Reyna with the kids in Fiamah, Monrovia, Liberia

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Deadly Divorce: The Breakup of Sudan

Some marriages should have never happened, and such was the case with the African country of Sudan. You could say the marriage was arranged by the imperial power Britain, and it brought together ethnic groups that had opposed and oppressed each other for centuries. The arrangement was for rather selfish reasons that only benefited the colonizer, as was the case with most African countries whose boundaries were carved out by European powers.

The crown jewel of the British colonial empire was India, and in 1896 the Suez Canal opened which gave Britain a direct route to India through the Mediterranean and Red Seas rather than sailing all the way around the southern tip of Africa. In order to consolidate its hold on this precious trade route, the British found it necessary to control the Nile River , which fed into the Mediterranean Sea and is the longest waterway in the world, flowing through 10 African countries, from source to mouth. This involved taking over Sudan. They used the same principle of indirect rule to cover this vast country that they had employed in other colonies. They nurtured a Sudanese elite in the capital of Khartoum which was mainly from the northern half of the country, Muslim,  and Arabic-speaking. Outside of the capital, and especially in the vast southern regions of Sudan, they bought the allegiance of  local chiefs but left them to rule their people as they always had as long as they accepted ultimate British authority. England ruled the northern and southern parts of Sudan as separate entities until 1947, a mere nine years before the country gained independence. It was natural to do so since the two regions and their people have almost nothing in common. British journalist Richard Dowden said that Southerners are as physically and culturally different from Northerners as Chinese people are from Norwegians. Northerners are Arabic and Muslim, and their land is vastly desert. Southerners are mostly black African, and their religion is a mixture of Christianity and tribal beliefs. They are farmers who live off the land. Within the South, there are a number of  different tribes, the largest being the Dinka and the Nuer, and there are at least 60 indigenous languages spoken.

At the first independence, that of the whole of Sudan from Great Britain, power was handed over to the Khartoum elite that England had carefully selected and trained. 83% of investments were concentrated in the northern half of the country, mostly in Khartoum and Blue Nile province. From 1955 to 1972, a group called the Southern Sudan Resistance Movement and its military wing, the Anya-Nya,  fought for the secession of the southern part of the country. They didn't achieve their ultimate goal, but they did strike a deal with the government in Khartoum which gave the South more resources and more autonomy. However, eleven years later, in 1983, the mainly Islamic government reneged on their agreement. The fight for succession and freedom for South Sudan was taken up by a new group named the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) led by Colonel John Garang.

This second war would last for 22 years, and in the process what little development was present in the southern parts of Sudan would be reversed. 2 million people would lose their lives, mostly civilians who had been displaced and succumbed to starvation or disease, and another 4 million would lose their homes routinely and repeatedly by this nomadic war. The war was fought mainly in the South, and consisted of the Sudanese army and the rebel SPLA capturing and recapturing towns from each other. For two decades, there was no clear victor and no real outside attempt at a resolution.  The war was further complicated in 1991 when there was a split in the senior ranks of the SPLA, and Riek Machar , a young Nuer chief whose marriage to British aid worker Emma McCune became legendary, started his own rebel movement. This movement was made up of mostly Nuer, and they fought more against the Dinka-led SPLA than they did against the army of Sudan. At one point ,they were even being supported covertly by the government in Khartoum in an attempt to weaken the SPLA 's power and popularity. While the ideals of both southern rebel groups were noble in many respects, their fighting created a new version of hell for the innocent people who lived in these  regions, as they were often attacked or caught in the crossfire by any one of the three groups and could not feel protected, even by those factions that were "fighting for them". Riek Machar broke away from the government again in 2000, and then rejoined the SPLA in 2002 as a senior commander. As the war dragged on, the ideals that the groups in the South were fighting for became clearer and succession from the North seemed to present itself as the only viable way to achieve them. This new focus brought unity to the southern rebel movements once again and  that unity was a key factor in their success in brokering the peace agreement that was finally reached in 2005.

