|Photo by Friends of the Earth International|
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Globalisation – An Imperial Initiative? The fight of the Ogoni people.
The impact of globalisation on the global south is specifically important when discussing imperial globalisation. In this blog post, I will focus on Nigeria and here specifically on the Ogoni based social resistance movement The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). This social movement developed during the 1990s following Shell’s move into Ogoni territory. Shell engaged in large-scale oil extraction and exploration in Ogoni, forcing the indigenous people to give up land without their consent.
Globalisation defines the process of creating a greater interconnection between countries. This can be in several different ways from business to economic markets. Outside of critical literature, globalisation is mostly regarded as a positive process. Often in discourse regarding social media and humanitarianism, the inherent and historical issues with globalisation go unchecked. Interestingly, Globalisation is discussed as a recent emergence, whilst history would imply otherwise.
When considering state inter-relations, the similarities or even interchangeable nature of globalisation and imperialism must be addressed. Globalisation is viewed as a two-way process where two consenting states support each other in certain contexts, whether it is in creating transnational organisations or humanitarian support. However, this has very often not been the case. Take colonisation, for example. Colonialism is the process of one state giving itself autonomy over another for a period or even permanently. Contemporarily, imperial power has been criticised as exploitative and degrading. Yet, when we consider a globalised world this rhetoric is not used. Why? Perhaps it is ignorance. Perhaps we have not been taught the perils of globalisation. Perhaps we do not know the extent to which there is and has been resistance to globalisation. Let’s consider movements against globalisation and how these illustrate the dichotomy between imperialism and the former.
Living in the UK, when focusing on social movements we often do so from a Western gaze, ignoring the nuance that exists outside this bubble and even assuming there isn’t any. From Brexit to the Trump administration, moments of anti-globalisation are usually discussed in an Anglo-American context, whilst social movements in fact exist greatly all over the world. The exploitation of the Ogoni people in Nigeria was not an isolated occurrence. Several oil companies, including Chevron Nigeria Limited, moved into the area and further strikes were made in the 1960s and 1970s, but even this, was not the beginning of the British-Nigerian relations.
Prior to this, the UK colonised and created the territory known today as Nigeria. This was formed from 250 vastly different ethnic groups with aims to appease the self-interest of British imperialists. But even colonisation was not the first occurrence of British exploitation of Nigeria’s oil. The Oil Protectorate preceded this. The Protectorate allowed for the British to claim sovereignty over the area and thus, the oil rivers as early as the 19th century. Resistance to the British was also not solely concentrated in MOSOP, but it is one of the contemporary movements illustrating the issue with the supposedly harmless globalisation.
Spearheaded by environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and another eight members, together the ‘Ogoni nine’ was created. Using MOSOP, the group aimed to put the rights of the Ogoni people at the forefront of state dynamics and ensure Shell were unable to carry out work without the indigenous gaining from it. This resulted in protests across the region, which eventually resulted in Shell leaving in 1993 – they have not returned since. In fighting for the rights of the nationals and ensuring their interests were a priority, MOSOP has acted as a movement in resistance to globalisation as it did not allow those outside the state to rule it. However, Ken Saro-Wiwa and his comrades lost their lives in the fight. On 10 November 1995 they were executed by the Nigerian regime.
Today, Ogoni continues to feel the effects of Shell. In 2011, the United Nations stated Ogoniland region could take 30 years to recover fully from the damage caused by years of oil spill. Amnesty International reported Ogoni communities still face great health risks, with areas where water is still undrinkable.
So how can globalisation not be an imperialist initiative? Today, Shell is yet to take full accountability for the atrocities caused in Ogoni and similarly to colonies, Ogoni continues to feel the impact of external forces in its state. To say globalisation isn’t imperialism in at least some capacity, is to ignore the facts and the consequences it continues to have on states in the global south.