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Book Review by Meredith Hicks

Last update - Saturday, March 1, 2014, 03:03 By Metro Éireann

Silence Would Be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-WiwaEdited by Helen Fallon, Íde Corley & Laurence Cox(Dajara Press)

“If we meet again, we’ll smile. Till then, it’s good luck and God bless you.” So goes one of Ken Saro-Wira’s last written quotes. Fortunately, there’s more to be found within this collection of letters, thoughts, and aspirations that reveal the poise and determination Saro-Wira was blessed with.
Silence Would Be Treason uncovers the poetry and courage of this Nigerian journalist and writer, whose untimely death triggered an international wave of protests and calls for a boycott of Shell, the oil company at the centre of controversy in the Niger Delta.
After Nelson Mandela, Ken Saro-Wiwa is perhaps the next best-known African political activist. Born on 10 October 1941 in Nigeria, he began his career as a university lecturer and government official, while also devoting much of his time as a civil rights activist for environmental protection and human rights.
With the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), Saro-Wira drew attention to the disaster caused by three decades of exploitation of oil deposits in the Delta region. His activism saw him awarded with the Right Livelihood Award in 1994, and his name was in the running for the 1996 Nobel Prize for Peace.
However, in October 1995 he was sentenced to death by a special court of Nigeria’s then military dictatorship for his actions against its corruption. Despite widespread international protests, Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed in November 1995.
Saro-Wira’s last writings have been compiled into this thought-provoking and profoundly moving book. The forward, written by Nigerian environmentalist activist and poet Nnimmo Bassey, gives a moving tribute to Saro-Wira who, despite being confined to prison, wrote with a strong sense of duty and determination.
The social movement he headed was one that sprouted an Irish connection in solidarity. Sister Majella McCarron worked closely with Saro-Wiwa, and tried to bring awareness here in Ireland to the Ogoni Nine and their plight. Saro-Wira’s letters to her and others speak to us from beyond the grave, and reveal a bond of friendship that supersedes ethnicity, culture and social differences.
This is not only a record of political history; these writings, thoughts and poems are a glimpse into Saro-Wiwa’s attempt to lead life decently, despite the threats, abuse exploitation and betrayal which eventually led to his demise.
Saro-Wira had a need to fight for justice, and this book shows just how much he fought, by using the art of assimilation and diffusion of ideas in his written words.

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