The main features of the peace agreement were that it granted Southern Sudan the opportunity for secession and independence which it had fought for for half a century, and it granted them 50% of the oil revenues of the region. Both of these were huge victories for Southern Sudan.There are large amounts of oil reserves located in Sudan, estimated at 560 million barrels per day. 80% of these reserves are in the South. Yet the only pipeline travels through the North to Khartoum and on to the Port of Sudan at the Red Sea. The only refineries are located in the North as well.  So until this agreement, the South was receiving no benefit from this vast natural resource that it harbored. As for independence,  the agreement set up a referendum in 2011 that would let the people of Southern Sudan vote on the question of succession. In January of 2011, the decision was made for independence with 98.8 % of the votes in support of it. That figure alone gives you a clue as to the oppression and injustice the southern people suffered at the hands of the government. South Sudan officially became the world's newest nation on July 9 of 2011.While this was a great democratic victory for the people of South Sudan, and a cause that many freedom fighters like John Garang gave their lives for, it remains a fact that divorce is never easy. In the past few months it has become increasingly clear just how difficult the separation,  and now rebirth of South Sudan  as a new nation, will be. Especially when you have such a jealous, jilted ex-partner as Sudan.

Possibly the biggest point of contention is the question of oil revenues. As stated by the 2005 peace agreement, South Sudan currently receives 50% of the revenues from the 80% of the oil reserves it controls. Reserves which are now entirely theirs since they are now a sovereign nation. Yet the reliance on Sudan is  still there since they control the pipeline and the refineries. Currently, there are talks taking place in Addis Adaba to resolve this crisis that poses the risk of huge losses to both sides. For the North, oil revenues accounted for 50% of domestic revenues and 93% of their exports in 2009. They have lost much of this since the South's independence in July. It has left a gaping 36% gap in their budget that has them scrambling for ways to cover the deficit. Already, inflation has caused prices of basic necessities to rise significantly and people in the capital of Khartoum have not been shy to express their frustration. One way they have tried to compensate for the loss of revenue is to impose exorbitant transit fees of $36 US per barrel on the oil that is transported from South Sudan through the pipelines in the North. Since July, the two governments have not agreed on these fees and South Sudan has refused to pay them. So in return, Sudan has taken the revenues from the oil, saying that it is in lieu of the fees. South Sudan President Salva Kiir estimates that Khartoum has "stolen" $815 million worth of oil since July. In classic Khartoum style , the North has  responded that they have "confiscated" some of the revenues, but only to replace the transit fees that are owed to them.

As talks continued to deterioriate over this crucial economic issue, South Sudan announced on January 20th that it would halt its oil production. Then five days later, it announced that a deal had been reached with Kenya to build a pipeline from South Sudan's oil fields to the Kenyan port of Lamu on the Indian Ocean. They claim that it could be ready in a year, but oil industry experts say it will more likely take 3 years for the pipeline to be complete and ready for use. President Kiir stated that South Sudan would rather struggle for a while than continue to hand over its revenues to Sudan. At first glance, it seems like a disastrous choice to shut down production of oil. 98% of South Sudan's budget depends on oil revenues. But you have to consider that they are not receiving much of that money right now anyway because Sudan is stealing huge amounts of it. Also, 85% of the population in the South are farmers who live off their land and animals. They will not be greatly affected by the loss of revenue since they don't see much of it anyway. However, the financial strain would make it almost impossible to pay their large military, and there are fears that could lead to resentment and more instability. Whatever happens with the oil, a few things are clear. South Sudan will continue to look away from Sudan and south to Kenya and other East African countries to ally itself with in business and other matters. And the country will also need to seriously tackle the challenges of development and diversifying their economy so they are not so dependent on oil for their livelihood. If they are able to do this, the future will become brighter.

Another huge and often deadly point of contention is the issue of the border states, and this is where the oppression and brutality of Sudan becomes horrifyingly apparent.  The border states are home to both northern Arabs and Southern Africans. The states allegiances were all clearly delineated in the 2005 peace agreement, except for the disputed territory of Abyei, whose fate would be decided by a referendum in 2011. It was widely expected that the people of that territory would vote overwhelmingly to go with the South, but they were never given the chance. In May of 2011, the army of Sudan bombarded and overtook the territory, causing the 110,000 Dinka who lived there to flee. Riek Machar, who is now Vice-President of South Sudan, called this an attempt at ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese government and alerted the UN Security Council. His cries seemingly fell on deaf ears, though, as no action was taken.  It is not clear now if or when the referendum will take place.

