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COP27: Activists remember Ken Saro-Wiwa and other martyrs of extractivism

While he was alive, Ken Saro-Wiwa said: “We are going to demand our rights peacefully, non-violently and we shall win. I tell you this, I may be dead, but my ideas will not die.” These words remain emblazoned on his tomb.

Ken Saro-Wiwa
Activists lit candles in honour of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight Ogoni leaders and other martyrs of extractivism across the world

Twenty-seven years after his execution on November 10, 1995, alongside eight other Ogoni leaders, their spirit lives on and the struggle they led continues to inspire the resistance to ecological crimes by extractive companies in Nigeria and around the world.

On Thursday, November 10, 2022, at COP27, Oilwatch groups including Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Earthlife Johannesburg, CAPPA, Kabetkache Women Development Centre, Centre for Environmental Justice (Togo) remembered the Ogoni 9 and other martyrs of extractivism across the world and pledge their defence of the planet are the heroic climate action the world should adopt.

Nnimmo Bassey, an environmental activist and the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), stated: “Today, as we remember Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight Ogoni leaders who were wrongfully executed by the Nigerian state on November 10, 1995, we also call to mind the several earth and human rights defenders who have been martyred across the world by, or for, fossil fuel and mining corporations. Blood has flowed, our lands have been polluted, and the world is heating. We demand justice for our heroes, a halt to dependence on fossil fuels – the real climate action – and a restoration of all polluted lands and reparation for ecocide.”

As the world discusses the deteriorating climate concerns at the ongoing COP27, the need to shift away from dirty energy has never been more urgent.

“In honour of climate protectors whose lives were brutally cut short, the UNFCCC needs to have a clause in the negotiated climate convention that ensures protection of those upholding the rights of nature, planet and people,” says Makoma Lakelakala of Earthlife Johanesburg.

Celestine Akpobari, Team Leader at Peoples Advancement Centre, Nigeria, shared: “On this occasion, we want to remind the world that the situation of things in Ogoni and are far worse than they were in the days of Ken Saro-Wiwa. It has been said during this climate change conference that the world is on a speed lane to climate Hell, but I want to say that Ogoni people have been there all these years.”

Akpobari further stated that “the planned forceful resumption of oil operations in Ogoniland should be halted as it is capable of provoking conflict. We also resist the new scramble for African oil and gas.”

Emem Okon, Director, Kabetkache Women Development and Resource Centre in Nigeria, noted: “As we remember Ken Saro-Wiwa and other martyrs today, we pledge to carry on with their messages, and insist that all polluted areas be cleaned up and polluters held accountable for their ecological crimes in communities across the world.”

The death of the Ogoni leaders followed a brutal crackdown by the Nigerian government on peaceful demonstrators who were frustrated by the destruction of their land and livelihoods. Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed along with the eight Ogoni leaders: Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel and John Kpuine.

Twenty-seven years later, despite witnesses accepting they had been bribed to testify falsely against the activists, justice has still not been served.

“We demand an exoneration of Ken Saro-Wiwa and all martyrs of extractivism,” says the activists.

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