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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Shell overtures to Ogonis
Ken Saro-Wiwa
Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged in 1995
By Chris Simpson in Nigeria

Royal Dutch Shell has said that it wants to make peace once and for all with the Ogoni people of Nigeria.

The multinational oil company has faced fierce criticism about its operations in the south-east of the country from sections of the local population, most notably the Ogoni people.

Shell has also been accused in the past of condoning serious human rights abuses in Ogoniland by the former military government of Sani Abacha, including the execution of the Ogoni writer and political campaigner, Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Speaking in the federal capital Abuja, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company, Ron Vandenberg, said Shell wanted to build its relations with the local community and had its own ideas about protecting the environment.

But he also stressed the company needed free, unfettered access so normal operations could resume.

Critics

Both Shell and Ogoni representatives have been appearing before the human rights violations investigations commission in Abuja.

The commission was set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo to review Nigeria's past mistakes.

Shell's strongest critic in the oil-rich Niger Delta, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop) appears wary of any immediate rapprochement.

Mosop still holds Shell at least partially accountable for the execution of Mr Saro-Wiwa in November 1995.

Mosop also says Shell has done little to help the local population despite running highly lucrative operations there for more than 40 years.

At large

Nigeria's human rights commission offered the country a chance to review everything that has gone wrong since the first military coup in 1966.

Those who see themselves as victims of the state or other bodies have been given the right to petition and confront their alleged persecutors, leading to some lively testimony and often a host of unanswered questions.

Mr Obasanjo recently described the commission's hearings as grand opera and warned that many of the Nigerians most guilty of past offences were still at large.

He described them as dormant, not extinct.

See also:

03 May 01 | Business
Shell posts record profits
22 Jan 01 | Africa
Nigeria hears Ogoni oppression
18 Dec 00 | Africa
Nigeria's weeping generals
02 Dec 00 | Africa
Inside Nigeria's terror cells
25 Oct 00 | Africa
Horrors of the Abacha regime
25 Apr 00 | Africa
Symbolic funeral for Saro-Wiwa
08 Jun 00 | Africa
Oil: Nigeria's blessing and curse
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
15 Jan 01 | Africa
No end to Saro-Wiwa's struggle
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