Letter from Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa – one of the Ogoni 9. The 10th November 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the execution of the Ogoni 9 by the military dictatorship in Nigeria, with the collusion of Shell.
I do remember, with pride, the famine walk in 2006. It was emotional and fulfilling. I remember the inspiring speeches, the sacrifices of Christy and Vincent. Thank you for giving me the opportunity during the walk to share experiences with the people of Rossport and the wider community in Erris County Mayo.
Nov 10 2015 marks 20 years of the killing of my brother and 8 Ogoni activists.
A study by the United Nations Environment Programme has shown that, despite the fact that no oil production has taken place in Ogoniland since 1993, oil spills continue to occur with fierce regularity. The production facilities that Shell used to crowd out farmers and fishermen have fallen to rust and ruin, and neglected, antiquated pipelines continue to leak oil as they snake from other parts of Nigeria through Ogoniland. Fishermen and farmers can no longer make their living or feed their families from the water or the field.
This is the bounty that Shell has brought to the people of Ogoniland. It promised prosperity and a bright tomorrow. When it wants to distract people from the price that will eventually be paid, Shell talks of jobs, crows about its lavish philanthropy and promises that no harm will be done, no chaos left in its wake. I heard these promises in Rossport and I fear that Shell’s bounty in Ogoni may yet be repeated elsewhere.
I am hugely relieved for the people of the Arctic, many of whose families .have lived there for thousands of years, that Shell recently announced it was retreating from Arctic drilling for the foreseeable future.
But this is a company that pantomimes concern and compassion for human beings when its only true concern is for where new money can be found. No doubt Shell’s sights are already set on its next oil field conquest, irrespective of who lives there or their history with that land.
When my brother Ken was executed, his last words were “Lord, take my soul…but the struggle continues.” I hope Ken is watching and seeing that, yes, it does. From Ogoniland to the Arctic, to Erris County Mayo and beyond, people are rising up to say “Shell No!” They are standing strong against a corporation and an entire industry that will mortgage our future for quick profits. I can’t think of a better way to honor my brother.
On Tuesday November 10th 2015 at 6pm, human rights campaigners and environmentalists gathered at Shell’s Irish headquarters to mark the twentieth anniversary of the execution of poet and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others known as the Ogoni 9. The vigil is being organised by Afri and is supported folk singer Christy Moore and Sr. Majella McCarron, an Irish missionary nun from County Fermanagh who was formerly based in Nigeria where she was a friend of Saro-Wiwa.
The Ogoni 9, campaigners against Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta, were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. In 1996 the U.S based Center for Constitutional Rights sued Shell for its complicity in human right abuses against the Ogoni people, including collusion in bringing about the deaths of the Ogoni 9. In June 2009, on the eve of the trial, a settlement of $15.5 million was made to establish a trust on behalf of the Ogoni people. Shell continues to face fierce criticism for the environmental and health legacy they have left in Ogoniland. (Ref: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/yes-minister-it-human-rights-issue/shell-oil-nigeria-ken-saro-wiwa-niger-delta )
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother Owens, speaking about his brother’s death has said that he fears lessons have not been learned.
“Shell talks of jobs and progress, crows about its lavish philanthropy and promises that no harm will be done, no chaos left in its wake. I heard these promises in Rossport and I fear that Shell’s bounty in Ogoni may yet be repeated elsewhere. This is a company that pantomimes concern and compassion for human beings when its only true concern is for where new money can be found. No doubt Shell’s sights are already set on its next oil field conquest, irrespective of who lives there or their history with that land.”
“When my brother Ken was executed, his last words were “Lord, take my soul…but the struggle continues.” I hope Ken is watching and seeing that, yes, it does. From Ogoniland to the Arctic, to Erris County Mayo and beyond, people are rising up to say “Shell No!” They are standing strong against a corporation and an entire industry that will mortgage our future for quick profits.”
Joe Murray, organiser of the vigil and Director of human rights and peace organisation Afri, agrees that there is a clear parallel between Ogoniland and Mayo.
