In November 1995 the New York Times called it the morality tale of the 20th century: the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight colleagues from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MoSOP) by the Nigerian Government at the behest of Royal Dutch Shell Corporation.
This month marks the ninth anniversary of the hanging of the Ogoni Nine. Yet for all the outrage (Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth and Shell was persona non grata for most activists around the world for a couple of years) Ken’s body has still not been returned for proper burial and his name is still listed amongst murderers in Nigeria.
Although Ogoni is almost used as a byword for social justice for indigenous peoples impacted by resource extraction around the Earth, little has changed on the ground for these heroic people. But there are some promising developments. The new, supposedly democratic Government of Nigeria is suing Shell for the clean-up of the Niger Delta. Surviving members of the Ogoni Nine’s families are suing Shell in US courts and are expected to go to a jury trial in the next several months. And Ken’s brother, Owens Wiwa, and his son, Ken Junior, are organizing a memorial for the 10th anniversary in November 2005. Watch this space for details.