Academic journal article Social Justice

Review of Silence Would Be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Academic journal article Social Justice

Review of Silence Would Be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Article excerpt

Ide Corley, Helen Fallon, and Laurence Cox, eds., Silence Would Be Treason, with a forward by Nnimmo Bassey, 2013. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar, Senegal.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, born in 1941, was still at school when the final phase of the postwar anticolonial movements of Africa were rising up to seek, declare, and establish independence from Britain, Belgium, France, and Portugal. He is a representative of a new generation of leaders within movements in Africa that resisted authoritarian rule, exploitation of natural resources, and the creation of "sacrifice zones" where the environment is deliberately polluted.

Editing his last letters and poetry, authors Corley, Fallon, and Cox have confronted effectively the difficult task of bringing coherence to extracts from a complex political, literary, and personal life of a man who unwittingly became a political figure. Unlike Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, or Patrice Lumumba, Ken Saro-Wiwa did not set out to be a politician. In the words of Nnimmo Bassey, "his struggles were through the mobilisation of the mass of Ogoni people using socio-cultural and educational tools. His disdain for violence can be seen in some of his writings, especially in the novel Sozaboy."

An Irish nun, Sr. Majella McCarron, based in Nigeria, was the Saro-Wiwa's correspondent during his last period of detention in Nigeria. She retained the letters and donated them to the Archives at the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, County Kildare. His letters reveal his anguish at the fate of the environmental movement of the Ogoni people--the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, or MOSOP, against the Shell Oil Company. He expresses concerns for his codefendants and readiness to face death if it should come, and it did. Saro-Wiwa was executed with eight others on November 10, 1995, on the orders of a Military Tribunal.

Greatly assisting the reader of Silence Would be Treason is the proliferation of footnotes that explain technical and political references, the context of meetings, and EU humanitarian aid. Further explanations could have been included concerning Saro-Wiwa's spiritual and religious beliefs, which enabled a nun from Fermanagh to provide such rich support to a major African leader.

But some of the footnotes are perplexing. …

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