A day at Ogoni was a homecoming of sorts for me yesterday when the global wave of #BreakFree actions touched down at Bori. The resolve of the Ogoni to peacefully and determinedly fight ecocide is legendary.
The women, with their colourful MOSOP wrappers, were at the Peace Centre before others began to arrive. Etched on their faces were the marks of solidarity, discipline and fortitude that has kept them going in the face of horrendous ecological assaults. They seemed to say: We will not be moved. Our land must be detoxified.
Ogoni Ecological Defenders (OED) were on hand to help with setting up the props for the actions that were to follow. The OED and Ogoni Women Ecological Defenders (OWED) have been closely connected to HOMEF over the last two years, building knowledge on ways of engaging with the expected Ogoni cleanup process and generally defending their ecosystems.
With music, chants, poetry and spontaneous dance, the march and the rally took place under a bright Ogoni sky. A chant of Ogoni united can never be defeated was quickly taken up by the crowd. Call and responses followed: What do we want? Clean up Ogoni! When do we want it? Now!
A second phase of the Break Free action was a visit to a severely polluted community in B-Dere. The trip led by energetic activist, Celestine Akpobari of Peoples Advancement Centre, was an eye opener. Although the community is a shouting distance from the highway, getting there we met a community that might as well have been at the end of the Earth. Absolutely devastated by an oil spill in 2010 and fire, the pollution stubbornly remains untouched. The villagers were hard at work in their farms by the river bank as we went by.
On the surface the crops looked healthy and flourishing. But their harvest will definitely be one of poison, thanks to the highly contaminate soil, water and air. When you visit places like this you cannot say anything other than: keep it in the ground.
See a short video summary of the day here.