Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

Ken Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria)

Assassinated, posthumously awarded

Ken Saro-Wiwa was born in October of 1941 in Nigeria. He was a writer, Nigerian producer ecologist activist and awarded the alternative Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. During the Biafran war in the late sixties he worked as a Civil Administrator in the Niger Delta at the Port of Bonny. Throughout the 1970’s, Mr. Saro-Wiwa pursued a writing career, and also produced several popular television series. His books had fictional characters, but focused on real cultural issues in Nigeria. Among his many personal accomplishments he was also the head of the Association of Nigerian Authors.

By 1990 he was one of the most internationally recognized civil rights’ activists in Nigeria. Ken Saro-Wiwa strived for the enhancement of civil and political rights in Nigeria and the rights of minority groups. More specifically, he assisted the ethnic group the Ogoni who were facing a dire situation. Oil companies had discovered oil in the Niger Delta, an area populated by the Ogoni. Their mining threatened the Ogoni’s agricultural way of life. In 1992 Ken Saro-Wiwa stated that “the Ogoni have been gradually ground to dust by the combined effort of the multi-national oil company, Shell Petroleum Development Company, the murderous ethnic majority in Nigeria and the country’s military dictatorships” (Ken Saro-Wiwa, 1992).

In 1993 the oil companies began to leave the region due to the negative international opinion caused by the Ogoni’s protests. As President of the organization, "Movement of the Survival of Ogoni People," he was imprisoned by the government on the 22nd of May 1994 without a fair trial. During his lengthy imprisonment he was not allowed any visitors, including doctors and family members. At the time of the Bruno Kreisky award ceremony, Saro-Wiwa was still imprisoned and his son accepted the award on his behalf. Due to his role in the protests, and despite international demands for leniency Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged at the order of the Nigerian government on November 10, 1995, two months after the award ceremony.

In June of 2010, Shell Oil Co. was charged with human rights violations for their alleged participation in massacres of the Ogoni and the murder of Saro-Wiwa. They never went to trial, but settled with an almost unprecedented $15.5 million dollar payout. Remember Saro-Wiwa began work in November 2010 to draw media attention to Shell documents that had recently been made public. In addition to fighting against Shell Oil Co, they are also attempting to create a memorial to Ken- Saro Wiwa .
(, November 9, 2010)