Monday, May 18, 2009

What if the world paid attention before it was too late?

The tag line for Sandy Cioffi's film, Sweet Crude, has never been more urgent. For some, it is already too late, as Oporoza, the village where much of the filming for the documentary took place, has come under attack by the Joint Task Force of the Nigerian military.

There are currently conflicting reports coming from the region, and a few major news outlets are covering the violence as information becomes available. You can read the Wall Street Journal's story from Saturday HERE. The Ijaw National Congress has called on the United Nations to intervene, as reports claim 1,000 civilian deaths at the hands of the Nigerian military. The Nigerian military dismisses these claims. Read more of the BBC's coverage of that HERE.

Cioffi, who spent 5 months in Oporoza on two separate occasions while shooting the film, received the following text from one of the film's main subjects. He/she was on the ground in the bush as attacks were launched against the village over the weekend:

“The situation is getting worse every minute. Their plan is to wipe Oporoza out of the surface of Earth tomorrow morning. Pls let the international community intervene before we witness a genocide.”

Unconfirmed reports name the home of Tompolo, one of the top leaders of MEND, as a specific target of military violence. It is uncertain whether President Yar’Adua ordered or acceded to this attack, or if the JTF is operating outside the Federal government. Both scenarios are of critical concern in their implications about the Nigerian government, the likelihood of escalated combat in the Delta, and the collapse of any peace initiatives. The alleged targeting of Tompolo's home is of particular concern, as he is regarded as one of the leaders of the political movement in the Delta, and has recently been engaged in what appeared to be diplomatic talks with the federal government.

Our hope is that the international community, including the United States government, will intervene immediately. They must ask directly for an explanation of the attack and the chain of command that authorized it, and call for a cease fire. This is an international concern.

70% of Nigerians make less than US$1 a day. Oil revenues since the 1970s are estimated at US$300 BILLION. Those dollars are coming from all over the globe, including the United States. Nigerian oil heats your home. It runs your car. And innocent people are dying for it.

Get informed. Get involved. Before it's too late.

Sweet Crude is a documentary film by local filmmaker and Madrona regular Sandy Cioffi. Vérité Coffee (Cupcake Royale's other half) produced the film which will premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival. For ticket info and show times, go HERE. All photos courtesy of Kendra E. Thornbury.

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