By Saharareporters, New York
The controversial arrest and detention, running nearly four years, of Tamunotonye Kunais has come to an end, say leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, known by the acronym ‘MEND,’ in a public statement.
Their statement, obtained by SaharaReporters, details his controversial arrest in December of 2010. In a rare gesture of appreciation, MEND said the Nigerian Government acted in
good faith. The statement thanked Nigerian officials over his unconditional release.
MEND officials say that they favor a prisoner exchange in the ongoing government standoff with the Boko Haram Islamist group, as they continue to hold nearly 300 female students kidnapped in Mid-April.
Below is the statement issued by the MEND, and issued to international journalists covering the kidnapping story in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) wishes to commend the Government for the release of our former Commander, Mr Tamunotonye Kuna aka ‘Commander Obese’ and fifty-three (53) fighters under his command held at the Port Harcourt Prison without trial since December 2010.
Mr Kuna, voluntarily submitted weapons, gunboats and several items to the Joint Task Force (JTF) after being deceived that he would be a beneficiary of the Amnesty Programme and lucrative pipeline protection contracts. He was subsequently arrested while the JTF lied to Nigerians that he was captured after an attack on his camp in River State.
His prolonged incarceration was as a result of his refusal to become a false witness against Henry Okah in South Africa and his brother Charles Okah in Nigeria. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) urges the Government to consider the further unconditional release of other MEND detainees held on trumped-up charges with alleged link to the group such as the Okah brothers.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) supports a prisoner exchange initiative with Boko Haram towards the release of the Chibok School girls as the only viable safe option and the threshold towards maintaining contact, further ceasefire and eventual long-term peace and security in that region. From our experience, it is impossible for any forceful Commando-type rescue in forests or creeks to be successful.
The Israelis encouraging such a move should understand that Sambisa Forest is a different kettle of fish from Entebbe International Airport.