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Ken Saro-Wiwa Commemoration Dublin 2007

See youtube videos here: Ken Saro-Wiwa Commemoration Dublin 2007http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEty-i2gDjc

Film on Saro-Wiwa projected on to Shell's Dublin Head Office http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hZv7pr1nns

African Martyrs remembered in Dublin Why did a large crowd of Irish people spend a winter's evening standing outside the headquarters of Shell Oil in Leeson Street, braving the cold weather to listen to speeches and watch a film about some people who were killed in Africa twelve years ago? Some, like Sister Majella McCarron had personal and professional ties to the dead. Others, like Senator David Norris, were honoured to be associated with the bravery and dignity of the men who were being remembered. Many in the crowd are involved in a campaign in Ireland today which they find has disturbing similarities with what happened in Nigeria in the 1990's.

After leading a very successful campaign against the environmental problems being caused by oil exploration in the Niger Delta in the early 1990's, Ken Saro-Wiwa and other campaigners were arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder. The charges obviously had no substance, and many governments and individuals around the world attempted to intervene to stop the trial. The nine men were held in appalling conditions in prison while the Nigerian government instituted a special no-jury military panel to hear the case against them. Although journalists were banned from the court, and supporters were held outside by armed guards, a representative of the Shell Oil Company was given a reserved place in the courtroom to observe proceedings every day. People around the world wrote letters to the Nigerian regime, and protests were held in the United States, Canada, Europe, and in many African countries, but to no avail.

However, Saro-Wiwa's relatives were then contacted by representatives of Shell and asked for a meeting. The head of Shell Nigeria, Brian Anderson, told Ken's younger brother Owens Wiwa that Shell needed a "goodwill gesture", and indicated that if the Saro-Wiwa called off the campaign against Shell's activities in the region, his life would be spared. However the nine men on death row decided that it was Shell which needed to make a goodwill gesture. The company had been supplying arms to the Nigerian military in an effort to stamp out resistance to their activities in Ogoniland, activities which had seen the rivers polluted, the land spoiled for crops, and young people driven away from their homes and families.

While people like Irish missionary nun Sister Majella McCarron appealed to governments around the world to bring pressure to spare the lives of the nine men, it was clear to many that only Shell could intervene to stop the executions. On 10 November, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Paul Levura and Felix Nuate were hanged one by one at Port Harcourt Prison. Ken Saro-Wiwa was forced to watch the executions before he in turn was hanged.

Sister Majella, who had worked in Ogoniland as a missionary made a short speech to provide a context for the film, remembering Saro-Wiwa and the others who were executed at the behest of Shell. She gave an insight into the situation in Ogoniland today, reminding the crowd that Shell are still responsible for many problems in Nigeria today, and also wanted to remember the many other brave women who were a part of the story of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight. Senator David Norris then read an excerpt from Saro-Wiwa's speech at his sentencing hearing in Port Harcourt. The short film on Shell in Nigeria entitled "Don't Let Shell Kill Again" was then projected onto the side of the Shell building.

Shell Oil is currently engaged in a scheme in Mayo in the west of Ireland which involves running a risky high-pressure pipeline through a boggy landscape where many people live. They also wish to construct a huge polluting refinery in the middle of a conservation area, which many people believe will destroy the fishing and tourism industries in the vicinity. Like in Nigeria, Shell is being helped by the government, and it has been suggested that corrupt practices are behind this Irish support. The day before the anniversary of the executions, local people in Mayo attempted to hold a protest march at the refinery site, but hundreds of police pushed them off the roadway, and insisted that trucks full of building materials should be forced through the crowd. A lot of protesters were injured, and one had to be taken to hospital.

The large force of police who surrounded those who attended the screening in Dublin reminded many people of attempts to intimidate opponents of Shell in Nigeria, and their refusal to close a lane of traffic to allow people to pass the commemoration in safety showed that they have much in common with their colleagues in Mayo.

After the film screening, a wreath was laid at the front door of the Shell building.

If you would like to get more information on the campaign against Shell in Ireland look on the internet at www.shelltosea.com or www.mayogasinfo.com or phone or text 085 812 0021. The film shown at the commemoration is available on youtube.com.

Posted Date: 
23 November 2007 - 1:47pm