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Remembering Ken Saro Wiwa 20 Years After

Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro Wiwa (Born in October 1941) was a Nigerian writer and environmental activist and was from Ogoni in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

Ken Saro Wiwa served as spokesman and then President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the movement protested environmental pollution by Shell in Ogoni land. His constant and consistent criticism of the Nigerian government led by General Sani Abacha led to his arrest.

Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others were tried by a special military tribunal on charges of murder of some Ogoni chiefs and was eventually hanged in 1995 despite international protest and pressure.

They were hanged a year after their trial despite pleading “not guilty” to the charges on November 10, 1995. Their execution led to Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth.

Ken Saro Wiwa’s impact on Nigerian history is worth examining today, having lived and died for a cause that has still seen no resolution. The Niger Delta region has been explored, exploited and devastated by oil companies while the Nigerian government has been complicit in its silence.

The government’s silence eventually led to a destruction of the means of livelihood of many Niger Delta inhabitants as the seas they once fished in are polluted beyond redemption. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in its 2006 report concluded that it would take 25-30 years to restore Ogoni land.

Shell eventually settled out of court for the sum of $15.5 million in favor of the families of the victims in what it called a gesture of peace.

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