Righting land wrongs with the pen: The leadership of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Ken Saro Wiwa


  • Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire African Leadership Centre, King's College London




This article analyses the leadership of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Ken Saro Wiwa in the protection of indigenous communities’ land rights in Kenya and Nigeria respectively. It uses a case study and ‘leadership as process’ approach to focus on events and actions by Ngugi and Saro Wiwa, alongside the Kamiriithu and Ogoni communities in 1976 – 1982 and 1990 - 1995, respectively. In the case of Kenya, the Kamiriithu community did not attain their land rights and other freedoms following the Ngugi-led activism. Instead, the Kenyan government turned to further repression of individual and collective rights. In Nigeria, Saro-Wiwa was hanged after a trial marred with irregularities. However, oil exploitation activities on land belonging to the Ogoni ceased. There has been progress in holding Shell legally accountable for environmental degradation and a study on the extent of damage done to the ecology has been undertaken. Both writers, despite different outcomes to their activism, played leadership roles in their communities’ struggle for land rights. Their creative writing abilities and achievements played a role in their emergence as leaders and strategies for leadership. 

Author Biography

Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire, African Leadership Centre, King's College London

Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire is a Fellow of the African Leadership Centre, King's College London. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University, studied Human Rights at Central European University-Budapest and also holds an Advanced Certificate in International Humanitarian Law from the University of Pretoria. He runs a regular column at the African blog, www.thisisafrica.me, where he writes about literature, politics, arts and culture. He has been the program director of the Writivism programme at the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) that he co-founded.

He has taught International Criminal Justice, Legal Theory, Labour Law, Human Rights Law and Introduction to Law, at Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Christian University, Makerere University, St. Augustine International University and Busoga University. His fiction and nonfiction writing has appeared in The Guardian, The World To Come, The African Roar 2013, The Kalahari Review, New Black Magazine, The Uganda Modern Literary Digest, Short Story Day Africa, Chimurenga Chronic, Brittle Paper, Music and Literature, Saraba among other publications. He is a recipient of the 2015 Harry Frank Guggenheim Young African Scholars Award among others.


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How to Cite

Mwesigire, B. B. (2016). Righting land wrongs with the pen: The leadership of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Ken Saro Wiwa. Leadership and Developing Societies, 1(1), 29–57. https://doi.org/10.47697/lds.3434700