In 2015, it was 20 years since the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 Ogoni colleagues were hanged by the military government for campaigning against Shell.
In 2018 it will be 60 years since Shell started drilling in the Niger Delta, the breadbasket of Africa, to get at its oil resources. That’s 60 years of activity that nakedly exploit the population’s human rights, enabling the company to leave miles of pipelines unburied through villages, to permit the frequent oil spills and blowouts to drench and scorch the earth, destroying crops and livelihoods and to poison the water, The health impacts and the economic devastation have been overwhelming.
In 2015, we sent the Battle Bus – the Living Memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 – back home to Ogoniland as an act of solidarity, and a powerful, loud message to Shell – clean it up. We aren’t going away. Join us. Donate now!
In 1993, non-violent protest in one part of the oil-exploited Delta – Ogoniland, Rivers State – astonished the world by succeeding in kicking out Shell from drilling for oil there. Despite immediate Nigerian military reprisals and the massacre of hundreds of innocent Ogoni, Shell has not been back, But they have continued their work elsewhere just as negligently. They have not been back to Ogoniland, but nor have they done any remediation to deal with the oil pollution that continues to occur through oil pipelines crossing Ogoniland.
Action Saro-Wiwa used 2015, the 20th anniversary since Ken and his colleagues’ murder, to force Shell to act on the clean-up and get environmental justice for the Ogoni. The UN Environment Programme’s 2011 report “Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland” tells Shell what it must do for the soil, the water, the air. Following Ken, we go further: Shell’s actions in Nigeria must be held to account as part of a pattern, a history of exploitation that has its roots in colonialism.
In 2005, Remember Saro-Wiwa reawoke the world to the story that Shell and the Nigerian government would rather forget. We commissioned the astonishing ‘Battle Bus’, by artist Sokari Douglas Camp CBE, the Living Memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa.
“My Bus will become a signature tune direct from Rivers State using Ken’s words ‘I accuse the oil companies of practising genocide against the Ogoni people'”
Sokari Douglas Camp, CBE
In travelling around England, the Bus was a tinderbox to public outrage and a sustained call to put Shell in the spotlight and keep them there until change takes place. And that’s what we’ve done, through ground-breaking research, devastating analysis of Wikileaks and media exclusives.
As the Ogoni Bill of Rights, written by Ken, has inspired thousands of communities to assert their demands for environmental justice, so Action Saro-Wiwa responds to another of Ken’s calls: for those whose countries have profited from Nigerian oil to get up and act.
What happened in 2015
Ken was an artist and a campaigner. The two together were his most powerful weapon
The most important thing for me is that I’ve used my talents as a writer to enable the Ogoni people to confront their tormentors. I was not able to do it as a politician or a businessman. My writing did it. And it makes me feel good. Ken Saro-Wiwa, last letter to William Boyd while under arrest, 1995
In 2015 we came together in Ken’s name to create art and activism that will unroll a year of visionary and effective interventions. Together we helped sustain the movement, a catalyst for change.
The anniversary of the publication of the UNEP report has become a unifying moment for protests in Ogoniland. In August 2013, there were demonstrations in Ogoniland. In December 2013, when the Nigerian Government ignored a deadline for action set by social movements, protests spread further. Celestine AkpoBari from the Ogoni Solidarity Forum stated in a media interview:
There is no going back on the 90 day deadline ultimatum delivered to the Nigerian Government and oil companies to implement the UNEP report on oil pollution in Ogoniland. We are mobilizing for a series of non-violent direct actions that will cripple economic activity.
Later that week, hundreds of Ogoni protesters blocked access to major oil facilities in Ogoniland.
In 2015, Action Saro-Wiwa produced groundbreaking new work: art commissions, young people’s creativity and problem-solving, and this strategically interwove with press exclusives, research, and imaginative activism to build pressure on Shell, both here and in coordination with our allies elsewhere in the world including the Niger Delta.
The centrepiece of this was the call, from our colleagues in Ogoniland, for the Battle Bus to go home. This act – the symbolic return of Ken’s accusation 20 years after his murder – generated the impetus for an international pressure on Shell on an unprecedented scale.
“Nothing would have gladdened Ken Saro-Wiwa’s heart more than this show of solidarity with the suffering peoples of the Niger Delta.” Nnimmo Bassey Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Niger Delta
“Bringing back the Bus will re-awaken the people and increase the sympathy people have for our struggle.” Celestine AkpoBari Social Action, Niger Delta
Partly this was because the Nigerian Customs seized the Bus, and despite direct instruction from the Nigerian National Assembly, despite national and international outcry, the Bus has remained seized. Read the original press release here.
What you can do
Sign the petition to put pressure on Shell
Show solidarity with the ongoing campaign by donating