Anniversary Environment Human Rights

Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa 26 Years After

Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian writer, television producer, environmental activist. He was a member of the Ogoni people, who spoke out forcefully against the Nigerian military regime and the Anglo-Dutch petroleum company Royal Dutch/Shell for causing environmental damage to the land of the Ogoni people in his native Rivers state.

He devoted himself to fighting for the rights of the Ogoni through Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He criticized the destructive impact of the oil industry and demanded a greater compensatory share of oil profits for the Ogoni. As a result of mounting protest, Shell suspended operations in Ogoni lands in 1993.

Saro-Wiwa was arrested in 1994 after the deaths of four Ogoni chiefs at a political rally. In a trial by special tribunal that was denounced by foreign human rights groups, he was found guilty for alleged complicity in the murders. His execution by hanging, along with those of eight fellow activists, aroused international condemnation and led to calls for economic sanctions against Nigeria, which was suspended from the Commonwealth a day after the executions.

Shell later announced its commitment to a natural gas project worth nearly $4 billion, one of the largest foreign investments in Nigerian history. In 2009, Shell paid $15.5 million in an out-of-court settlement intended to resolve a lawsuit brought against it in 1996 on behalf of members of Saro-Wiwa’s family and others.

A memorial to Saro-Wiwa was unveiled in London on 10 November 2006 by London organisation Platform.

He was married with 5 children.

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