“Just as Shell colluded with the military dictatorship in Nigeria, the Irish State has colluded with Shell in bribing, bullying and intimidating the community in Kilcommon into accepting a monument to fossil fuels at a time when climate change threatens the very survival of our planet. The Corrib gas project, in which Statoil is also a partner, has been a disaster for human rights, civil liberties and the environment. The natural gas giveaway has already resulted in a very bad deal the Irish taxpayer.”
Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport 5 who spent 94 days in prison at the behest of Shell, says the community in Erris remember the Ogoni 9 on a daily basis.
“Today, as Shell preaches progress, many miles from their homeland in Nigeria the crosses of the 9 Ogoni heroes stand defiantly in front of the main refinery gate at Ballinaboy as a reminder to Shell that their sins will follow them forever.”
A separate vigil by the Shell to Sea group was held from 12 noon at Shell’s headquarters on 52 Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2.
I.T. Blanchardstown, Room A57
Tuesday 10th November 2015, 9.30am – 4pm
In our history, Hedge Schools were places of learning, continuity and resistance, emerging out of the draconian Penal Laws that forbade formal education to most Irish people. Learning about and resisting the causes of poverty is at the heart of Afri’s work and the Hedge School symbolizes the kind of resilience and creativity needed to address the crisis facing our world as a result of climate change and the obscenity of the war industry.
The 2015 Hedge School will explore the themes of climate change and human rights. This year’s Hedge School is organised in partnership with the students from the Social and Community Development Course from I.T. Blanchardstown.
The 10th November 2015 is the 20th anniversary of the execution of the great nonviolent environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 9. We will be marking this event at the Hedge School.
The first Dromore West area Famine walk took place on Sunday, October 18th at the Dromore West workhouse in West Sligo. The Walk began at St Farnans Shrine, Doonaltonin and after an initial welcome at the Holy Well, walkers made the journey of four miles along country roads back to Dromore West workhouse. Organised by the Afri Choctaw Famine Landscape Project and LEAP Community Project in Easkey, the purpose of the walk is to “commemorate, heal through remembering and stand in solidarity with those who still suffer in a world of plenty” said Máire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser.
The Afri Famine Landscape project has held Famine walks in Derry, Falcarragh, and Ballyshannon. Gary White Deer, a Choctaw, was the walk leader for the West Sligo commemoration. In 1847, the Choctaw donated monies to help feed Irish Famine victims after undergoing similar suffering. “Let’s honour Ireland’s forgotten” said White Deer, referring to the unmarked Famine grave at the Dromore West workhouse. “And then together we can walk into the future remembering others.”
Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of Concern Worldwide
Shannonwatch Press release
The Department of Transport has revealed that in 2014 a total of 272 flights were given permits to take weapons or explosives through Shannon Airport. In response to a freedom of information request by Shannonwatch they confirmed that the majority of the flights were taking US troops between military bases and locations in the Middle East. The information also shows that US troop carriers and aircraft with machine guns, rocket motors and other war material are routinely allowed to fly through Irish airspace. Again the majority of these are flying to or from US military bases around the world.
The permits are requested by airline operators under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order. Close to twenty requests were refused in 2014 but the Department would not reveal where these were from or why they were refused. It would only state that they were refused on the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The information provided by the Department shows the alarming level of support that Ireland is giving to US military operations overseas” said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. “Over 550 permits were granted to airlines carrying troops, weapons and explosives to their forward operating bases. There would seem to be an overwhelming bias towards facilitating flights from the US and other NATO countries. How can our government claim we are in any way neutral when this is happening?” (more…)
Around thirty people gathered at the Guild Hall on Friday, July 31st 2015 to take part in Derry’s first Famine walk.
Deputy Mayor of Derry city and Strabane District council, Thomas Kerrigan of the DUP officially launched the walk which was also addressed by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Helen Henderson, director of St. Columb’s Park House, spoke about the importance of the walk and the danger of history repeating itself. She warned especially about the dangers of TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, regarding things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations and has been described as “an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Following the opening speeches, walkers proceeded from Guildhall Square across the Peace Bridge to the Londonderry Poor Law Union Workhouse, located on Glendermott Road, the Waterside. First opened in 1840, Derry’s workhouse didn’t close its doors until 1948. The Walk had been called “The Longest Walk”, referring to the 13 steps to the workhouse master’s quarters that starving families once had to climb to ask for admittance. (more…)
Report by Gary White Deer
They began in late May of this year on a Saturday afternoon, 85 walkers starting from the old Famine storehouse in Falcarragh, the Afri banner carried by a South African and Ghanian living in Donegal, people all flowing together through the town and then surging on past the edge of things, out by Saint Finian’s. Minutes before, a flower basket had been lowered from the same storehouse window that grain had once been sold from during Famine times, grain sold to waiting families who were starving.
