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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
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Nigeria: Sierra Club on Saro-Wiwa
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Nigeria: Sierra Club on Saro-Wiwa
Date Distributed (ymd): 961108
Note: In a previous posting distributed citing Internet
sources on Zaire (961105), we erroneously reported that
the French version of Info-Zaire is available by e-mail.
Please note that this is currently only available on the
Association for Progressive Communications (APC) networks, in
the africa.news and reg.africa conferences.
This posting contains: (1) Press Release from Sierra Club; (2)
Ken Saro-Wiwa's statement to the court prior to his sentence
and execution on November 10, 1995.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 7, 1996
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Mills, Human Rights and
Environment Campaign Director, Sierra Club, 408 C St., NE,
Washington, D.C. 20002; tel: 202- 675-6691; e-mail:
SIERRA CLUB URGES CLINTON TO AID OGONI STRUGGLE AGAINST SHELL
ON ANNIVERSARY OF ENVIRONMENTALIST'S EXECUTION
Washington, D.C. -- The Sierra Club today released a letter it
sent to President Clinton that calls on the President to help
the Ogoni people of Nigeria in their struggle against
pollution caused by Shell's oil exploitation. The letter also
calls on the President to again push American allies to adopt
a series of Nigerian sanctions.
The letter was signed by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl
Pope and by Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa,
the writer and environmentalist whom the Nigerian government
hanged last year along with eight other Ogoni leaders.
Environmentalists believe that Saro-Wiwa was executed because
of his effective grassroots organizing directed at the
devastation from Shell's oil exploitation in the Ogoni region.
"Today, another 19 Ogoni prisoners are being held on a
politically-motivated murder charge for wanting social and
environmental justice for the Ogoni people" said Pope. "They
could also face a military appointed tribunal, an unfair trial
and the same hangman's noose unless the Clinton administration
and Shell intercede."
In January of this year Shell admitted that it had imported
firearms for the Nigerian police force. Last week the
Managing Director of Shell Nigeria announced the company's
sponsorship of a hospital in the Ogoni area of Nigeria. Dr.
Wiwa noted the irony of Shell's influence in the Ogoni region.
"What a cynical gesture," said Dr. Wiwa, "they open a hospital
to treat the people wounded by their own guns. Shell's
weapons were used against any Ogoni who dared speak out
against the company's pollution."
"Rather than restore the environment in Ogoni or pay
reparations to the communities the company polluted, Shell has
hired public relations firms to counter our calls for
environmental justice," said Stephen Mills, Director of the
Sierra Club's Human Rights and Environment Campaign. "No
amount of advertising can cover up the fact that Shell
operated in Nigeria for some 38 years, made billions of
dollars, and left the Ogoni with polluted farms and rivers and
without electricity, running water, schools or hospitals,"
Tensions are high in the Ogoni region of Nigeria on this, the
one year anniversary of the executions. A ban on all public
meetings, rallies and other events remains in effect, and the
military has increased their presence in the area, attempting
to crush any attempt by the Ogoni to memorialize their leader.
Nine days after the Ogoni were executed, the Sierra Club Board
of Directors voted to support an embargo of Nigerian oil and
a consumer boycott of Shell products until such time as the
company has cleaned up the pollution it has caused in Nigeria,
agreed to conform to U.S. standards while operating in
Nigeria, and paid compensation to the peoples adversely
affected by their activities.
Since endorsing the boycott, local affiliates of the
grassroots environmental group have held pickets, rallies and
demonstrations. The Sierra Club has also distributed
thousands of "Boycott Shell" bumper stickers via its internet
"Shell must be worried," said Mills. "Why else would the
company have recently dispatched its top public relations
chiefs from Houston and London to discourage some of our
members in St. Louis from working on this campaign. They were
sent packing though, and told they must first negotiate with
the environmental organization which was led by Ken
Saro-Wiwa was the leader of the Movement for the Survival of
the Ogoni People, MOSOP. Most of the group's leaders are now
living in exile outside Nigeria for fear of reprisal from the
Nov. 6, 1996
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
One year ago this Sunday, writer and environmentalist Ken
Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged in a
Nigerian jail because of their vocal -- and effective --
efforts directed at cleaning up the devastation from Shell's
oil exploitation in the Ogoni region. We are writing to urge
you to help the Ogoni in their struggle against Shell for a
clean and healthy environment, and to urge you to take
further, significant actions to punish Nigeria's generals.
Specifically, we call on you to again press American allies to
prohibit new investment in Nigeria, freeze the overseas assets
of Nigeria's rulers and, most importantly, impose an oil
embargo against the country. Nigeria derives 90% of it's
foreign revenue from oil. Because of this dependence, oil
sanctions would quickly and effectively remove the funding
General Abacha's despotic regime uses to silence
We also call on you to send a message to Shell, and other
multinational corporations, that you expect companies that do
business in the United States to abide by the same
environmental and human rights standards abroad as they are
held to in this country. The Sierra Club and many other
organizations are urging Shell to begin the environmental
restoration of Ogoni, to pay reparations to the communities it
polluted, and to use its extraordinary influence in Nigeria to
see that 19 Ogoni currently being held in jail are released.
