[QODLink]
Africa
Ken Saro-Wiwa's battle for justice
Activist was instrumental in the Ogoni people's fight against exploitation.
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2009 12:43 GMT

Saro-Wiwa led non-violent protests against environmental destruction in the Niger Delta [AFP]

It was only a matter of time before the perils of activism caught up to Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer and activist hanged by his country's rulers on November 10, 1995.

Long before the oil rush in Nigeria, Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic Nigerian minority living in the delta of the River Niger who called Ogoniland their homeland.

Unfortunately for the Ogonis, they watched their land of forests and creeks turn into a toxic waste dump when Royal Dutch Shell, the world's second-largest oil company, discovered the land to be oil-bearing in 1958.

But his reluctance to accept the changes being made allowed him to pave a distinguished record of opposition against Shell and other multinational companies operating in Ogoniland.

In 1990, Saro-Wiwa founded and became the president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), a nonviolent campaign that worked to protect his indigenous tribe.

He led rallies against Shell and blamed the company for myriad oil spills and gas fires in the southeastern region of Nigeria.

At the height of his activism, Saro-Wiwa and eight other Mosop members were arrested, tried by a special military tribunal and killed by the Nigerian military.

'Ecological war'

Saro-Wiwa's death later provoked international outrage and the immediate suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations.

In his final words before his execution, he warned that Shell's actions in Nigeria would return to haunt them.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the company has waged in the Delta will be called into question sooner than later and the crimes of that war duly punished," he said.

In 1996, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), EarthRights International (ERI), and other human rights attorneys were able to bring a series of cases to hold Shell accountable for human rights violations in Nigeria.

In a lawsuit brought in a New York court, Shell was accused of crimes against humanity for allegedly encouraging Nigeria to clamp down on the activists because their protests threatened oil production in the lucrative Niger Delta.

The lawsuit claimed that in the 1990s, Shell officials helped furnish Nigerian police with weapons, participated in security sweeps of the area, and asked government troops to shoot villagers protesting against the construction of a pipeline that later leaked oil.

The plaintiffs also say Shell helped the government capture and hang Saro-Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Saturday Doobee, Felix Nuate, Daniel Gbokoo and Barinem Kiobel.

After spending 13 years in fighting the lawsuit and denying all claims, Shell, which racked up a corporate record of $31.4 billion annual profit in 2008, agreed to a $15.5 million dollar settlement.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.