The flowers were meant for the mass Famine grave at Dunfanaghy, a small yellow bouquet passed from hand to hand. The air was cool and thick and the clouds brimmed with the smell of rain. The walkers proceeded in a long and winding line as they came onto the back roads and laneways, curving and twisting before Muckish Mountain, moving slowly out of the Gaeltacht toward a distant Famine workhouse. They were from all over Ireland, but many were from Northwest Donegal and so Ulster Gaelic was spoken up and down the winding line. (more…)
Dublin launch of an Afri development education resource by
featuring 5 short plays on global justice themes with suggestions for follow up activities suitable for school groups, youth theatres, college students and others
And release of ‘Turned Away’ – a specially composed instrumental piece by the multi-talented
“A beautifully evocative melody” – Tom Sparkes
Live music with Imogen Gunner & Friends and reflections by Pete Mullineaux
Imogen’s CD and Pete’s book will be available to buy on the night.
Please book in advance: Tel: 01 8827581 or email: email@example.com
Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools
Afri recently launched an appeal to artists to help raise awareness about global warming and climate change – especially in the lead in to the UN Summit on Climate in Paris in December 2015. Artists responded including Damien Dempsey, Liam O’Maonlai, Donal O’Kelly, Noirín Ní Riain, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan, Pete St. John and many more.
As part of this call Afri brought together Pete St. John, composer of the famous song ‘The Fields of Athenry’, Ugandan singer, Justine Nantale, and the children and teachers of Gaelscoil Cholmcille in Dublin to perform Pete’s song ‘Waltzing on Borrowed time’. This video (filmed by Dave Donnellan and RoJ Whelan) captures some of the magic of the occasion.
Please share widely.
Stop Climate Chaos welcomed the statement by Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly TD, that he will bring forward amendments to the Government’s Climate Bill. The Minister was speaking during the Committee Stage debate, where the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill passed without amendment. Several opposition amendments were withdrawn following assurances from the Minister he will consider the issues raised by TDs ahead of the next stage in the Dáil.
Commenting, Ciara Kirrane, Coordinator of Stop Climate Chaos Coordinator, said
“The Minister’s commitment to amending the Climate Bill is welcome. Now we need to see his proposed changes. The final Bill needs to make clear how much we’ll reduce emissions by 2050, guarantee the independence of the Advisory Council, and ensure Ireland pursues the principle of climate justice.”
Before the Committee’s debate Stop Climate Chaos presented the Minister with a petition from more than 5,000 people calling on him to bring forward amendments that would strengthen the Climate Bill and to ensure it is passed into law before the summer recess. (more…)
One of the highlights of Afri’s year is the Annual Doolough Famine Walk and 2015 was no exception. The walk encapsulates many elements, from the tragic story which it commemorates to the reality of continuing famine and food inequality today; the local and the global, connecting Ireland, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the world. The breath taking beauty of the landscape and the way in which Delphi Lodge has now embraced the story adds another dimension. East Timor was the focus of the 1993 walk, which was led by Tom Hyland and Timorese students Dino Rai and Jose Lopez. The walk is also a generator of ideas and images, a place to plant trees and potatoes, to sow seeds to sing songs and recall stories.
In May 1994, Don Mullan and I left from the walk to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. On that occasion Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and his wife Sunandra had just led the Famine Walk and unveiled a memorial to Mahatma and Michael Davitt in the famine graveyard in Swinford. Gandhi, of course had strong links with South Africa, spending many of his formative years there before returning to India to lead the independence movement.
In 2015, I left the Famine Walk to fly to Dili, capital of the first newly independent state of the 21st century, Timor Leste. I last visited Timor in 1999, as part of a human rights delegation including Fr. Michael Lapsley and Robbie McVeigh from Derry. We met with many groups and individuals on that occasion including the leader of the resistance Xanana Gusmao, who was in prison in Jakarta at that time. Soon after he was released and a referendum was held in which the people overwhelmingly voted for independence.
