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This book marks the 25th anniversary of the execution of Nigerian activist and written Ken Saro-Wiwa. The 21 essays, by international contributors, and 42 poems by new and established poets, are inspired by his ideals and activism.
The volume includes contributions by people intimately connected with Saro-Wiwa. His brother Dr Owens Wiwa recounts how his older brother awakened and nurtured his awareness of the tremendous damage Royal Dutch Shell was doing to their homeland, in collaboration with the then Nigerian military government. His firsthand account of the brutality of the military government and its impact; his unsuccessful efforts to save the life of his brother; his time in hiding and subsequent escape, with his family, from Nigeria and his efforts to retrieve the remains of his brother for burial, makes for very moving reading. Likewise, Noo Saro-Wiwa shares her story of growing up in England with strong links to family in Nigeria, and the trauma of hearing of her father’s execution while at University.
Maynooth University, where the editor works as Deputy Librarian, holds the death row correspondence from Ken Saro-Wiwa to Sister Majella McCarron. McCarron provides two personal essays. One, a reflection on the events that shaped her work with Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria and her subsequent efforts to save the lives of the Ogoni 9: the second essay explores her experience as a table observer of the Shell to Sea campaign, which strove to have gas, discovered off the west coast of Ireland, refined at sea rather than inland.
The damage that Shell has caused in Ogoni and the issue of redress are topics addressed in essays by experts including Mark Dummett, of Amnesty International, who investigated how Shell and other oil companies have caused or contributed to human rights abuses through their operations in the Niger Delta. Daniel Leader, a barrister and partner at Leigh Day’s international law department, the firm who have led a number of ground breaking human rights cases, including a series of cases against Shell on behalf of Nigerian communities, explores the issue of legal redress. Architect, environmental activist, author and poet Nnimmo Bassesy’s wide ranging essay presents Saro-Wiwa as activist and writer and creator of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, against the backdrop of the UNEP report of the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, which recorded that drinking water in Ogoni had benzene, a carcinogen, at over 900 times the level permitted
I welcome the publication of this volume which highlights the work of Trócaire and other people and organisations
to fight for a more just world. Trócaire campaigned strongly for the release of the Ogoni 9 and continues to campaign for justice in the face of state and corporate violations of human rights. The writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa and those inspired by his work keep the flame of justice lit.
Dr Caoimhe De Barra, Chief Executive Officer, Trócaire.
The publication of I am a Man of Peace: Writings Inspired by the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection highlights the shift towards peaceful protests as a means to a more sustainable end. It is a justification that one’s dreams for the greater good can still be attained without bloodshed. Ken preached, lived, and practiced peace in his search for justice even in the face of stiff opposition. Years after his death, Ken’s ideologies and philosophies have proved relevant today.
Dr Owens Wiwa, Executive Vice-President, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
Sister Majella McCarron’s choice of Maynooth University for this unique donation was particularly appropriate, given the University’s long involvement with issues of inclusion and justice in Ireland and abroad. This deep-rooted commitment is today articulated in our University Strategic Plan, where a strategic goal is ‘to build on our achievements to date and become a model University for equality, diversity, inclusion and inter-culturalism, where social justice, addressing inequality and empowering people are central to our mission.’ This book makes a significant contribution to that goal.
Dr. Gemma Irvine, Vice-President of Equality & Diversity, Maynooth University.
Writing can urge us to pause, to think, and to discover what we really want to say. Sharing that writing calls for courage and support. In this publication, as Jessica Traynor suggests, we see the evidence of a new generation of Irish and new Irish citizens engaging with complex issues through poetry. Reading their poems, we may begin to understand more about each other and ourselves. By bringing together these Irish and new Irish voices the book contributes to building a shared discourse which is essential for trust, community and hope.
Dr Alison Farrell, Founder of the Summer Writing Institute For Teachers (SWIFT) and Co-founder Irish Network for the Enhancement of Writing (INEW)
Edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon, Laurence Cox
These letters and poems are invaluable fragments of a living conversation that portrays the indomitable power in humans to stay alive in the face of certain death – to stay alive even in death.
