The South African police invaded the Johannesburg home of Henry Okah, the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) early today, apparently acting on the request of the Nigerian authorities who claimed that Mr. Okah was stockpiling weapons and re-arming fighters in the volatile Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
About 40 plainclothes police burst into the hilltop home of Mr. Okah at 3:00 AM in the morning. They destroyed the heavy gates leading to the main house and used heavy equipments to destroy the main door leading to his living quarters and guest house.
The policemen, initially thought to be assassins, did not locate Mr. Okah for about 1 hour after arriving at his home where they were met by his wife and children. When he did appear they announced they would be searching every nook and cranny of his house to locate bombs and high caliber guns the Nigerian government told them were stockpiled there.
The policemen spent 10 hours searching his home but failed to find any weapons. Instead, they carried away laptops and phones belonging to his wife, daughter and himself.
Mr. Okah remains free but is uncertain if police will return for him.
In 2008, Mr. Okah, who had been living in South Africa, was arrested in Angola by the Angolan authorities acting at the request of the Nigerian government. He was deported to Nigeria where he was held in solitary confinement and secretly tried before a federal high court in Jos, charged with 62 counts of terrorism, illegal possession of weapons and treason amongst other capital crimes. But in 2009, the government entered into an amnesty deal with his group and several other Niger Delta militant groups and released him. Okah returned to live in South Africa except for a brief trip to Nigeria to attend a meeting with the late Nigerian leader, Umaru Yar'adua over the Amnesty process. The Amnesty program has failed to make much progress and peace in the Niger Delta region remains fragile.