[QODLink]
Africa
Nigeria rebels declare ceasefire
Main Niger Delta rebel group to hold fire for 60 days for peace talks with government.
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2009 00:59 GMT

Mend hit an oil tanker wharf in Lagos on Monday in the first such attack outside the Niger Delta [AFP]

Nigeria's main rebel group in the Niger Delta has said it will observe a 60-day ceasefire following the release of their leader by the government.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said on Tuesday that it was also halting its attacks, which have crippled Africa's biggest oil and gas industry, to allow for peace talks with the government.

"Hopefully, the ceasefire period will create an enabling environment for progressive dialogue," Mend said in a statement.

The 60-day ceasefire period begins on Wednesday.

Henry Okah was released from detention in the central city of Jos on Monday after being the first senior rebel to accept an amnesty offer from Umaru Yar'Adua, the president.

After Yar'Adua's decision to drop treason and gun-smuggling charges against Okah, Mend said on Monday that it considered "this release as a step towards genuine peace and prosperity if Nigeria is open to frank talks and deals sincerely with the root issues once and for all".

Violence

In depth


 Poor miss out on Nigeria's oil riches 

Hours before Okah's release on Monday, Mend fighters killed five oil workers in an attack on an oil tanker wharf in Lagos, the country's most populous city and financial capital, in the first such operation outside the Niger Delta since starting its latest string of attacks.

Mend, which had largely concentrated its campaign on oil facilities and government targets inside the delta region until Monday's attack, called the hit on the depot and loading tankers moored at the facility "unprecedented".

The violence has forced Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron of the US and Italy's Agip to cut around 300,000 barrels per day in production in the last six weeks and has helped support global oil prices.

State-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says that monthly oil revenue this year has dropped to around $1bn from an average of $2.2bn in 2008.

Mend says it is fighting for greater autonomy for the Niger Delta and a fairer distribution of its oil wealth.

Other groups have also said that they would lay down their arms after Okah's release.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
join our mailing list