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On November 10th 1995 the world learned of the devastating execution of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Nigerian government.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic minority in Nigeria whose homeland, Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s.
Saro-Wiwa led a non-violent campaign against the extreme environmental damage of Ogoniland by multinationals including the Royal Dutch Shell company. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area.
In 1995 Saro-Wiwa and 8 fellow activists were tried and hanged by the government, which provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.
Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa
Trócaire became involved in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s struggle through Sr. Majella McCarron, a missionary for 30 years who befriended the activist in the early 1990s as she monitored western oil firms operating in his Ogoni tribal homeland in the Niger Delta.
Letter from Ken Saro-Wiwa to Sr Majella McCarron in 1993, on MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People) headed notepaper, prior to his arrest.
Trócaire was among a number of organisations who joined together while Ken Saro-Wiwa’s was in prison to campaign for his release. Following his death we campaigned for justice and a boycott of Shell products.
The campaign for Ken Saro-Wiwa’s release from prison.
Today Saro-Wiwa’s daughter Noo Saro-Wiwa, an acclaimed writer and journalist is in Ireland hosted by Maynooth University.
She is launching the Ken Saro-Wiwa Postgraduate Award in the University. The launch also includes a public exhibition in the library of the university’s Ken Saro-Wiwa archives to mark the 20th anniversary of the activist’s execution.
Noo Saro-Wiwa’s award winning book ‘Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria’ was named The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year in 2012.
Noo Saro-Wiwa with Sr Majella McCarron at Maynooth University
Listen to recordings from the event marking the 20th anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death at Maynooth University on Tuesday 10th November.
Finally it seems as if Ken Saro-Wiwa, my father, may not have not died in vain. Article by Ken Wiwa on the tipping point of the carbon economy: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/10/ken-saro-wiwa-father-nigeria-ogoniland-oil-pollution
20 years on Ken Saro-Wiwa is still a divisive figure in Nigeria today: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/07/ken-saro-wiwa-ogoni-people-shell-anniversary-memorial-bus
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