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
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
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
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
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
the deprivation of the Ogoni people was perhaps not sensational enough for them, or they clearly cared less and got
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
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
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
will reverberate across the planet.
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