The 19 Ogoni prisoners are being held on similar
politically-motivated murder charges for advocating social and
environmental justice for the Ogoni people. They could also
face a military appointed tribunal, an unfair trial and the
same hangman's noose. Efforts to get the "Ogoni 19" a fair
trial have been postponed indefinitely by government officials
and local courts. Lawyers acting on the defendants' behalf
were detained by the State Intelligence and Investigation
Bureau. Outrage and condemnation from citizens and world
leaders alike, followed the Ogoni executions. British Prime
Minister John Major called it "judicial murder." While the
international community contemplated tough sanctions, none
Unelected General Sani Abacha remains in power, swiftly
imprisoning anyone who speaks against him, including those
Ogoni who dare to seek environmental justice. A ban on all
public meetings, rallies and other events remains in effect in
Nigeria's Ogoni region. The military has increased their
presence in the area, attempting to crush any attempt by the
Ogoni to memorialize their leader.
We were optimistic that your administration would lead world
efforts to sanction Nigeria's brutal military dictatorship.
However, no substantial sanctions have been imposed against
the generals by the U.S. Incredibly, the U.S. appears to be
moving in the opposite direction. Two weeks ago at the
meeting of the World Conservation Union in Montreal, the U.S.
actually led the efforts against a resolution condemning
Nigeria's human rights and environmental offenses. This
appears to directly contradict the commendable efforts of your
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, John Shattuck.
The U.S. did take some steps after the executions.
Unfortunately, these actions had little effect on the
oil-dependent military junta. Mr. President, we appreciate
the your administration's condemnation of the executions last
year. We appreciate the temporary recall of U.S. Ambassador
Walter Carrington, a ban on the sale of military goods and
services, a ban on military visas, and a U.S.-sponsored U.N.
resolution. We must conclude, however, that tougher sanctions
are required in order to successfully end this dictatorship's
In April of this year Secretary of State Warren Christopher in
a speech at Stanford University announced his intention to
place environmental issues in the mainstream of American
foreign policy. He noted that "addressing natural resource
issues is frequently critical to achieving political and
economic stability, and pursuing our strategic goals around
the world." The case of Nigeria offers you the perfect
opportunity to make this new policy a reality.
We commend Secretary Christopher for announcing these new
environmental initiatives and we look forward to assisting in
their implementation. We urge, however, that the State
Department's new initiatives extend additionally to individual
citizens in their right to protect the environment, and their
right to clean water and clean air. Mr. President, we believe
that environmental rights are directly linked to human rights.
We believe that everyone has a right to a clean and healthy
environment, be they American or Nigerian.
We look forward to your response.
Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club
Owens Wiwa, M.D., Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People
KEN SARO-WIWA'S CLOSING STATEMENT TO THE MILITARY APPOINTED
Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria
We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas.
Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on
a richly endowed land, distressed by their political
marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the
devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to
preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and
determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just
democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic
group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I
have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very
life to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I
cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all
about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials
and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may
encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop
our ultimate victory.
I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues
are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it
is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be
holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this
particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons
learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my
mind that the ecological war that the Company has waged in
Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the
crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the
Company's dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be
On trial also is the Nigerian nation, its present rulers and
those who assist them. Any nation which can do to the weak and
disadvantaged what the Nigerian nation has done to the Ogoni,
loses a claim to independence and to freedom from outside
influence. I am not one of those who shy away from protesting
injustice and oppression, arguing that they are expected in a
military regime. The military do not act alone. They are
supported by a gaggle of politicians, lawyers, judges,
academics and businessmen, all of them hiding under the claim
that they are only doing their duty, men and women too afraid
to wash their pants of urine. We all stand on trial, my lord,
for by our actions we have denigrated our Country and
jeopardised the future of our children. As we subscribe to the
sub-normal and accept double standards, as we lie and cheat
openly, as we protect injustice and oppression, we empty our
classrooms, denigrate our hospitals, fill our stomachs with
hunger and elect to make ourselves the slaves of those who
ascribe to higher standards, pursue the truth, and honour
justice, freedom, and hard work. I predict that the scene here
will be played and replayed by generations yet unborn. Some
have already cast themselves in the role of villains, some are
tragic victims, some still have a chance to redeem themselves.
The choice is for each individual.
I predict that the denoument of the riddle of the Niger delta
will soon come. The agenda is being set at this trial. Whether
the peaceful ways I have favoured will prevail depends on what
the oppressor decides, what signals it sends out to the
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. God is on their side. For
the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41:"All those that fight
when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the
oppressor." Come the day.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and