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“Friends of the Earth International commemorates Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death on November 10 as a day of solidarity with victims of mining, oil and gas activities around the world and a celebration of all the activists who continue to resist”, reads a press release issued on Wednesday by the environmental federation.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a renowned poet in Nigeria, founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People in 1990. The movement was created to protest against oil pollution in Ogoniland, in the area of the Niger Delta. On November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight others were hanged under the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria.
British-Dutch company Shell has been drilling in Nigeria for 50 years and its operations in the Niger Delta continue to have massively negative impacts on the population there. The oil leaks in Shell’s pipelines and the gas flaring practiced by the company are some of the world’s worst environmental disasters.
Saro-Wiwa led the protests against the devastating oil activities and he was the leader of the resistance so he was persecuted and arrested several times, until the dictatorial regime sentenced him to death by hanging, in a fraudulent trial that implied false accusations of murder, without the right to defense.
Shell has been accused of interfering in the trial that led to the death sentence of Saro-Wiwa and other eight activists from different sectors, with the support of international organizations. In fact, the families of the activists murdered in 1995 filed a lawsuit against Shell that resulted in a ruling that forced the company to pay 15.5 million US dollars in compensation.
For FoEI Saturday will be a day of solidarity with the victims of mining, oil and gas all over the world. It will also be a day of celebration for all social activists that continue resisting these activities. This is the homage of Friends of the Earth to Ken Saro-Wiwa.
FoEI activists of nearly 80 countries are meeting in El Salvador for their general assembly. From 13 to 20 November, 15 environmental activists will participate in a solidarity tour around communities affected by mining in El Salvador and Guatemala. Since FoEI published the report ’Memory, truth and justice for heroes’ in November of 2011, the death toll and level of persecution of community leaders defending their territories against abuses by the extractive industries has continued unabated. This is the price paid by social activists for defending their territories from the abuses of extractive industries.
These industries “have caused some of the world’s worst environmental disasters and displaced tens of thousands of local people from their traditional homelands. Abuses perpetrated by the extractive industries have cost the lives of many environmental advocates and communities”, reads FoEI’s press release.
It also mentions that the destruction of communities and ecosystems caused by extractive industries has led to the emergence of a global movement of resistance that fights for justice and to defend life, resources, biodiversity, traditional livelihood and culture.
The federation also claims “Friends of the Earth International reiterates its support for communities resisting destructive extractive projects, in their struggles against social injustices, and in bringing about environmental and economic justice”.
In the news broadcast of Democracy Now! of May 28, 2009, host Amy Goodman cites the words of Ken Saro-Wiwa during an interview with the show in 1994 “...Nigeria has been under military dictatorships. And the oil companies like military dictatorships, because basically they can cheat with these dictatorships. The dictatorships are brutal to people, and they can deny the rights of — human rights of individuals and of communities quite easily, without compunction.(...) So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a marked man.”
Shortly afterwards, before Saro-Wiwa was murdered, he wrote his defense plea from jail “In my innocence of the false charges I face, here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger
Delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side.”
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