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Rob Nixon, 4 April 1996

A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary 
by Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Penguin, 256 pp., £6.99, December 1995, 9780140258684
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... Ken Saro-Wiwa squints at us from the cover of his detention diary, the posthumous A Month and a Day. His moustache looks precise and trim; his eyes are alight; the distinctive gash scrawls across his temple. But the picture is governed by his pipe. It’s an intellectual’s accessory, a good pipe to suck and clench, to spew from and lecture with ...

Feed the Charm

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Political violence in Africa, 25 July 2002

In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son’s Journey to Understand His Father’s Legacy 
by Ken Wiwa.
Black Swan, 320 pp., £7.99, January 2002, 0 552 99891 5
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This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis 
by Karl Maier.
Penguin, 327 pp., £9.99, February 2002, 0 14 029884 3
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The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War 
by Stephen Ellis.
Hurst, 350 pp., £40, November 1999, 1 85065 417 4
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... of crude oil revenue. The other, Sani Abacha, turned the country into a pariah state by hanging Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists on 10 November 1995 after a trial that everyone agreed was flawed. Saro-Wiwa had been charged with complicity in the murder of four Ogoni chiefs the previous year, although he ...

A Nation of Collaborators

Adewale Maja-Pearce, 19 June 1997

... Despot had ever flouted civilised standards with such impunity as Sani Abacha when he murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa and his fellow Ogoni activists on 10 November 1995. The rumours going the rounds over the following days only added to the widespread suspicion that we were about to enter a period of state-sanctioned brutality which would surpass the worst ...

Our Credulous Grammarian

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Soyinka’s Dubious Friendships, 2 August 2007

You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir 
by Wole Soyinka.
Methuen, 626 pp., £18.99, May 2007, 978 0 413 77628 0
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... the ‘monster’ who had earned worldwide opprobrium following the 1995 judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa, appeared to have persuaded the international community to accept his transmutation into an elected civilian president, through the five political parties he had created and funded for that purpose. Soyinka believed that his own presence on ...


Graham Hough, 3 July 1986

A Forest of Flowers 
by Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Saros International, 151 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 978 2460 03 6
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Fools, and Other Stories 
by Njabulo Ndebele.
Longman, 280 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 582 78621 5
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Hungry Flames, and Other Black South African Stories 
edited by Mbulelo Mzamane.
Longman, 158 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 582 78590 1
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Coming to Birth 
by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye.
Heinemann, 150 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 434 44028 0
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Contre-Jour: A Triptych after Pierre Bonnard 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Carcanet, 137 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 85635 641 7
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The Seven Ages 
by Eva Figes.
Hamish Hamilton, 186 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 241 11874 3
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... Three African writers, from very different parts of the continent – Saro-Wiwa from Nigeria, Ndebele from South Africa, Macgoye from Kenya. My ignorance of all three regions being deep and extensive, I am obliged to accept these three books in great part as documentary reports, as information about unknown ways of life ...

Short Cuts

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Nigerian Oil, 6 January 2022

... who runs an NGO that campaigns against environmental degradation. He models his work on that of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged in 1995 by the military regime of General Sani Abacha after drawing attention to the destruction of the delta by big oil, notably Royal Dutch Shell. ‘It is on record,’ Fyneface told me, ‘that the oil companies are ...

Noddy is on page 248

Jay Griffiths: On the streets, 10 June 1999

The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Protest 
edited by Brian MacArthur.
Penguin, 440 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87052 8
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DIY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain 
edited by George McKay.
Verso, 310 pp., £11, July 1998, 1 85984 260 7
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... a sober roll-call: Ida B. Wells, Aneurin Bevan, Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Václav Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Its portrayal of the first half of the century has solidity; you are in safe, if stubby hands. There are also some poignant contributions: the broken dreams of Communism reported by former believers; Rabbi Stephen Wise addressing an anti-Nazi ...

Toxin in the System

Michael Peel: In Nigeria, 5 February 2015

... oil became an international scandal when in 1995 General Sani Abacha’s military regime hanged Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists who’d carried out a long campaign against environmental degradation and exploitation in the delta. In the early 2000s groups of armed militants who took on the oil companies – and fought among themselves ...

Army Arrangement

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Nigeria’s march away from democracy, 1 April 1999

... of roughly half Nigeria’s external reserves. Abacha achieved international notoriety by hanging Ken Saro-Wiwa, along with eight other Ogoni activists, in November 1995. (When the doctor suggested to the main defendant that he was having psychiatric problems, he replied: ‘Yes, I must be, because all I can see on the benches are kangaroos.’) Most ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... in films like The Prisoner of Zenda, decent enough but misled. 12 November. The judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues in Nigeria properly outrages world opinion. Quite apart from the merits of his case the death of this writer has more readily caught the public imagination for a very simple reason – the euphonious nature of his name. ...

Let Them Drown

Naomi Klein, 2 June 2016

... Take the Niger Delta, poisoned with an Exxon Valdez-worth of spilled oil every year, a process Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was murdered by his government, called ‘ecological genocide’. The executions of community leaders, he said, were ‘all for Shell’. In my country, Canada, the decision to dig up the Alberta tar sands – a particularly heavy ...

Where to begin?

Adewale Maja-Pearce: After Boko Haram, 26 April 2018

Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency 
by Virginia Comolli.
Hurst, 239 pp., £12.99, August 2017, 978 1 84904 661 9
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Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement 
by Alexander Thurston.
Princeton, 352 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 691 17224 8
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... contraption’. Their anger was compounded by the judicial murder of their spokesperson Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995: he’d asked for a fair share of oil revenue for the inhabitants of the delta. Southern demands for autonomy didn’t play well in the north. Coming to an equitable federal arrangement with the ‘sons of pagan infidels whose fathers ...

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