Nov 12, 2010

Hundreds Attend Commemoration Of UNPO’s Executed Former Vice-Chair


Executed Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa honoured in major international commemoration centred in The Hague.


Over 700 people attended the commemorative concert “Standing Before History” on Wednesday November 10 2010, exactly 15 years after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni leaders. Ken Saro-Wiwa was UNPO’s Vice Chair at the time of his death and was hanged without fair trial nor the right to appeal by the Nigerian Military Government. An additional 100 people attended a public event and debate in the Plein of The Hague, City of Peace and Justice before the concert.


UNPO in collaboration with 7 other major environmental and human rights organisations had been planning the Commemoration for six months, focusing on the activities in The Hague, but welcoming, promoting and encouraging dedicatory actvities around the world.


The commemorative concert “Standing Before History”, featured international soul and hip hop star Nneka, herself born in the Niger Delta, and DJ Kingsley a Nigerian DJ based in The Hague. A packed concert hall of more than 700 people listened to the bold, impassioned lyrics of the recent winner of the 2010 Nigerian Entertainment Award for “Best Indigenous Artist of the Year” as she drew the vociferous crowd in to listen to her softly spoken stories and calls for greater justice and then beat them back into dance mode with her strong vocals and strident chords. She was introduced on stage by Maggie Murphy, UNPO Program Manager who commended the star’s commitment to singing the truth in a world muddied by corporate greed.  


Prior to the concert a public debate was held in The Plein outside the Dutch parliament. The members of the public gathered heard from speakers including Michael van Walt van Praag, UNPO’s founder and first General Secretary. Van Praag drew from his personal memories of his time working with Saro-Wiwa:


“Ken’s intellect and charisma, his warm personality and sense of humour got him elected vice chairman of UNPO in no time. His leadership was invaluable not only to the Ogoni but also to the other marginalised nations peoples and minorities he energised.”

The Dutch Ambassador for Human Rights, Mr. Lionel Veer was also present at the ceremony lighting a candle in Saro-Wiwa’s memory, alongside other Honorary Guests including Mr. Marino Busdachin, current UNPO General Secretary. Mr. René Grotenhuis, the Director of Cordaid spoke on behalf of the coalition of 8 NGOs that had collaborated to bring about such an event.


A debate then took place in front of the Dutch parliament hosted by Dutch journalist Mr. Harm Ede Botje. Whilst representatives from Shell had declined the invitation, it was surprising that the First Secretary of the Nigerian Embassy who had accepted the invitation did not attend. Ms. Sharon Gesthuizen, an MP for the Socialist Party of the Netherlands spoke strongly about the need for corporate social responsibility from all companies around the world, regardless of where they operate and where their headquarters is based.


Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria spoke on behalf of Nigerian civil society, berating the practices of Shell and other multinationals. Echoing some of the final words spoken by Ken Saro-Wiwa during his trial which lent their name to the concert that evening, Bassey noted that; Today we all stand before history. We stand in front of a backdrop of injustices, oppression and ecological genocide – not just historical but current and it is the threat of its progressing into the future that we must stand together to fight.”


Meanwhile in Nigeria, UNPO Member, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People held their 15th Anniversary of the Ogoni Martyrs in Bori, Ogoniland. MOSOP President and former UNPO President Mr. Ledum Mitee noted on the need for “a period for some sober reflection”. Placing strong emphasis on the need for tactics of nonviolence, eshewing the stance of Ken Saro-Wiwa he savoured the small victories seen in the Niger Delta that have been brought about by collaboration, discussion, dialogue and advocacy. Equally, he stated that it was necessary to reject any alternative ““Nigerian” version of UN standards”.


It remains to be seen how many more anniversaries will be needed in order for change to be truly felt by the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta.


For more information: or contact UNPO at unpo[at], Tel: +31 (0)70 36 46 504.