In death as in life, Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian environmental activist put to death by his government in November, continues to draw international attention to the repressive Nigerian government, the role of Shell Oil Company, and the fate of Nigeria’s Ogoni people.
The 53-year-old president and founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was one of four winners of the 1994 Right Livelihood Award, sometimes known as an alternative Nobel Peace Prize (see IC#40). Saro-Wiwa was a well-known author of 25 books and a television writer before he founded MOSOP to press the claims of the Ogoni people against their government and the Shell Oil Company, the two principal players in the oil extraction that has left Ogoniland "an ecological disaster," in his words.
The death of Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow activists renewed international pressure on the military government of Nigeria. The 52-member Commonwealth Summit voted to expel Nigeria from its ranks and calls were made for further economic sanctions against the regime and its private-sector partners, most notably the Shell Oil Company, which owns a 30 percent interest in the government-led joint venture, and has extracted an estimated US$30 billion from Ogoniland since 1958.
In his acceptance speech for the Right Livelihood Award, Saro-Wiwa wrote, "I harbor the hope that in founding the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people, in empowering the Ogoni people to fearlessly confront their history and their tormentors non-violently, that in encouraging the Ogoni people to a belief in their ability to revitalize their dying society, I have started a trend which will peacefully liberate many peoples in Africa and lead eventually to political and economic reform and social progress."
For more information, contact MOSOP, 24 Aggrey Road, PO Box 193, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Fax: 234-84/331-763.