Worldwide Shell Boycott

By Kupfer, David | The Progressive, January 1996 | Go to article overview

Worldwide Shell Boycott


Kupfer, David, The Progressive


Washington, D.C.

Instant cries of condemnation from around the world and a boycott of Shell Oil followed the Nigerian military government's swift execution of Nigerian writer and human-rights activist, Ogoni tribesman, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow minority-rights activists.

Saro-Wiwa led the campaign against Shell's devastation of the Niger Delta, the Ogoni homeland. He and his colleagues were demanding just compensation for the local populations and cleanup of the pollution caused by thirty years of oil operations in the region. Despite international protest, the activists were executed by Nigeria's General Sani Abacha on November 10.

The protest campaign for Nigeria has quickly united a coalition against Shell, as well as the Chevron and Mobil corporations. Members of the coalition include: TransAfrica, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Greenpeace, the Teamstirs, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union, and many other African-American, labor, human-rights, and environmental groups.

The coalition is urging companies to: suspend their Nigerian operations; place all payments for the Abacha government in escrow until democracy is restored; cease all new investment; support U.N. sanctions against the Nigerian military regime; honor the democratic strikers; and cease environmental devastation.

Activist groups say a boycott of Shell could cripple the military-led government's largest source of revenue and support: oil. Ninety percent of foreign export earnings are generated by the oil industry. Shell is the largest operator in Nigeria and is responsible for half of all Nigeria's oil production.

Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, and other oil companies generate more than 80 percent of Nigeria's annual revenue, and the military dictatorship sent troops into Ogoniland in a desperate and deadly maneuver to protect these interests. Since 1993, twenty-seven Ogoni villages have been destroyed, 2,000 Ogoni killed, and 80,000 people displaced. According to environmental and human-rights groups, Shell has been linked to some of these human-rights violations.

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