The Destruction of Odi and Rape in Choba

December 22, 1999

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On November 4, 1999, an armed gang killed seven Nigerian policemen in the community of Odi, Bayelsa State, in the oil producing Niger Delta region in the far south east of the country. Five other police were killed in subsequent days. These murders were committed by a group with no apparent political agenda, but took place against a rising clamor from those living in the oil producing areas for a greater share of the oil wealth. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to the governor of Bayelsa, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, threatening to declare a state of emergency if those responsible for the murders were not apprehended within two weeks. Before the deadline could expire, soldiers from the Nigerian army moved into Odi, a community of perhaps 15,000 people, engaged in a brief exchange of fire with the young men alleged to be responsible for the deaths of the policemen, and proceeded to raze the town. The troops demolished every single building, barring the bank, the Anglican church and the health, and may have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians. While the soldiers reportedly shot and killed some of the armed youths who brought trouble to the town, most of the gang is reported to have fled.

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