwe, who have been fingered for operating illegal refineries deep inside the forest of Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area.
The governor further urged the commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Rivers State Command, to immediately transfer its personnel in charge of vandalisation of pipelines in the state.
“Transfer the man, and tell him to leave. He is a complete saboteur. I mean, how can security men be the ones involved in this? What kind of country are we?”
The governor urged the DSS to profile persons involved in the heinous illegal refining business, and make the list available to him, and assured of acting on the list.
Earlier, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike had vowed not to spare anyone involved in the illegal bunkering and artisanal refinery activities that have caused the soot pandemic in the state.
Wike maintained that his administration will not succumb to any form of blackmail or sentiment that will be stirred by those perpetrators in an attempt to frustrate efforts at curbing such hazardous business.
The governor made the vow when he took a tour, making a long walk through the track roads into the forest of Ogbodo community in Ikwerre Local Government Area, and the forest of Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area, with the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Eboka Friday, and other security chiefs, to uncover some crude oil illegal refining sites.
“They can’t be doing this and be killing my people. No reasonable government will allow that. And I can tell you with all due respect, we will take this matter very seriously.”
“Look at how, every day, in your house, you see the soot. I mean, how can you allow that? So, this one that we can solve, we will solve it.
“We have assured the people of Rivers State, we will fight this matter to the last until I leave office.”
Wike noted that confronting this seemingly cartel kind of business will not be easy. But, he has however, vowed to consider it as a war like situation and fight it from the standpoint of the law.
According to the governor, no matter how highly placed the perpetrators may be, they will not be spared, but confronted, apprehended and be made to face the full force of the law.
Wike has therefore directed the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, to take over the case files of illegal crude oil refinery operators arrested by the police.
“Attorney General, all these matters with the police, you have to retrieve the files so that you can prosecute the matters on our own. I don’t want any compromise anywhere.
“And then too, it will not be on the ministry. You have to constitute a legal team. Go and get our friends all over the country, so that we can execute this prosecution to the last.
“It is a serious matter. And I’m going to take it head on. In fact, it is a war. It is not poor people doing this, they’re a cartel. You must go and arrest these people; Chief W. J. Wocha, you must arrest Fubara Ohaka, and chief Promise Ezekwe. You must arrest them.
“It doesn’t matter how highly placed you are. If you like, be the paramount ruler. In fact, any traditional ruler that is involved, pick him for me. Let him understand that the law does not respect anybody.”
Speaking further, Wike directed the Emohua Council Chairman, Dr Chidi Lloyd to locate residences where processed crude oil products are stored and let the people ascertain their sources.
Wike said the purpose of confronting this havoc is to ensure that the health of Rivers people is not further hampered by those illegal refining activities.
“If not, our people will continue to die. Even you, you’re not safe from related sicknesses like cancer. All those products in the houses; you must go after them; they must tell you where they got the products. Enough is enough.
“Look at what is happening, they are dying. I want to live. So, we must stop this illegal refinery business.
“And I have said to the Federal Government; if you’re not willing to do anything, don’t promise people anything. You told them that you will do something, how can you promise modular refinery.
“What I’m talking about is the safety of Rivers people. That is more important to me.”
Explaining the ugly experience community people had suffered, the Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area, Dr Chidi Lloyd noted that the problem of illegal refining activities in the area is beyond the capacity of the council to handle.
He wondered why the Federal Government which once promised to established modular refineries in the Niger Delta region has reneged on that promise.
“Thank God for your boldness. Rivers people are now aware. On a daily basis people roast and burn here. The whole Ibaa community has been taken over by this trade.
“And when you talk, they say look, if they don’t do this, they’ll go to the roads and begin to carry arms. And I say to them, you don’t dig a hole to cover another hole. Your business shouldn’t kill me.”
Earlier, the Ikwerre Local Government Chairman, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike, conducted the governor around illegal oil refining site at Ogbodo-Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area.
PDP Govs Storm PH To Consolidate On Rescue, Rebuild Nigeria Project
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum would hold a special meeting, today, at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt.
The Director General, PDP Governors Forum, Hon. Cyril I.D. Maduabum, said the meeting would review the state of the states, the state of the nation, and readiness of the PDP to provide the necessary leadership to rescue and rebuild Nigeria.
“All the elected PDP governors are expected to attend the meeting to be presided over by the Chairman of the Forum, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
“The meeting will be preceded by a gala night to be hosted by the Chief Host, Governor Nyesom Wike.
“The PDP governors are working in concert and consultations with other leaders of the party, and in particular, the Senator Iyorchia Ayu-led National Executive Committee (NEC) of PDP to craft a credible process and programme for Nigeria’s positive rebirth.”
He explained that Ayu has been invited to attend the Port Harcourt meeting to hold consultations with the governors on strategies for executing the rescue and rebuild Nigeria project.
It would be recalled that, among others, the governors would do an appraisal of ongoing reconciliatory efforts in Ekiti and Osun states where governorship elections are billed to hold this year.
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