On this day November 10, 1995
Playwright and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People were executed by the Nigerian military government.
In January 1993 MOSOP organized peaceful marches of around 300,000 Ogoni people more than half of the Ogoni population through four Ogoni centers, drawing international attention to his people’s plight.
The same year, Shell ceased operations in the Ogoni region, while the Nigerian government occupied the region militarily.
Saro-Wiwa was arrested again and detained by Nigerian authorities in June 1993, but was released after a month. In May 1994, he was arrested and accused of incitement to murder following the deaths of four Ogoni elders. Saro-Wiwa denied the charges, but was imprisoned for over a year before being found guilty and sentenced to death by a specially convened tribunal, during which nearly all of the defendants’ lawyers resigned in protest to the trial’s cynical rigging by the Abacha regime.
The resignation of the legal teams left the defendants to their own means against the tribunal, which continued to bring witnesses to testify against Saro-Wiwa and his peers, only for many of these supposed witnesses to later admit they had been bribed by the Nigerian government to support the criminal allegations. The trial was widely criticized by human rights organizations and half a year later, Ken Saro-Wiwa received the Right Livelihood Award for his courage as well as the Goldman Environmental Prize
Very few observers were surprised when the tribunal declared a “guilty” verdict, but most were shocked that the penalty would be death by hanging for all nine defendants. However, many were skeptical that the executions would actually occur, as the Nigerian government would face international outrage and possible sanctions and other legal action should the penalties be carried out.
The Ogoni people have been victims of human right violations over the years. In 1990, Mobile Police Men (MPF) shot down protesters against Shell in the village of Umuechem, killing 80 people and destroying 495 homes.
In 1993, following protests that were designed to stop contractors from laying a new pipeline for Shell, the MOF raided the area to quell the unrest. In the chaos that followed, it has been alleged that 27 villages were raided, resulting in the death of 2,000 Ogoni people and displacement of 80,000.