Ken Saro Wiwa
by Devi from Laguna Beach
"I am a man of ideas in and out of prison -- my ideas will live."
"Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow. We must keep on striving to make the world a better place for all of mankind - each one contributing his bit, in his or her own way."
That was a statement by Ken Saro Wiwa, prior to his execution by a military tribunal in Nigeria on Nov. 10, 1995. He and eight others were hanged for what is generally agreed to be trumped-up murder charges by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. His real crime was leading a group that was protesting the devastation of the Ogoni people's lands by Shell Oil and the oppression and marginalization of the Ogoni people themselves by the military government who profited from Shell's oil business.
Besides leading his people, Saro Wiwa was also an accomplished writer. His best-known book is probably, "Sozaboy", a seemingly simple tale of a soldier; the book is actually a powerful anti-war lesson. Ken Saro Wiwa deliberately wrote this book in what he referred to as "rotten English", or the pigeon English that is in common use in Nigeria.
The following is an excerpt from Ken Saro Wiwa's closing statement at the Nigerian Military's Tribunal:
We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginilization and economic strangulation, angered by the devestation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory.
Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa
- is a coalition of UK-based organizations and individuals encompassing the arts and literature, human rights and environmental and development issues.
- honors the memory and continue the work of the Nigerian poet and novelist, environmental and community activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa, whose non-violent campaign to protect the rights, livelihood and environment of the Ogoni inspired ordinary people worlwide.