In less than a week’s time the Climate Bill will go through another crucial stage in the Dáil. This is make or break…. It could be the last chance we have to fix the Bill before it becomes law. Tell Minister Alan Kelly you want to see the amendments he promised now.
The Minister has told the Dáil he is considering possible amendments to the Bill. We need to make sure the changes he makes are the right ones, by clearly indicating how much we plan to reduce emissions by 2050, by ensuring that the independence of the Expert Advisory Council is explicitly guaranteed and by committing to climate justice as a guiding principle.
Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Ireland to do more to tackle climate change. He called on Ireland to “align its climate effort with its admirable engagement on hunger”. It’s time fo r the Minister to step up to this challenge. Ask Alan Kelly to strengthen the Climate Bill and keep his promise to have the Bill passed into law before the summer break.
It’s almost three months since the draft law was first debated in the Dáil and we’re still waiting for the Government’s proposed changes. Time is ticking and the crucial UN summit in Paris is now less than six months away. Countries like Ireland, with high emissions and higher historical responsibility, have to demonstrate a credible commitment to climate action if we are to build the trust required for a global deal in Paris.
The only thing that has kept the Climate Bill on track to become law at all is the continuous pressure from campaigners like you. We need one last push to make it a climate law we can be proud of. Please sign the petition now and share it with your friends.
Afri is a member of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. For more about Stop Climate Chaos, visit their website here.
Whenever Rosemary Grain looks out her office window, she steps through a time portal. Below her third storey office, hungry families once gathered holding half a crown. A bag was lowered from the window, and the coin was placed inside. Then food was lowered back down through the same window. Why the bag? So workers wouldn’t catch Famine fever.
Now called The Yard, previously Mc Carthy’s store, the building in Falcarragh where Rosemary works was once a Famine storehouse. “The starving waited anxiously at a spot near the front door for the food to be lowered in a bag from where my office is on the top floor. Those distributing the food were terrified of catching any diseases from the poor famine victims of the parish. I often look out the window and think of the desperation our ancestors must have gone through.and how fortunate we are to live here now,” says Rosemary, administrator and Information worker at The Yard, which houses Pobail le Cheile Community Development (LCDP).
At the end of this month, the old Famine storehouse will host “In the Footsteps of our Ancestors” a Famine commemoration walk, which will leave from The Yard and head to the Workhouse Museum in Dunfanaghy. “It’s a great way to commemorate the famine. The involvement of Waylon Gary White Deer is very symbolic because Choctaw Indians, sent money to the Irish during the famine. The Choctaws themselves had suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s – the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland.” Rosemary adds. (more…)
By Maitet Ledesma
They called it the GREAT IRISH FAMINE. But there was nothing great about the 1850s famine in Ireland. The famine was a man-made disaster. People died of starvation because the landlords owned the land. The local population who tilled the land did not own it, and therefore, had no access to it in order to grow food to feed themselves and their families.
And while the landlords enriched themselves and lived in the lap of luxury by exporting the food produced from their land by disenfranchised peasants, more than 1 million people were left to die of starvation or disease – to put that in today’s context, an equivalent loss of around 40 million people in the US.
The population at that time was further decimated as entire families, even whole villages left the country en masse because this was their only survival option. In 1847 alone 250,000 people left the country and over a six-year period, more than 2 million were forced to migrate.
The Great Irish Famine must be remembered as the ‘Genocide Famine’ and the keepers of this collective memory, the people of Ireland, must call on those historically responsible to render just retribution. (more…)
The purpose of the walk is to honour the sacred memory of Ireland’s Famine dead; to heal the wounds of Ireland’s Famine through living remembrance; to raise food sovereignty awareness; and to place the Great Famine in solidarity with those who yet suffer from lack of food, water, shelter and other human rights.
With guest speakers, music, poetry. Tea, coffee and refreshments on arrival (bring own water and snacks for the walk). Shuttle bus available for the return journey.
Social afterwards in The Gweedore Bar, Falcarragh, Saturday 30th May from 9pm.
