Nov 12, 2013

‘The Struggle Continues’: UNPO commemorates Ogoni Leader Saro-Wiwa


On 10 November 2013, which marked the 18th anniversary of the state execution of prominent Ogoni writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, UNPO commemorated his nonviolent struggle for the rights of the Ogoni people – a struggle that ultimately cost him his life.

Oil-drilling in Ogoniland, in southern Nigeria, began in the 1950s and has over the years come to produce what the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has called an ‘ecological disaster’. Oil spills and deforestation have not only had a destructive impact on the region’s environment; they have also negatively affected the livelihoods of the Ogoni people, whose survival traditionally depend on agriculture and fishing.

In order to put an end to the repression and exploitation of the Ogoni and their resources by oil companies and the Nigerian government, in 1990, Ogoni activists under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa formed the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a peaceful human rights group using nonviolence as a means to further their cause for a clean and safe Ogoniland. Through international campaigning and his writings on the topic, Mr. Saro-Wiwa brought worldwide attention to the struggle of the Ogoni, and he was the driving force behind the Ogoni Bill of Rights, a document enlisting the Ogoni people’s demands for environmental, socio-economic and political justice.

However, determined to repress this growing movement, the Nigerian military regime, allegedly with the support of oil companies, carried out brutal raids against the Ogoni people throughout the early 1990s, the most shocking example of which is the execution by hanging of nine Ogoni leaders, among them Mr. Saro-Wiwa, on 10 November 1995.

On this day, UNPO wishes to commemorate the deeds of Mr. Saro-Wiwa, who has served as an inspiration to peoples all over the world, whose local environment, culture and livelihoods are threatened by the exploitation of natural resources. Deeply deploring the unfounded execution of Mr. Saro-Wiwa, UNPO recalls his very last words: ‘The struggle continues’, and hopes that the reinforcement of international instruments, such as the ILO Convention 169, which grants indigenous communities land rights and prevents political decisions without the consent of these communities, will prevent such horrendous incidents in the future.