[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Shell and Ken Saro-Wiwa/UN Human Rights Comm.
This is a unique appeal on the Nigerian situation and we hope all
of you will participate.
November 10th was the second anniversary of execution of Ken Saro-
Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists in Nigeria. As we know, this
is not the first or the only violation of human rights and
environmental justice by the General Abacha regime. While much of
this has been recorded at international fora, it's been difficult
to do anything -- primarily because the regime has the support of
Shell Oil company and couldn't care less what the rest of the
There may just be a ray of hope now. The United Nations Commission
of Human Rights (UNCHR) finally appointed its special envoy on
human rights to Nigeria last month. He is Mr. Soli J. Sorabjee,
among the most well-known lawyers in India and former attorney-
general to the Government of India. Some of us thought it best to
use this foot in the door to prise open the door itself. To this
end, we have drafted a letter and Memorandum for Action to be given
to Mr. Sorabjee urging him to include the Ogoni and similar other
struggles, violations of their rights, present condition as part of
his agenda in Nigeria. His report will, no doubt, be important.
The idea is to collect as many signatures on the Memorandum as
possible; the groups here aim at at least 1000 by Dec 10, 1997 when
it will be handed over to him. It will help to have signatures from
a wide cross-section of individuals and groups across the world,
the more the better. It will help to keep pressure on him to do the
right thing in Nigeria; he knows that people around the world are
Please read the letter and Memorandum attached here,
sign it and send it by e-mail or snail mail to the addresses given
at the end. Also, feel free to circulate this among your
groups/friends/colleagues to get as much support as you can. To
e-mail, type your name, address, phone/fax and e-mail
identification at the very end of the message and mail to the
address given. For groups/organisations, it's necessary to put
names of at least two office-bearers along with the name of your
Thanks and Cheers
------------------ Forwarded Message ----------------
Mr Soli J. Sorabjee
Special Envoy to Nigeria,
United Nations Commission on Human Rights,
Dear Mr. Sorabjee,
We congratulate you on your recent appointment as Special Envoy (human
rights) to Nigeria by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
(UNHCR). It is indeed a cause for hope for the people of Nigeria
and for those of us fighting for human rights in that country.
Two years ago this day, Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian tribal
activist from the oil-rich Ogoniland, was executed along with eight
other Ogonis by the Nigerian military regime. His crime:
spearheading a peaceful people's movement against the environmental
and human rights devastation unleashed by Shell and other oil
companies on the Ogonis and their land.
On this occasion, we wish to draw your attention to the most shocking
violations of human rights and civil liberties in Nigeria under the
General Abacha regime. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, most
particularly the minority groups and tribes, have been physically
and mentally abused by the regime acting in collusion with Shell,
the world's largest oil multinational. The economic exploitation
and the ecological destruction of their homelands is well-
documented and undeniable. The poorest of poor Nigerians have been
denied a share in the economic wealth resulting from oil extraction
in their homeland. Worse, they have had to consistently face false
charges, beatings, incarceration, even executions for demanding their
rights. The Ogonis were executed for articulating the rights of
their people and other minority communities.
Let his death not be in vain. The story of the Ogonis and other tribes in
Nigeria need to be highlighted at the appropriate forum. Towards
this end, we have attached a "Memorandum for Action" which is
supported by several human rights groups, environmentalists,
indigenous peoples support groups, writers, academics around the
world. We hope you will take a deep interest in this issue.
We urge you to examine the repression and abuse of Ogonis and other tribes
as part of the human rights violations in Nigeria and to hold
accountable those responsible for perpetuating these abuses.
Dated: November 10, 1997
MEMORANDUM FOR ACTION
"When I organised the Ogoni people to protest peacefully against
Shell's ecological war, the company invited the Nigerian military to
intervene. Lethal arms supplied by the British government were used
on unarmed Ogoni people while they were sleeping in their beds.
Thousands have been murdered, hundreds of thousands driven
into the bush and tens of villages flattened."
"Please do not allow the kangaroo military tribunal to
condemn me to death for a crime I know nothing about. Make appeals
for clemency...Help save life and the environment of Niger Delta."
