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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 11:33 GMT
Saro-Wiwa's remains go home
By Sam Olukoya
Bane, Nigeria

The return of Nigerian playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa's body to his home town of Bane has been broadly welcomed by his family, who consider it a first step in their campaign to clear his name.

It is nine years since the minority rights activist, together with eight other Ogoni fellow campaigners, were hanged and buried in unmarked graves.

Poster of Ken Saro-Wiwa in his father's house
The Commonwealth suspended Nigeria over Saro-Wiwa's execution in 1995

They had been involved in a campaign against oil exploitation in their homeland in the Niger Delta region and were condemned to death after a controversial trial.

The recovery of the remains came after the Nigerian government permitted US forensic experts to start the search four years ago.

"We feel very relieved and very fulfilled that we have brought his remains home where he belongs," said Saro-Wiwa's younger brother, Dr Owens Wiwa.

"That is what he expected us to do, and that is what we have done.

"At the same time, my father was very angry that his son came back to him in the way he did, and angrier that this democratic government did not do more to assist the process of exhumation and return of the son.

"It is a closure, in one sense that we got the body back and [it] will be properly interred, but small wounds remain."

The fact that Ken is still branded in the status books as a criminal, as a murderer, is something that our family find unacceptable and we are going to change that
Dr Owens Wiwa, brother of Mr Saro-Wiwa

Dr Wiwa said the process of restoring dignity to Mr Saro-Wiwa's name has started.

"Getting the body back is one step, the next step is [to use] the political aspect and also the legal instruments in order to clear his good name," he said.

"We are going to clear his name. After this has been done, then we would know that we have fulfilled what Ken would have expected us to do."

He said the Nigerian government owes a debt of honour to the families of people wrongfully killed by the state.

"Nigerians that have been killed by the state wrongfully like Ken was killed should be dignified, the other eight colleagues of Ken should also be dignified.

"They died, for us, to live in freedom, to talk about our problems.

"They died for us, to get our rights, our rights from the Nigerian government, our rights from the oil companies who have been polluting and denigrating us.

"They are heroes and they will remain heroes."

Country profile: Nigeria
07 Jul 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nigeria
25 Sep 03 |  Country profiles

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