Sudan has also made a habit of bombing refugee camps in South Sudan in the past few months, a charge which of course, it vehemently denies. In November, a refugee camp in Unity State for Northerners fleeing the fighting in South Kordofan province just across the border was bombed . Just last week, the UN confirmed that another refugee camp in Upper Nile province that houses some 5, 000 people fleeing fighting in Blue Nile province in Sudan was also bombed. It is probable that both attacks were carried out by the Sudanese Air Force since Antonov planes, planes which are a staple of the SAF, were used. Sudan accuses the South of supporting northern rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces. South Sudan accuses Sudan of supporting southern rebels behind attacks in Unity State and Upper Nile Province. While those accusations are probably true on both sides to some extent, they provide a convenient place to lay the blame for bombings rather than admitting that the Sudanese Air Force carried out attacks on innocent civilians. President Salva Kiir has said that Sudan wants to drag South Sudan back into a "meaningless war". Khartoum denies that there are any refugee camps in the South and that people from the Northern provinces are fleeing to them, while at the same time it is closing off escape routes from the North into Unity State and other border areas in the South.

It seems that Riek Machar's claims of ethnic cleansing are accurate, and more and more calls for intervention and humanitarian aid are being made. Princeton Lyman, the US envoy to Sudan, warned last week that half a million people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile province in Sudan will face an emergency bordering on famine by March if international aid organizations are not allowed in. He also called on the UN Security Council to intervene. The government of Sudan, in another classic denial, says that these areas are too dangerous for NGO's to operate in. In what may be the most stunning foretelling of Sudan's brutal campaign against the black African peoples that are still residing in the North, the Satellite Sentinel Project , the brainchild of Hollywood star George Clooney and John Prendergast which uses satellite technology to observe the border of South Sudan, released a report this week that shows that the Sudanese army may be preparing for a final assault on the Nuba people remaining in the province of South Kordofan. Their satellites show that the Sudanese Air Forces (SAF) have cut off all the main evacuation routes for people wishing to flee the Kauda valley where 200,000 Nuba still remain. These 200,000 people are currently cut off from all humanitarian aid. It appears from the satellite images that the SAF is only a few weeks away from being ready to launch an all-out assault on this valley. They have encircled this population, and broader images showed that the army is building roads into the area for their equipment and lengthening the closest airstrip, presumably to allow it to accomodate bomber planes. In fact, the governor of South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes committed in Darfur, stated last October that "These road construction projects will be the weapon for defeating the enemies."

What makes these reports even more chilling is the fact that the Satellite Sentinel Project noticed the same sort of buildup and road construction taking place last March around the disputed territory of Abyei. They issued warnings up to 6 weeks in advance, but those warnings went unheeded, and the Sudanese army overtook the district in May and displaced over 100, 000 black Africans, as was mentioned earlier. These warnings cannot go unheeded again. This technology is unheard of in this part of the world,  and so crucial to the protection of South Sudan, but it is only effective if  the warnings are taken seriously. The writers of the SSP report pleaded that "the community of nations must not again fail to act while some 200,000 Nuba civilian lives are in danger."

On Thursday, January 26th, the government of Sudan announced that all Southerners who remained in Sudan would be treated as foreigners. Yet, the military of Sudan is blocking the escape routes and building up their presence around the areas where Southerners are concentrated. All the signs point to the building up of a genocide. This is very serious, and anyone who cares about human rights should condemn what the nation of Sudan is doing and be gravely concerned about the status of the Southerners trying to return to their homeland. The world needs to pay attention to what is happening and call on international leaders to take action to prevent another genocide. And the international powers and members of the UN Security Council, those with the power to exert protection, need to take seriously the plight of South Sudan.  The world's newest nation and its people need to be given every opportunity to succeed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Does the world care about Somalia??

Does the world care about Somalia? I am not sure the world knows the truth about Somalia, which makes it hard to care. A better question might be, Does the humanitarian aid community, the ones that we believe can actually do something, care about Somalia? The answer is complicated. There are those who do, and those who don't. For those who do, care is complicated immensely by the large presence of Al-Shabaab, a Muslim extremist group that puts its ideals before its people, and therefore makes it extremely frustrating and dangerous, if not impossible, to offer aid inside the country.

Six months ago, in July of 2011, famine was declared in many parts of Somalia, specifically the southern part of the country, and several of the regions around it, including parts of Kenya and Ethiopia. At that time, almost 3 million people in Somalia alone were at risk of starvation. Around 30,000 people had already died. While the famine itself is a huge tragedy, reminiscent of the 1984 Ethiopian famine that saw almost half a  million people succumb to starvation, it was made worse by the fact that there were indications and forebodings of this famine a year in advance that were seemingly ignored by the aid organizations that are active in Somalia and the major donor governments that fund them. There is a mechanism in place in East Africa called the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWSNET, that uses satellite and remote sensors to track rainfall and vegetation and make predictions about harvests and food security. Predictions were made and alarms sounded when the rains failed in August of 2010, then again in October of that year,  and then yet again in the spring of 2011. East Africa entered into its worst drought in 60 years. Yet the aid world was not paying close enough attention. Even the UN had announced in August 2010 that the rate of malnutrition in Somalia was rising, and was at that point above the threshold that would prompt an emergency response. There was no emergency response at that time, though, and the rates continued to rise until an astounding 36% of the population was suffering from malnutrition in August of 2011.