Reading through the treasure trove of the letters and poems compiled here as The Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa evokes intense memories of his resolute struggles against an oil behemoth and a deaf autocratic government. His crusade frames one of the most tumultuous periods of Nigeria’s history; his tragic story evokes anger and demands action to resolve the crises that first led the Ogoni people to demand that Shell clean up Ogoni lands or clear out of the territory.
It was Saro-Wiwa’s leadership, in great part, that forced Shell out of Ogoni in January 1993. The letters are a testament of hope, being one side of robust conversations between two persons that many would find unlikely friends. We learn the lessons that indeed ‘friends love at all times and brothers (and sisters) are born for adversity’, as a proverb in the Bible states. This is where we must applaud Sister Majella McCarron for preserving and making public these letters that Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote to her between 20 October 1993 and 14 September 1995. The collection includes essays by the three editors, select bibliography and recommended resources.
You can read this book online for free.
This is a testament to the bravery of my father, Ken Saro-Wiwa. His words are an inspiration to anyone fighting against tyranny, and a reminder to oppressors the world over that the human spirit can never be broken.
– Noo Saro-Wiwa, author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (2012)
Here is a remarkable book of the correspondence from one of the greatest leaders of our time to a strong and gentle Catholic sister living half-way around the world. Ken Saro-Wiwa, enduring harsh treatment and facing cer- tain death, writes from detention in Nigeria about justice and honour and sets the bar for courage for the rest of us. Struggles for indigenous justice in the face of corporate tyranny continue to this day. Everyone engaged in these struggles will be moved and inspired by these haunting letters written by a legend.
– Maude Barlow, author, activist and National Chairperson of Council of Canadians
A poignant collection that unveils a remarkable friendship as much as it animates the memory of Saro-Wiwa’s indomitable spirit. It is perhaps one of the the bitter ironies of his life he had to feed the soldiers who guarded him as well as witness army captains fight over who should be his jailer.
– Brian Chikwava, writer and winner of the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writ- ing, Associate Editor, Wasafiri Magazine
More fully than any biographical essay would have done, the letters and the poems reveal the mind of the campaigner for justice while he is under arrest, courageously planning and prompting, writing and keeping himself informed, keeping his cause alive, but they also show Ken Saro-Wiwa as the anxious father worrying about his children and as the man alone thrown on his resources. The three lucid essays which frame the letters prove an excel- lent and informative guide to the events behind the letters and add to the importance of this publication.
– Abdulrazak Gurnah, novelist, Booker Prize nominee 2004, winner of the RFI Témoin du Monde Prize 2006 and Professor of English at the University of Kent
The letters and poems collected in this volume show with great eloquence that Saro-Wiwa confronted Abacha’s darkness, and the darkness of the international oil conglomerates, especially Shell, with anger, sadness, wit and humour. In nearly every letter and poem in the volume there is suffusing light and uncommon grace. I confidently expect that in time, this slim volume will take its rightful place among the most important works of prison writing and environmental activism in the world.
– Biodun Jeyifo, Harvard University
Following Ken Saro-Wiwa’s second arrest in 1994, Sr Majella McCarron approached Trócaire for help. His release became a priority campaign for us, and we engaged with Shell, the media and Government to try and com- mute the death sentences for him and the eight co-accused Ogoni leaders. I remember the despair in Trócaire’s offices on 10th November 1995 when we learned that all nine had been executed. The struggle of the Ogoni people is a part of Trócaire’s history, and the writings in Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa are a testament to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s spirit and courage, demonstrating that, even in the darkest of times, love truly can conquer fear.
– Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire
Clear and direct, these letters and poems are the last expression of a voice the regime was determined to silence: a voice for indigenous rights, environ- mental survival and democracy, many of those battles were won despite his death and whose voice comes alive today again in these extraordinary letters.
– Boletim Africanista, 2013