New Internationalist

A Month And A Day & Letters

Issue 388

A decade has passed since Ken Saro-Wiwa was judicially murdered on trumped-up charges by the military dictatorship of the Nigerian ruler Sani Abacha. He was hanged, together with eight other campaigners, for defending the rights of the Ogoni people, despite worldwide condemnation and a concerted campaign led by his fellow writers and prominent world figures.

To mark the anniversary of this barbaric act and to celebrate the life of a remarkable man, the estimable Ayebia Clarke publishing house has brought out a new edition of the ‘Detention Diary’ Saro-Wiwa wrote in July 1993. Also included in this volume are a series of clandestine letters to friends, written during Saro-Wiwa’s imprisonment, his final statement to the military tribunal that condemned him (which he was not allowed to read out) and, movingly, two letters written by his son Ken Wiwa to his late father.

In his writing and his activism, Ken Saro-Wiwa was steadfast in his defence of the oppressed and dispossessed Ogoni people. He is scathing in his contempt for the brutal and corrupt dictatorship and the complicity of the oil transnational Shell, whose pursuit of profit has left Ogoni lands polluted and despoiled. This excellent book outlines for the general reader the struggle of the Ogonis against global corporate power allied to military tyranny. It also gives us a glimpse into the daily life of a man whose commitment to honesty and justice so irked Nigeria’s despots that they were obliged to murder him.

Peter Whittaker

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