Shell blasted amid poverty, conflict

20 March 2014 - 3:16pm
Press release

World Water Day: firm profits as community lacks running water

Shell will come under fire on Saturday, World Water Day, when a Nigerian campaigner speaks out in London against the Anglo-Dutch corporation exploiting oil, as thousands of people face grim hardship, including lack of running water.

The criticism will be launched by Celestine Akpobari, from the organisation Social Action, ally to the Niger Delta community of Rumuekpe, which lacks running water, electricity, basic drainage systems, or any school.

With huge oil wealth in Rumuekpe’s territory, the community should rank among the most well-off anywhere.

But its 20,000 residents suffer dire poverty, and for over 50 years Shell has pumped countless barrels of oil from installations in Rumuekpe, racking up substantial profits.

One resident, Emeka Eke, said: “From the day Shell arrived here, until today, you will not find one person from Rumuekpe employed by Shell, nor at any of the other oil companies.”

Akpobari will address a major conference, The New Frontlines of War, staged by Social Action’s UK charity partner War on Want.

The conference will bring together activists opposed to City-registered companies profiting from and fuelling conflict in developing countries around the globe.

Traditional subsistence agriculture has grown increasingly futile for residents in Rumuekpe, following decades of oil spills and acid rain caused by Shell’s illegal gas flaring.

While the plunder of its resources and degradation of the environment have devastated the community, the destruction has been fuelled by deadly armed conflict.

Social Action accuses Shell of handing out payments for so-called security contracts to rival factions on opposing sides, who used the money to buy more weapons and ammunition to sustain the conflict.

Akpobari said: “Shell spends so much money and expertise designing ways of creating crisis, because they think that, if the community is united, then they will make demands on the company.”

In addition, Berenice Celeita, from the Colombian group Nomadesc, will address the conference about the assassinations of indigenous, campesino and other rural citizens who challenged multinationals’ exploitation.

Celeita, whose group also partners War on Want, will hit out after communities have seen their rights violated, while big business makes a killing from natural resources in one of the world’s most biodiverse countries.

Another speaker, West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda, will tell how transnationals, like Freeport, Rio Tinto and BP, profit from gold and gas deposits in the Indonesian province, as its people lack basic healthcare.

Wenda claims Freeport and Rio Tinto are said to have close ties with the Indonesian military to protect their interests – a military estimated to have killed more than 100,000 Papuans, which continues to commit abuses.

Two campaigners will cite a UK security firm profiting from providing equipment to Israeli jails, where human rights groups have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees, including child prisoners.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish and Ivan Karakashian, from the Palestine section of Defence for Children International, will condemn G4S complicity in Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities.

Holding prisoners from occupied Palestine inside Israel flouts article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.

The Palestinians’ visit on World Water Day is timely, since DCI has reported some child prisoners denied water, food and the use of a toilet for extended periods.

The visit also comes amid pressure on University College London from the students’ union to cancel its contract with the company Eden Springs UK. over links to water extraction in Israeli-occupied territories.

Numerous university campuses, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Scottish UNISON have all ended their contracts with Eden Springs.

And Saturday will see a start for the first international week against the Israeli state-owned water company Mekorot.

In recent days, when British prime minister David Cameron visited Israel, the London-based firm Arup signed a new deal with Mekorot to explore global water innovation.

Critics accuse Mekorot of depriving water to Palestinians, including turning off their taps to aid displacement,

Campaigners also point to Mekorot supporting illegal Israeli settlements by taking monopoly control over water sources in the occupied territories, even for settlers to have swimming pools, while many Palestinians lack any supply.

Jeff Powell, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “Many people, outraged by greedy bankers causing the economic crisis in Britain, are angered that UK-listed companies are profiting from and fuelling conflict amid poverty overseas. Our conference will hear first hand from those at the sharp end and examine ways to support resistance.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The conference – The New Frontlines of War: Corporations, Conflict & Community Resistance - takes place from 11 am to 6 pm at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA. Admission is free. Register at waronwant.org/frontlines or call 020 7324 5040   At 8 pm in the same venue War on Want will stage international music and performance to raise money for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The bill features Toot Ard, Ministry of Dub-Key and Dizraeli. Tickets £12, available only from Rich Mix via www.waronwant.org/frontlines or 020 7613 7498. The speakers will address other events in Newcastle and Manchester. Details at waronwant.org/frontlines

CONTACT: War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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