Revolution drawn in charcoal.
Drawings and commentary by Kim Alphandary
Nigerian Freedom Fighters
The situation in the Niger Delta dates back to Nigeria’s pre-independent colonial days when the Willink (Minorities and Fiscal Commission), in 1958, recommended that the delta region of the Niger should be regarded as a special developmental area requiring particular economic assistance.
This recommendation was never implemented. The number of deaths resulting from poverty and misery in this endangered region as a result of this non-compliance has never been investigated. Throughout the years, children, women and the aged have been massacred in Yenagoa, Odi, Odioma, Warri, Port Harcourt, and many other parts of the Delta due to the low-intensity war.
The most recent group to emerge continuing this struggle are the MEND, who represent the Ijaw people, the majority tribe in the Delta and claim to represent a union of all the militant groups in the Niger Delta.
The group takes its name from the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata; they see themselves as his heirs, and heirs to five hundred years of indigenous resistance against imperialism. On January 1, 1994, the Zapatistas launched their legendary insurrection in Chiapas as NAFTA came into effect. They called NAFTA a “death sentence” for Mexico’s Indians. As changes to the Constitution accompanied the adoption of NAFTA, legally privatizing communal peasant lands – robbing the residents of lands that were fought for in the Revolution of 1910 to 1919.
Ever since, Zapatismo has played an enormous role in awakening society. The needs of indigenous Mexicans were brought into the national political discussion for the first time; the Zapatistas effectively use radio and Internet communiqués to broadcast their worldview and effect change. On both sides of the border this movement has challenged Mexico’s widespread economic suffering and racial divides, and has reenergized the Chicano movement in the United States. The struggle on the ground remains extreme; the Mayan Indians face a dire human rights situation and the world media pays little note. Chiapas is pervaded by roadblock after roadblock of heavily armed military troops searching vehicles and harassing travelers of all nationalities. The Mexican government has resorted to using dirty-war tactics to gain control over the state, the Indians face not only harassment but terror. Arbitrary detentions are common. There are more than 100 political prisoners in Chiapas and 20,000 displaced by paramilitary groups.
After twelve years, my heart is with them.