At 11:30 am on 10 November, 1995, Ken Saro Wiwa was executed. This act of murder on the part of the Nigerian dictatorship must never be forgotten.

Earthlife Africa (Cape Town) release a press release on the issue, and calls for a continuation of the struggle in support of MOSOP, and the Nigerian people.

Whilst we grieve about the death of this great hero, and 8 other Ogoni, we cannot be paralysed by our sorrow. Urgent international pressure in needed on Abacha, to stop the continuing 'slow genocide' perpetrated against the Ogoni people. Anglo-Dutch Shell's role in the 'slow genocide' cannot be ignored - it is Shell money which fills Abacha's purse.

A comprehensive international alliance and boycott against Shell is needed to show multinationals that their profits cannot be built on the blood of innocents. BOYCOTT SHELL TODAY

The Ken Saro Wiwa Campaign

Ken Saro Wiwa was a Nigerian author, and the leader of a minority ethnic group in Nigeria called the Ogoni. He has recently been executed on trumped up charges for his actions in leading the protest against the exploitation of Ogoni lands and Ogoni people.

Some History

The Ogoni people of Nigeria have their lands in Rivers state, a part of Nigeria near the delta of the river Niger. This has historically been a fertile area, and consequently is highly populated. It is also the first place in Nigeria that the Anglo/Dutch transnational Shell started extracting oil from, in 1958. At that time, Nigeria was still a British colony.

Ogoniland has been important to Nigeria for two reasons: Firstly, it it has been termed the 'breadbasket' of Rivers State, a major food producing area, and secondly, since 1958 it has been the source of more than 900-million barrels of crude oil, vital to the Nigerian economy.

The Issue

Although international attention is now being focussed on democracy in Nigeria, and pressure is being placed on the Nigerian dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha to democratize the country, little is said of the role of the Western transnational corporations which prop up the Abacha's dictatorship.

Shell has been exploiting the oil in Nigeria without consulting or compensating the Ogoni people in any way. The Ogoni people are a minority, and thus have little political power, since the Nigerian constitution doesn't protect minority interests. They have no mineral rights to their land, since all mineral rights are owned by the state. They are merely the victims when oil spills, blowouts, and invasive pipe laying cause environmental damage. Shell has not been effective in cleaning up oil spills, and as a consequence, Ogoniland has lost its fertility.

In 1990, the Ogoni started to mobilise against the human and environmental injustice perpetrated upon them. They formed MOSOP, the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People, a peaceful resistance movement which attempted to highlight their plight, under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

The response to MOSOP's protests has been brutal. Ogoniland is now sealed off, and under martial law. Ken Saro-Wiwa has been executed, along with 8 other Ogoni. Hundreds of Ogoni have been murdered. Shell's role in this is significant - the most significant brutalities against the Ogoni have happened after Shell has expressed concern about perceived threats to the Nigerian government. A memo signed by Major Okuntimo of the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force, dated May 12th 1994, states: "Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence." The document goes on to recommend the "wasting" of Ogoni leaders. Ken Saro Wiwa was arrested on May the 22nd, 10 days later.

The blatant disregard for human rights that Shell Nigeria has displayed in its dealings with the Ogoni show it to be two sided in its international relations. The abuses that are perpetrated in Nigeria (directly in the form of spills and blowouts, and indirectly by the Nigerian government to protect Shell's interests) would be unnacceptable in the countries where Shell sells most of its oil. Whilst Shell International claims that its actions and those of Shell Nigeria are not linked, this is a transparent ploy to deny culpability. Shell profits are built upon Ogoni suffering.

Ken's Trial and Execution

Ken Saro-Wiwa was held, without legal recourse, and without medical attention, for many months. He was also tortured. The charges against him (the supposed murder of 4 Ogoni activists) were so ridiculous that Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. His trial was been a total farce, run under the auspices of Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal (CDST), which is only answerable to Military Government. Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were sentenced to death on the 31st of October 1995. Despite calls international calls for clemency, Ken and his eight co-trialists were executed on the 10th of November, 1995. We mourn their passing, and salute their spirit.

We call on all people who love freedom and justice to:

  1. Lobby your leaders to intervene on the behalf of MOSOP and the Nigerian people. Strong international action is necessary, not just talk.

  2. Boycott all Shell products and inform Shell of your boycott. Remember, the joint venture operated by Shell in Nigeria is responsible for 70% of the Nigerian state's revenue - Shell is funding murder in Nigeria.

  3. Educate yourself about Ogoniland, the Ogoni struggle, and Nigeria. Our Factsheet on the Ogoni struggle is a good place to start. Another good resource is the September/October 1995 issue of Africa Today magazine, or the videos 'The Drilling Fields' and 'The Delta Force' (details for 'The Drilling Fields' are below).

Shell must know that it can't make profit out of the blood of the Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni. Abacha must know that tyranny is universally unacceptable. The only way that this will happen is broad, strong action by all the people of the world.

(Look here to see the Earthlife Africa 1995 Congress resolution on the Ogoni's struggle.)

Earthlife Africa Fact Sheet on the Ogoni Struggle

Look here to see the Earthlife Africa (Cape Town) factsheet on the Ogoni Struggle. (To be updated soon)

Shell: Dirty in Nigeria, Dirty in the North Sea

While Shell continues to evade responsibility for its role in the war against the Ogoni, it has compounding its environmental abuses by attempting to dump the North Sea oil rig, the Brent Spar, in the North Sea, despite the fact that the Brent Spar contains a large amount of toxic and radioactive waste. For the details, have a look at Greenpeace's Brent Spar page.

Greenpeace won the first round of the Brent Spar fight, simply because consumers (most notably German consumers) launched a large and effective boycott of Shell.

Other resources on the Ken Saro Wiwa campaign

Resources related to Nigeria and human rights

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