To be fair, the prospect of intervention in Somalia, whether humanitarian or military,  is not appealing to anyone. The country is the definition of a failed state. Since 1991, when its dictator of  23 years, Siad Barre, was ousted from power, the country has essentially existed with no strong central government.  In the north, Somaliland declared itself independent after the 1991 overthrow, and the region of Puntland declared itself an autonomous Somali state in 1998. In the central and southern parts of the country, warlords and clan leaders have governed, or to use a more appropriate phrase, terrorized , their various regions.The country is awash with weapons, generously supplied by both the United States and the Soviet Union in their bids for the allegiance of the Horn of Africa during the Cold War, and by Ethiopia, in support of the rebels who overthrew Siad Barre. At the main market in the capital of Mogadishu, there are weapons available for purchase in open-air stalls.

Most Americans know Somalia as a place where our troops were embarrassed in the debacle known as Blackhawk Down in 1993, when two American helicopters were gunned down and 18 US Marines were killed. What most people do not know about that fateful day is that around 1,000 Somali civilians were killed by helicopters who came to try to rescue the downed Marines and sprayed gunfire on the crowds gathered. Ironically, Blackhawk Down was part of a larger operation entitled Operation Restore Hope, which the US had entered into with the UN to try to restore order to Somalia and alleviate the suffering from yet another famine at that time. After that international and infamous failure of US troops, the United States
decided on a much different approach to violent conflicts in Africa, summed up by Bill Clinton's nicely coined line"African solutions to African problems."  Journalist Richard Dowden writes that the memory of Somalia made America allergic to intervention in Africa. This has, at times, been a good thing, but also at times this stance has been deadly, as in 1994 in Rwanda when the US pressured the UN not to increase its' involvement or mandate. After Blackhawk Down, Somalia was largely left to flounder for the next fifteen years.

A weak state is prime breeding ground for extremist elements to arise. This is precisely what has happened in Somalia over the last 5 years. Al-Shabaab arose as the youth wing of a now-defunct movement called the Islamic Courts. In the beginning, they enjoyed widespread support among the local people of the southern regions of Somalia they were based in because they provided stability. The people found religion, even if it was a more extreme brand of Islam than they were used to, to be the glue that united them to rise up and fight against the greedy warlords that had terrorized them for over a decade. When the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was finally established in Mogadishu in 2006, propped up by Ethiopia and African Union troops and bankrolled by the United States, Al-Shabaab took them on as enemy number one. For the past five years, Al-Shabaab has been gaining strength in their battle against the TFG, establishing direct ties to al-Qaeda and other powerful and wealthy terrorist organizations. They have also been gaining control over most of the southern half of Somalia, and parts of Mogadishu, the capital. One of the ways that Al-Shabaab finances their exploits is to demand money from charities that want to operate and distribute aid to the southern region of Somalia. According to reports from the BBC, they have a humanitarian coordination office which charges a registration fee of anywhere from $4, 000 to $10,000 for any charity that wishes to set up shop in southern Somalia. They also charge project fees, so that they receive 20 % of the overall cost of projects such as digging a borehole for clean water or setting up a feeding center.

This way of doing business with Al-Shabaab ensures that almost no US aid organizations operate in Somalia. In 2008, the United States labeled Al-Shabaab a terrorist organization, which means that aiding or abetting it, even through humanitarian aid, is a serious crime. By early 2010, the US was withholding about $50 million dollars worth of aid from southern Somalia because it was Al-Shabaab territory. The US also required its aid workers that are present there to refuse to pay the tolls that Al-Shabaab asked for. This action had the desired effect of weakening Al-Shabaab since they were now receiving no benefit from the aid provided from Somalia's biggest and wealthiest donor. They withdrew from the capital of Mogadishu in August of 2011 and retreated back to the southern regions that they clearly hold control over. But the stringent policies of the US might also have unwittingly had a hand in making this famine that has taken hold of  East Africa far worse in these same regions. The areas that are hardest hit by the famine and where the most people are at risk of starvation are the areas of Somalia that are controlled by Al-Shabaab.

