Obama’s Influence in Nigeria?

Nigerian rebels who have been attacking oil facilities in the Niger delta have claimed that they are mulling a ceasefire proposed by U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama. From Reuters:

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has launched five attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta since it resumed a campaign of violence in April, forcing Royal Dutch Shell to shut more than 164,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).

“The MEND command is seriously considering a temporary ceasefire appeal by Senator Barack Obama. Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem,” the militant group said in an e-mailed statement.

The prospect of an end to violence in the volatile region is certainly welcome, but there’s one minor hole in the rebels’ claim: as Matt Yglesias points out, the Obama campaign does not recall its candidate making any such appeal.

Writing at The Plank, Dayo Olopade provides this interesting observation.

At the time–unlike past attacks–MEND seemed to be courting American attention: “The ripple effect of this attack will touch your economy and people one way or the other and (we) hope we now have your attention,” the group said last month.

Well, oil is $120/barrel–looks like you’ve got it. The direct link to Obama, however, seems suspect. He did attempt some high-level suasion during January’s election crisis in Kenya, but I’m doubtful his grueling schedule these last six weeks has left much time for Skyping with MEND. It is notable that even the hint of the “Obama touch” has a band of saboteurs rubbing their chins about an end to a longstanding conflict.

True. And if this mysterious ceasefire appeal does indeed induce the rebels to cease their attacks, while the Obama campaign may not mind taking credit, the greatest beneficiaries will be the Nigerians suffering from violence in this oil-rich region.

UPDATE: Apparently MEND rebels have set their eyes on another American politician to broker peace — former president Jimmy Carter (as well as possibly UN Messenger of Peace George Clooney). What’s more, Carter, who attempted to mediate the region’s conflict nine years ago, seems inclined to accept.