- Saro-Wiwa, Kenule Beeson
▪ 1996("KEN"), Nigerian author and environmentalist (b. Oct. 10, 1941, Bori, near Port Harcourt, Nigeria—d. Nov. 10, 1995, Port Harcourt), used his popular standing as a journalist, playwright, novelist, and poet to speak out aggressively against the Nigerian military regime and the Anglo-Dutch petroleum company Shell for causing environmental damage to Ogoni tribal lands in his native Rivers state. His execution by hanging, along with eight fellow activists, aroused international condemnation and led to calls for economic sanctions against Nigeria as well as to its suspension from the Commonwealth, which was formally voted. In a trial by special tribunal that was denounced by foreign human rights groups, Saro-Wiwa was found guilty for alleged complicity in the 1994 murders of four Ogoni chiefs who were killed at a political rally. As leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, he criticized the destructive impact of the oil industry—the main source of Nigeria's national revenue—on the Niger delta region and demanded a greater compensatory share of oil profits for the Ogoni. Saro-Wiwa was educated at Government College, Umuahia, and at the University of Ibadan. He taught briefly before joining federal forces in the civil war of the late 1960s; afterward he worked as a government administrator until 1973, when he left to concentrate on his literary career. One of his most notable works, the novel Sozaboy (1985), was written in pidgin English and satirized the corruption in Nigerian society. He reached his largest audience, however, with Basi and Company, a comedic television series that ran for some 150 episodes in the 1980s. From about 1991 he devoted himself full-time to the causes of the Ogoni, a minority tribe that numbered about 500,000 people. In mid-1992 he broadened the reach of his organization internationally, particularly in Britain, where Shell had one of its headquarters; as a result of mounting protest, Shell suspended operations in Ogoni lands in 1993. Despite the outcry, however, Shell announced in late 1995 its commitment to a nearly $4 billion natural-gas project, one of the largest foreign investments in Nigerian history.
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