It is clearly a no-win situation for the United States and many other countries and aid organizations in providing humanitarian aid. If they do acquiesce to Al-Shabaab's demands, much of the aid provided will inevitably be siphoned off by the group and used to finance its terror. If they do not provide aid, thousands more people will die before the famine lets up. At this moment, many aid organizations are not being given the chance. When the famine was at its peak in July and August of 2011, Al-Shabaab lifted its own restrictions on international aid agencies that it imposed because it felt they were bringing in Western ideas and religion. But as the drought has let up and the famine has decreased in severity, they are again making it very difficult for aid organizations to reach people . In November,Al-Shabaab shut down the offices of UNICEF and Concern as well as 14 other international charities.The group said that the agencies were exaggerating the scope of the problem in Somalia just to raise money.   In the first few weeks of 2012, the International Red Cross suspended its aid operations to the worst hit areas of southern Somalia because its convoys were being blocked. Medecins sans Frontieres, or MSF, closed down two of its clinics in Mogadishu because they said it had become too dangerous for them to be effective. It is estimated that there are still a quarter of a million Somalis that are on the brink of starvation, and there are now only a handful of aid organizations able to gain any access to the southern regions of the country held by Al-Shabaab.

Some of the reports that you hear of aid organizations' work in Somalia is deceiving because they are describing the work they do in the whole country. There is hardly any effectiveness now in the areas that need it most. In that sense, Al-Shabaab may be weakening itself further, because if they limit aid , they also cut off one of their sources of financing. There are signs of weakening, as Kenyan forces and African Union forces are pursuing Al-Shabaab now, becoming braver and branching out from Mogadishu and penetrating further into the south from both sides. With more military intervention, though, comes the possibility of just another form of terror for the ordinary Somali civilians who have learned that it's not safe to trust anyone who claims to be acting in their interests. There is an African proverb that says when elephants fight, the grass suffers. In this story, the Somalian people are the grass, their very survival being trampled on by groups wanting to either display their military prowess or to spread their religious beliefs.

Millions of  Somalis since last summer have fled from the south to Mogadishu so  that they could receive help.Food, water, and survival is their main concern.  In the course of the exodus, many families have buried loved ones along the way. Grieving loss even as they are moving forward towards hope. Or hope as they know it. One wonders what it will take for these families, humans, Somalis, to find rest.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Occupy Nigeria

If all goes as planned for the protesters in Nigeria, the whole world will be paying attention to their struggle soon. On Sunday to be exact. Saturday at midnight is the deadline that the nation's largest oil workers union, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association,or PENGASSAN, has set for an agreement to be reached with the federal government on the fuel subsidy that was abruptly removed by President Goodluck Jonathan on New Years Day. If an agreement is not reached by then, oil workers will go on strike, effectively shutting down production of oil and gas in the country. This will in turn raise the price of oil, which, you guessed it, means another reason for gas prices to go higher. Maybe then attention will be drawn to the Nigerian crisis.

I say it's about time for the world to be made aware of the injustices suffered by the Nigerian people in what is the world's 8th largest exporter of oil. If you are talking about nation-states that are ruled by oil, Nigeria should be a main topic in that conversation. 80% of the government's revenue comes from oil sales. The most populous country in Africa, with an estimated 160 million people,is home to many multinational oil corporations, Shell being the largest, with Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco playing smaller roles. These corporations, Shell in particular, have exported the wealth of Nigeria's natural resources for years and rapaciously desecrated the Niger Delta in the southeast of the country to do so. Remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast in April of 2010? At that time, BBC News released an article that went largely unnoticed that brought to light the fact that oil spills the size of the BP spill that sparked international outrage had been occurring yearly in the Niger Delta for 40 years. An estimated 13 million barrels of oil have spilled into the Delta, destroying the environmental vitality of the Delta region, not to mention greatly endangering the well-being and safety of the 31 million people who call the Delta region of Nigeria home.