To see who’s going see facebook event page here
The Irish-Choctaw Famine Link
In the spring of 1847, ordinary Choctaw people donated $170 (€8,000) from ‘meagre resources’ to the victims of an Gorta Mór, the Great Irish Famine. Described as an act of ‘one poor, dispossessed people reaching out to help another’ the money was used to buy wheat for Ireland. This unique Famine link is an ongoing legacy of solidarity and remembrance between the Irish and Choctaw peoples.
Famine History Presentation Talk on Friday 29th May, 8pm in The Yard, Falcarragh (The Old Famine Storehouse)
Organised by Afri and supported by Concern
The theme of our education programme is ‘Just a Second’ and it focuses on the absurdity of the choices that we make – or that are made on our behalf by governments and corporations. For example, it is a fact that in excess of €40,000 is spent every second on war and weapons while a billion people suffer from hunger, lack of clean water and adequate housing. Recently the Afri team visited Galway as part of the ‘Just A Second!’ schools project, holding a number of events including a Famine Walk to the Celia Griffin Memorial in Salthill, a book launch and a development education seminar. This short film (above) produced by Dave Donnellan gives a flavour of that visit.
A second film (below – also by Dave Donnellan) focuses on the launch of an educational resource (Just A Second! Exploring Global Issues Through Drama and Theatre written by Pete Mullineaux in the course of the project) which offers teachers, school groups and facilitators an accessible guide to exploring global issues through drama and theatre. This book is available to buy from Afri – please contact Afri (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01 8827563) to find out more.
The third film in the Just A Second! series is made by RoJ Whelan and this takes a look at an event held at the Celia Griffin memorial in Salthill as well as a development education workshop, which was the finale of the project. It includes contributions from Mark Kennedy (who championed the idea of the Celia Griffin memorial), Choctaw artist Gary White Deer, Sakhile Heron (South Africa), music, graphic harvesting, the words of Malala Yousafzai, as well as reflections from teachers and students involved in the project.
Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools
Crisis comes from the Greek – krisis – which means “decision”. Our world is currently experiencing a nexus of crises – climatic, economic, financial, social and political, which are forcing us as citizens and human beings to decide in what kind of world we want to live.
All over Ireland, people are also thinking about how the last twenty years have transformed us, and of what the next twenty may bring. On the ground people are already putting into practice alternatives which offer a really sustainable future for our people and our planet.
Above all, this is true in our food and agriculture systems. We are finding better ways of producing food for people, of nurturing our land and our animals. Of putting life back into communities by rebuilding food systems which have been lost between the many links of the industrial and corporate food chain. Of providing livelihoods, of working with and not against nature. We are doing this in the knowledge that across the world, people are coming together to do the very same thing, and that we are not alone.
We know that the future of our society on this planet will be defined by the choices made by its people. It is up to us to define the kind of future we want for our land and our food.
This 15th of May, we want to build a vision for a new direction for food and agriculture in Ireland, and beyond, including:
How our food is produced – how we farm, who farms, how we eat, what we farm, what we eat, who eats it
How our food is distributed – where we get our food, who controls our food supply, who buys it, who sells it, who processes it
How we manage our commons – who owns our land, our water, our seeds, our resources, who manages them, who benefits
How we shape our public policies – how are they formed, where are they formed, how do they impact us, who benefits, who doesn’t
Admission free but booking essential. Tea/coffee will be provided – lunch not included.
Please confirm attendance by emailing email@example.com or phone 01 8827563.
Find out who’s going on facebook here.
Organised by Afri and Food Sovereignty Ireland
Supported by Trócaire
Many themes have been explored in the Famine Walk over the past 27 years. The Philippines was the focus of the first ever famine walk as Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison, outlined the experience of living under the Marcos military dictatorship. Significantly, the Philippines is again a focus of this year’s walk as Maitet Ledesma updates us on the current situation there, with particular reference to the devastating impacts of militarism and global warming.
The issue of food and famine has always been a central theme of the walk, as it is this year. As nations continue to turn to war as a first resort, in many cases, food security is further threatened, global warming is intensified and corporate control of food is extended, despite the fact that small-scale producers remain the mainstay of global food supplies. Food sovereignty is the common ground on which the realities and hopes of many of these small producers meet. (more…)