Tribute to Ken Saro-Wiwa by Ka Hsaw Wa of Earthrights Int

In 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. In this tribute to Ken, fellow prize winner and Executive Director of EarthRights International, Ka Hsaw Wa tells us about the open letter by previous Goldman winners in support for the Ogoni people in the upcoming trial and the importance of the case to indigenous people throughout the world.

On the surface, there is little in common between me, a member of the Karen people in Burma, and Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of Nigeria’s indigenous Ogoni people. But go a little deeper, and our stories and struggles are one and the same: the universal struggle of indigenous peoples for our rights, livelihoods and dignity in the face of unchecked exploitation of natural resources in our homelands.

In Burma, Nigeria, and countless other places around the globe, our lands and our peoples have faced gross human rights abuses and staggering environmental degradation. These problems have often been driven by multinational oil companies, sustained by corrupt and brutal governments all too willing to loot resources and oppress their own people for monetary gain.

Beginning May 26th, my organization, EarthRights International, will, in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, represent Ken Saro-Wiwa’s family and other Ogoni plaintiffs in a landmark trial in federal court, Wiwa v. Shell.

In the early 1990s, Ken Saro-Wiwa, an acclaimed writer and environmental activist, led the Ogoni people in calling on Shell to halt its harmful activities in Ogoni, including gas flaring – a destructive practice that Shell continues even today. Their struggle was met with deliberate destruction of villages, murder, torture, and extra-judicial executions, as Shell colluded with the Nigerian military government to suppress local opposition to its practices. Continue reading

Shell is still up to their dirty tricks but have failed in a last minute attempt to stop the upcoming trial on the 26th May. “Shell claimed the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the case, but the judge overwhelmingly supported plaintiffs’ international law claims for extrajudicial killing, torture, arbitrary detention and crimes against humanity”.