That was Ken Saro-Wiwa speaking in "The Mail & Guardian" newspaper two
months before he and eight of his compatriots were executed by the
Nigerian military regime on November 10, 1995. His pleas for
clemency and fair trial went unheeded. You cannot expect anything
else from a military regime that abused and repressed Nigerians for
decades. But key prosecution witnesses who had testified against
Saro-Wiwa at his trial later signed affidavits that they had been
bribed by Shell, the multinational oil giant, to testify against
the Ogoni leader. It wasn't just General Abacha with blood on his
hands; Shell had stains too.
If the company's tacit involvement in the Ogoni 9 executions is
shocking, the economic and ecological history of the Ogoni people is
even more so. Barely numbering 500,000, the Ogonis live in Rivers
State, one of the most oil-rich areas of Nigeria. Oil drives the
country's economy: 80 percent of Nigeria's total revenue and 90
percent of its foreign exchange earnings come from oil. Shell
controls nearly 60 percent of all oil reserves in the country. Not
surprisingly, the people who occupy the land were seen as obstacles
in the way of profit.
How else would one explain the abuses of all human rights including
economic and ecological rights - perpetrated on the Ogonis? There
are 96 oil production wells in Ogoniland, five flow stations or
large pumping stations and numerous gas flares that have operated
continuously for 35 years. Also, there are many high-pressure oil
pipelines criss-crossing Ogoniland, many through fields and near
homes. As if this isn't bad enough, some 56-60 million gallons of
oil has been spilt on their farmlands and into community water
supplies. Shell admits to some 3000 polluted sites on the Ogonis'
land. The gas flaring has caused acid rain, flare particles have
entered the land, water, homes and lungs of the Ogonis. They are among the
poorest of poor people today despite the fact that approximately
US$30 billion worth of oil has been extracted from the region in
the last 40 years.
When the Ogonis organised themselves to demand that Shell clean up the
oil spills and share profits more equitably, the military regime
let loose a campaign of terror - nearly 1800 Ogonis were killed and
many more tortured. Even today 19 Ogoni activists, imprisoned since
1995 on the same false charges as Saro-Wiwa, are subjected to physical and
mental torture without trial. None of this terror against citizens
and blatant human rights violations could have taken place without
the knowledge or connivance of Shell. Within weeks of the Ogoni 9
executions, Shell signed with the Abacha government to build a
liquified natural gas plant - the strongest signal ever that the
company supported the repressive regime.
The World Council of Churches, which conducted a thorough study of the
issue, found that oil production and gas flaring continues on
Ogoniland despite Shell's statements to the contrary. The Ogoni
story is only the tip of the iceberg. Other communities have
similar stories to tell - the Abriba, Andoni, Effik, Ijaw, Ikwerra,
Isoko, Kalabaru, Urhoro communities, all live on the oil-rich land
in Nigeria. They too have suffered at the hands of the military
regime; their rights too have been abused by a confluence of the
military and oil industry interests. But the Ogoni people's
campaign and Saro-Wiwa's courage to stand up for the rights of his
community is, without doubt, among the most poignant of all human
struggles in recent times.
There are those who laid down lives in Nigeria so that the repression
may not go unheard; there are thousands others who continue to face
the worst form of abuse and torture. It is an issue that cannot be
contained within the boundaries of Nigeria any longer. The human
rights abuses and environmental devastation in Ogoni are being
challenged by every person who stands for equity, justice and
peace. We do not believe that the confluence of interests in
Nigeria will be kinder to Nigerians or will behave differently
towards the citizens who stand up for their rights on their own.
Only an international, independent and thorough inquiry into the
various kinds of abuses holds some hope for the fighting Nigerians.
We urge you, as Special Envoy of the United Nations, to
examine all aspects of this most horrific violations of human
rights. Let the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni compatriots
not be in vain.
DATED: 10 November 1997
TO INCLUDE YOUR SIGNATURE ON THIS MEMORANDUM, TYPE IN YOUR
NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE/FAX AND EMAIL TO email@example.com
OR SEND BY SNAIL MAIL TO NITYANAND JAYARAMAN AT P.O. BOX 3166, NEW
DELHI, 110003 BY DECEMBER 10, 1997.