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This Day in History – November 11, 1995

Author and poet Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa is executed

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On this day in 1995, author and poet Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa was executed.

Born October 10, 1941 in Nigeria, Saro-Wiwa attended Government College, Umuahia as well as the University of Ibadan. After graduating, he taught briefly at the University of Lagos before he joined the federal forces in the late 1960’s. He later worked as a government administrator, but soon left in order to concentrate on his literary career.

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In 1991, Saro-Wiwa devoted himself to the causes of a minority ethnic group of about 500,000 people. The following year, he focused on Britain, criticizing the negative impact of the oil industry, which is the main source of the Nigerian national revenue. As a result of the protest, the oil company Shell suspended operations in 1993 for all of Ogoni.

In 1994, Saro-Wiwa was arrested after four Ogoni chiefs were killed at a political rally. He was found guilty for complicity in the murders, although the evidence was strictly alleged. Along with eight other activists, Saro-Wiwa was executed by hanging in 1995.

Soon after, Shell announced a new natural gas project that was worth nearly $4 billion. As one of the largest foreign investments in Nigerian history, members of Saro-Wiwa’s family were awarded $15.5 million in a settlement with Shell. The lawsuit, settled in 2009, accused Shell of being complicit in the 1995 executions and other human rights violations across Nigeria.

The company denied any wrongdoing.

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