It has been a long fight for justice, but the day that Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa dreamed of is now just a month away. Saro-Wiwa was hung along with eight others in November 1995, having been framed by the Nigerian military for a crime he did not commit.
His only crime had been to take on the might of oil-giant Shell and the Nigerian military and to campaign for a greater share of oil wealth being drilled from Ogoniland.
Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues were also campaigning against Shell’s ecological devastation of their land – the routine spillages and constant gas flaring that poisoned the air and turned the dark African night into day.
In his closing testimony to the military tribunal, Saro-Wiwa said: “I am my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial… The company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come… for 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 will be duly punished. The crime of the company’s dirty war against the Ogoni people will also be punished.”
May 26 is that day. After fourteen years of legal arm-twisting and of trying to avoid going to court, Shell’s day will finally come in a court in New York. The charges could not be greater: It stands charged with being complicit in the murders of Saro-Wiwa and the others.
And a month before the trial, environmental and human rights groups, including Oil Change International, have announced that they have formed a global campaign to hold Shell accountable and demand that it stop gas flaring in Nigeria. The campaign website is www.ShellGuilty.com.
“Ken Saro-Wiwa’s hanging revealed the true price of oil,” said Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International. “Global movements for corporate accountability and environmental and social justice were inspired in part by the sacrifice of the Ogoni and the vision of Saro-Wiwa. Now, as Shell finally goes on trial for its crimes, we continue the struggle that Saro-Wiwa died for. For the climate and the communities of Nigeria, Shell must end gas flaring.”