Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Free ebook: "Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa"

In 1995 the Nigerian military dictatorship executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni activists to end their opposition to Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta. This was the culmination of a campaign of terror in which security forces killed perhaps 2,000 Ogoni with many more raped, injured, tortured or made homeless. The indigenous Ogoni had organised to resist the ecological destruction of the wetlands they were dependent on, to demand fair distribution of the profits, and to call for self-determination and human rights. Saro-Wiwa, as a leading Nigerian writer of Ogoni origin, took a leading part in this campaign and paid the price.

“Silence Would be Treason” contains Saro-Wiwa’s last letters and poems from military detention, written to Irish solidarity activist Sister Majella McCarron. They show a fine mind on trial for his life, organising the international campaign for the release and finally the lives of the “Ogoni 9”, strategizing about the future of the struggle against Shell, and living life to the full. They are gripping, harrowing, at times hilarious and immensely readable. The letters were donated by Sr Majella to Maynooth Library in 2011, transcribed and edited by librarian Helen Fallon, African Studies specialist Íde Corley and social movement researcher Laurence Cox, with a foreword by environmental activist and writer Nnimmo Bassey.

This book was first published in print form in 2013 by the non-profit African publisher Daraja together with CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, and supported by Trócaire. Thanks to Daraja Press it is now available in a new and expanded edition as a free ebook, which can be downloaded in PDF here or read online here.

The Maynooth Ken Saro-Wiwa collection also includes digitised versions of the letters, audio archives of interviews with Majella McCarron, Ken’s brother Owens Wiwa and daughter Noo Saro-Wiwa, a video archive of related events and other material. The collection is free online here. The ebook was launched at Maynooth Library today, 14 November 2017 as part of the 22nd anniversary commemorations of the Ogoni 9 executions, by Majella McCarron. The keynote talk was given by Mark Dummett, Amnesty International researcher working on the current court case against Shell in the Netherlands; Samuel Udogbo, researching MOSOP youth in the Niger Delta; and Graham Kay, researching the history of how geopolitics came to centre around oil between 1896 and 1921.