Nov 10, 2020

Ogoni: The Legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa 25 Years Later

On 10 November 1995, nine Nigerian environmental activists falsely accused of murder were executed by Nigeria's military junta. Among the nine activists were Ken Saro-Wiwa, founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and Member of the UNPO at that time. Their assassination sparked an international outcry and diplomatic sanctions. Today, 25 years later, the legacy of the activists is still alive and inspires the struggle for the right to self-determination fof the Ogoni people. 

At the XV UNPO General Assembly, the UNPO passed a resolution in order to recognise and commemorate the achievements and legacies of former UNPO leaders and to reaffirm the organisation's commitment to the cause of the Ogoni people. The resolution urged the international community to live up to the legacy of tKen Saro-Wiva by continually striving for the implementation of international standards in Ogoniland.


MOSOP's fight for justice came in response to Shell's operations in the Niger Delta, where it had devastated the region's environment while bringing no benefit to the indigenous people. On 4 January 1993, MOSOP organized a peaceful protest attended by nearly 300,000 Ogoni people in Rivers State, Nigeria, where they decried the environmental destruction of their land caused by the Shell Petroleum Development Company Of Nigeria. At the heart of the movement, the Ogoni people were defending their right to self-determination — including greater control over the exploitation of oil found on their lands.

Nigeria's military government accused Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots of playing a role in the murder of four pro-government Ogoni chiefs. Saro-Wiwa was detained for nearly a year and later tried under a special military tribunal. On 10 November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged alongside his comrades. They became known as the Ogoni Nine.

In 2011 the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released the first scientific analysis of pollution that confirmed the area which covers nine coastal southern Nigerian states had indeed turned into an ecological disaster.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari In 2016, launched a $1 billion oil clean-up exercise in the Niger Delta — promising to reverse the damage and restore the ecosystems. However, experts say very little has been done and the pollution has persisted. The Ogoni people are yet to be satisfied with the ongoing environmental cleanup recommended by the UN. Moreover, they still maintain that Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight Ogoni leaders were innocent.

Today, the Ogoni people vowed to carry on with the struggle until the Ogoni Nine are exonerated and their demands — which include ensuring a fair share in their oil wealth, providing community projects, and respecting environmental laws — are fully met.