Secret Manoeuvres, Shell and Kiobel

This week saw a landmark hearing before the Supreme Court in Washington DC. Widow Esther Kiobel accuses the oil giant’s parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, of complicity in the murder and torture of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Nigerian activists. They were executed by the Nigerian military government after protesting Shell’s exploration and development in the Niger Delta in 1995.

Essentially a case of relatives seeking to hold an oil company accountable for its deeds, it now centers on the question whether survivors of human rights violations in foreign countries can bring lawsuits against corporations in U.S. courts under a 1789 U.S. law called the Alien Tort Statute. See Twitter on #Kiobel for different takes on this hearing.

Shell has a long history of undermining protest. The company applies an interesting mix of PR strategies, denials and greenwash exercises on the one hand and the dirty tricks and undercover operations on the other. For Shell,  or so it seems, cooperation with a military government and police Special Forces in an African country is just one step beyond involvement in private intelligence agencies and cybersurveillance in Europe and the US. It’s all part of the game. Continue reading “Secret Manoeuvres, Shell and Kiobel”

New Evidence Suggests Ken Saro-Wiwa Was Framed

Originally posted at

Andy Rowell and Eveline Lubbers, 6 December 2010

An edited version of this article appeared in the Independent on Sunday

Fifteen years after the execution of Nigerian playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, new compelling evidence has surfaced that suggests that the Nigerian military killed the four Ogoni elders that Saro-Wiwa was later accused of murdering.

The new evidence also reveals that the soldier’s commander, the notorious Lt Col Okuntimo, who was implicated in murder and rape, was being paid millions of Naira by Shell at the time and was being driven around in a Shell vehicle.

These new testimonies contradict what Shell has said for fifteen years. Since the time of Saro-Wiwa’s death, Shell consistently told the press and its share-holders that it had no financial relationship with the Nigerian military. Continue reading “New Evidence Suggests Ken Saro-Wiwa Was Framed”

NGOs and BBC targeted by Shell PR machine in wake of Saro-Wiwa death

Originally posted at

By Eveline Lubbers and Andy Rowell, published in the Guardian on 9 November 2010.

Secret internal company documents from the oil giant Shell show that in the immediate aftermath of the execution of the Nigerian activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa it adopted a PR strategy of cosying up to key BBC editors and singling out NGOs that it hoped to “sway”.

The documents offer a previously hidden insight into efforts by the company to deflect the PR storm that engulfed it after the Nigerian activist was hanged by the country’s military government. Shell faced accusations that it had colluded with the government over the activists’ deaths. Continue reading “NGOs and BBC targeted by Shell PR machine in wake of Saro-Wiwa death”

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