Hanged to life

  • 14/12/1995

Hanged to life IN a world primarily by the dynamics of the global Market,where rules are made and broken at the whims of Corporate gaint, a parallel force is slowly but steadily gaining Ground. It is the force of the people - of the indigenous commmunities and minority groups fighting to assert their right over their own lands. They are learning to raise their voices against the aggressors, be it the stick-weilding state agencies or the, companies who are destroying their backyards. people are now demanding a price for the habitates they losing.

So the struggles of the Ogoni, a tiny ethnic tribe in Nigeria - comprising barely 6 million people, tucked away in a cor- ner of west-Africa has emerged as the vanguard movement for ecological self-determination. The traurnatising execution of Ken saro-Wiwa, the man who taught the 0goni to fight against the oppressors who were ravaging the Niger delta to extract oil- nine others, has catapulted them to the cen ter stage politics.

Way west of Nigeria, the struggle of the Yanornami, Brazilian Tribals inhabiting lush, biodiversity-rich Amazon Rein forest is yet to gain international recognition. But they -V to with the deprived and poverty-stricken n pold that has unleashed ,puniders loose on the Od bankiand. International mining Poor pushing the Brazilian government draconian amendment to decw, which enshrines the rot to live in demarcated aeras. Both the Ogoni and the Yanomann have embarked on a struggle to ensure their survival which is also the path to path to sustainable development.

The transformation of these communities from insignificant minority groups To defiant crusader should now jolt the World community out of its complacent Slumber. It is time leaders worldwide V M 6W governance alone can equitable sharing of natural resources. The 6puld he accountable not to the rulers of that I w the people. Local communities should be the dMennukers. They should decide up on whether mw dwir natural resources with anyone. And, of course they must have the full authority to set the price of what rightfully belongs to them. The role they should play in decissionmaking must also be clearly and legally defined, leaving no room for debut.

Industry must interact directly with representatives of the local communities and consult them about it's every move. This alone can keep the invaders under control.

The involvement of the people is important, not only to ensure justice for all, but also for the sustainable development of the region. If the 0gom had a role to play in the various Shell operations in the Niger delta, the rape of that land would not have happened.

But there are others, too, who must be made to share the responsibility of Saro-Wiwa's murder. Today, environmental activist groups like Greenpeace may whip up mass frenzy in the West against oil companies like the Shell, but the blood of the slain leader is in their hands too. They could have used their opinion-building powers to mobilise worldwide support for the Ogoni before the heinous crime was committed. SaroWiwa was behind bars for an entire year, but Greenpeace activists were then busy campaigning against the sinking of an obsolete oil rig in the North Sea. The tafe of the sufferings and the deprivation of the Ogoni people was perhaps not sensational enough for them, or they clearly cared less and got their priorities mixed up.

The global community as of now is spluttering with anger against the Sani Abacha regime in Nigeria, which hanged Saro Wiwa in blatant defiance of international opinion, and is vowing to establish new standards of democracy and human rights. But all this might well turn out to be a passing phase. Once the initial sense of horror and outrage passes, the world leaders may again opt for the easier alter native of hiding their human concerns behind the barrels of oil that the Nigerian rogue regime so boldly flaunts before the rest of the world.

But surely, far more is expected of the leaders who shape the future of the inter- national communities. It is for them to recognise that Saro-Wiwa's message strikes home in every country - from the uK to South Africa and India. Today, we need leaders who recognise that empowering the local communities is the only way to move towards environmental sustainability and social justice. Unless the system of governance changes, many more Saro-Wiwas will be martyred.

But Saro-Wiwa did not die in vain. His death has helped his people to take a giant step forward. From being a neglected minority, the 0gom have now set the trend in demanding their own rights. The international community may not yet be ready to give them the attention they deserve. But their voices will reverberate across the planet.

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