On November 10, 1995 the Nigerian government executed activist and author Ken Saro-Wiwa along with eight other Ogoni activists. Their deaths brought the plight of their people and the role of British oil companies in Nigeria to the attention of the world. Ten years on, Nigeria and the other oil-producing countries of West Africa have only grown in strategic and economic importance to both Europe and the United States.
The recent coup in Sao Tome and the botched attempt in Equatorial Guinea both indicate that the West is taking a much closer interest in the region. Recent history suggests that the people of West Africa will receive little benefit from the revenues from oil and gas, and that they will suffer instead from the dire environmental effects of pollution.
Andrew Rowell and James Marriott here explain how western companies cooperate with local elites in West Africa to maintain control and they trace a long and ongoing history of colonial and neo-colonial exploitation. They explore Washington and London's new interest in the region and they report on the efforts of local people to ensure that the benefits of development are shared more equally.
Andrew Rowell is a journalist and author. His previous books include Don't Worry (It's Safe to Eat) and Green Backlash. James Marriott is co-director of the environmental charity, Platform (www.platformlondon.org). Lorne Stockman is the coordinator of the Remember Saro-Wiwa campaign.