Africa Leaders Magazine

KEN SARO-WIWA – The First Nigerian to win the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Environmental Prize

KEN SARO-WIWA - A Great Environmental Activist - African Leaders Magazine

Ken Saro Wiwa (born Kenule Beeson Tsaro-Wiwa) was an author, television producer, environmental activist and the first Nigerian to win the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Environmental Prize. He was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic minority in Nigeria whose homeland in the Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s and which has suffered severe environmental damage as a result.

KEN SARO-WIWA - A Great Environmental Activist - African Leaders Magazine

The Ogoni Nine, a group of nine men whom Ken was a member of, were fighting oil companies in Ogoniland – notably Shell – because they were concerned about environmental degradation and pollution; they were alarmed by the use of security forces against non-violent protesters; and they were outraged over the corruption that drained Nigerian wealth (a problem that persists). Shell was criticised for its inaction but defended itself.

Between 1992 and June 1993, Saro-Wiwa was imprisoned on several different occasions for months without trial by the Nigerian government. On May 21, 1994 four Ogoni chiefs (all of whom were on the conservative side of a schism within MOSOP over strategy) were brutally murdered. Saro-Wiwa had been denied entry to Ogoniland on the day of the murders, but he was arrested and accused of complicity in the murders. On November 10, 1995 Saro-Wiwa and the eight other MOSOP leaders (known as the “Ogoni Nine”) were executed by hanging at the hands of military personnel. Saro-Wiwa was the last to be hanged and so was forced to watch the death of his colleagues. Information on the circumstances of his death is unclear, but it is generally agreed that multiple attempts were required before he was hanged.

KEN SARO-WIWA - A Great Environmental Activist - African Leaders Magazine
His death provoked international outrage and the immediate suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as the recalling of many foreign diplomats from the country.

 

 

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