The Observer (UK): Britain honours hanged hero as legal war rages on: “In the US courts he is pursuing a legal action against Shell, accusing the oil giant of aiding and abetting the torture and murder of Saro-Wiwa and other members of the Ogoni tribe…” (ShellNews.net) 20 March 05
Sunday March 20, 2005
For Ken Wiwa, the pain never ends. It comes from knowing that one morning his father was taken from a prison cell and executed - hanged at the fifth attempt - then his body was dumped in an unmarked grave, with acid poured on his remains. The killing was carried out by Sani Abacha's military regime in Nigeria and condemned around the world as 'judicial murder'.
It is nearly 10 years since Ken Saro-Wiwa, activist and writer, and eight colleagues were put to death following their campaign against the environmental impact of oil companies in the Niger Delta. The anger, the grief and the cause they fought for remain. This week an initiative to create a public memorial artwork in Britain is to be launched by Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, and Saro-Wiwa's son, Ken.
But Wiwa is fighting another battle for his father's legacy. In the US courts he is pursuing a legal action against Shell, accusing the oil giant of aiding and abetting the torture and murder of Saro-Wiwa and other members of the Ogoni tribe, taking land for oil development without adequate compensation, polluting air and water and recruiting the Nigerian police and military to attack local villages. Shell denies the claims.
Wiwa brought the civil lawsuit in 1996, but Shell has repeatedly attempted to get it thrown out. Finally, in March 2002, a US Federal Court ruled that it could go ahead, but further delays meant that hearings only began last year, and no firm court date has yet been set.
'What happened to my father still hurts, and it remains painful every single day,' Wiwa, 36, told The Observer . 'The issues which he lived and died for are still very pertinent today. We've seen in the Nigerian Delta an increasingly violent response to resource control. My father's legacy was always a non-violent, creative response to these conflicts. Now more than ever we need to revisit that legacy and think deeply beyond the executions to what my father stood for.'
Wiwa remains fiercely critical of Shell. 'These people make a lot of money, but the moment they are held accountable they duck their responsibilities. My father stood up for what he believed in and took the consequences.'
A Shell spokeswoman said the company 'had no part in the arrest, trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogonis. Shell opposed the executions. There is renewed effort in Ogoni following the Nigerian President's recent call for reconciliation.'
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