There was once a man who became the voice of the people, specifically the Ogoni minority, to protest against the injustices perpetrated by Shell in that part of Nigeria,and he was eventually arrested and executed by the military government in power at the time. Ken Saro-Wiwa was the leader of a group called MOSOP, which stands for Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, that led a non-violent campaign to protest environmental degradation of the Ogoni lands and rivers by Shell. He, along with 8 other leaders of MOSOP, who collectively came to be known as the Ogoni Nine, were tried, convicted, and then eventually executed under the military government of General Sani Abacha in November of 1995, sending a chilling message to the Nigerian people that you don't mess with an industry that is filling the government's coffers, regardless of its human and environmental rights abuses. Their deaths sparked international outrage and led to Nigeria's exclusion from the Commonwealth of Nations for 3 years. Yet the world, and definitely the countries that are the recipients of Nigeria's oil exports, the United States being one of them, seemed to forget the fact that Saro-Wiwa and his movement spoke for millions of people who were suffering at the hands of these corporations. And so the spills and the violence continued, as did the profits for the government.

How does all this relate to what the people in Nigeria are protesting about now? Well the chief complaint of the people, the jumping-off point for these protests, is the removal of the fuel subsidy by their President on New Years Day. With the fuel subsidy, the average Nigerian was paying N65, or 65 naira per litre for fuel, which is used for not just transportation but also cooking and generators in areas where electricity is scarce. This translates to about $1.66 a gallon in US terms. That sounds like an amazing deal to us, but you have to remember that the majority of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day.Most Nigerians felt that this was the only tangible benefit they received from living in one of the world's largest oil producing countries.Understand that almost all of the oil that is extracted by multinational companies is refined and sold somewhere else. A negligible amount is actually reserved for Nigerians, and the domestic refineries that do exist in the country are either inoperable or in grave disrepair. So the oil that Nigerians use is imported from other countries, yet was subsidized and therefore price-regulated by the government until January 1 of this year. When the fuel subsidy was removed without warning, the price of fuel immediately doubled to N120 a litre, or the equivalent of $3.52 a gallon here in the U.S. For someone who struggles to provide for their family on $2 a day, this is a very sudden and steep change to make in their necessary spending. President Jonathan claims that the $8 billion that the government will save by removal of the subsidy will be used to develop infrastructure in the country and support education and health care programs. The problem with that is that most Nigerians do not believe him. The government has a long track record of corruption, waste, and outright stealing from the people, and his tenure so far has proved to be no different. The Nigerian political blog Omojuwa took a critical look at the 2012 federal budget and pointed out such wasteful and unnecessary elements as: N 7.2 billion, or N20 million per day, is allotted for the overhead of the State House, the workplace for the President and Vice President. Their local travel budget is 2 million naira per day, and their international travel budget is 3 million naira per day. N265 million is budgeted to buy new computers for the President's office, N295 million for new furniture, and N 1.8 billion to "maintain existing furniture, office, and residential headquarters." Keep in mind that the average Nigerian lives on about N 330 a day.

This is the second central complaint of the unions and protesters who have now organized themselves as the Occupy Nigeria movement. They feel that this Jonathan-led government is continuing with the trend of wasteful and extravagant spending on itself, and forsaking equal and fair distribution of the government's resources to average Nigerian citizens. Goodluck Jonathan came to power because of the death of the President Umaru Yar'Adua in May 2010, under whom he served as Vice President. He was popularly selected in April of 2011, just 9 short months ago, in a controversial election complete with accusations of rigging and resulting violence in the mainly Muslim northern part of the country. Many people,though, especially residents of the Delta region where Jonathan hails from and the bedrock of the country's crude oil supply, hoped that he would be an agent of change and believed his campaign promises to tackle corruption and stand up to the oil companies. Yet, as Isaac Osuoka, an activist from the Niger Delta region, pointed out in an interview with a Nigerian journalist recently, they have have been gravely disappointed. When the Shell company had another huge oil spill this past summer, Jonathan and his government looked the other way. Even those within his system that used to work for environmental rights seem to have been infected with the poison of corruption and are willing to gloss over the aggregious acts of the multinational oil companies as long as the government is getting their revenue. Osuoka says that "People in the Niger Delta now realize that Jonathan is a waste of time." If the Occupy Nigeria movement is any indication, that seems to be the general consensus of the country. Their demands are clear. Apart from the very specific demand of a return of the fuel subsidy and regulation of the price at N65, they are also asking for the government to reduce its salaries by 70%. They want definitive change in the modus operandi, and if this president will not bring that change, they will not hesitate to seek another one. Given Nigeria's tumultuous history, that could be a very disastrous choice. One can only hope that President Jonathan will begin to listen to the people and their desire for change. Until he does, and acts in the best interests of the people of Nigeria, and not the government and the oil companies,there will be no way forward.