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Nigeria: Recent Documents
Nigeria: Recent Documents
Date distributed (ymd): 970408
Document reposted by APIC
This posting contains (1) a press release from Human Rights
Watch/Africa, and (2) a statement by Nobel Prize winner Wole
Soyinka, as posted on the usenet newsgroup
Human Rights Watch/Africa, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
10017-6104; Tel: 212/972-8400; Fax: 212/972-0905; E-mail:
email@example.com; 1522 K Street, NW, Washington DC 20005; Tel:
202/371-6592; Fax: 202/371-0124; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday March 13, 1997
For Further Information: Urmi Shah 171-713-1995 in London
Janet Fleischman 202-371-6592 in Washington D.C.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH/AFRICA CONDEMNS TREASON CHARGE
(New York, 13 March 1997)--Human Rights Watch/Africa is deeply
disturbed to learn that the Nigerian government has charged
Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, opposition leader Chief
Anthony Enahoro, democracy activist Dr. Fredrick Fasheun,
former finance minister Chief Olu Falae and eight others with
treason, a capital charge. Soyinka and Enahoro are in exile,
having fled the country fearing for their lives; Falae,
Fasheun and several others are currently held in detention in
Nigeria. The Nigerian government alleges that the accused
have been involved in a series of bombs that have killed a
number of people in Nigeria recently, but has failed to put
forward any evidence that they were in fact involved.
"The treason charges brought against these opposition activist
fall into a pattern of harassment and arbitrary action against
those that have spoken out against the military regime," said
Peter Takirumbudde, director of Human Rights Watch/Africa, "we
believe that the Nigerian government has brought legal
proceedings simply in an attempt to silence the most vocal
opposition to continued military rule."
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Nigeria government to
witdraw the charges of treason against these individuals
Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a
nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor
and promote the observance of internationally recognized
human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East
and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It is
supported by contributions from private individuals and
foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds,
directly or indirectly. Kenneth Roth is executive director.
Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board. Its Africa
division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the
observance of internationally recognized human rights in
sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Takirambudde is the executive
director. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory
Web Site Address: http://www.hrw.org Gopher Address:
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Statement by Wole Soyinka
From posting in usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nigeria
March 27, 1997
[Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.]
WHEN I wrote in my latest book, The Open Sore of the
Continent, that "the judicial murder of the Ogoni nine and the
continued decimation of Ogoni people was the first Nigerian
experimentation with ethnic cleansing, authorised and
sustained by the Nigerian despot General Sani Abacha", some
critics in foreign ministries described this as the language
of an activist given to dramatising his opponents' action.
Prior to this grotesque display of savagery by Abacha, he had
acceded to the plot of the chieftain of his Ton-Ton Macoutes,
Ismaila Gwarzo, to fabricate a coup d'etat. Those who succeed
as, or are suspected of acting as, couriers of details of the
secret kangaroo court proceedings of those alleged to be
involved in the coup, are rounded up, tried in minutes and
sentenced to stretches varying from seven years to life
The standard charge is "concealment to treason". The chairman
of the Campaign for Democracy is already among the victims of
this madness, and the two ex-military rulers of Nigeria were
also jailed for "levying war against the Federal Republic of
Countless others have been held without being charged for the
crime of "association" with the so-called coup plotters. Yet
none of this appears to be a sufficient signal to the world.
Now that Abacha has prepared a list of 14 people, myself
included, for a charge of "levying war against the Federal
Republic of Nigeria by conspiring with others to explode
bombs" and "causing explosion in several parts of Nigeria",
perhaps some will see why Ogoniland is only the model for the
actualisation of a totalitarian onslaught on politically
sophisticated sections of the Nigerian polity which have dared
expose and confront the power obsession of a minuscule but
The only way Abacha knows how to deal with political
opposition is not to negotiate, discuss or debate, but to
liquidate its leaders. And if he cannot contrive this
physically through his executioners (as with the more than 200
demonstrators mowed down by his soldiers in 1993), then he'll
seek to repeat the phantom coup d'etat or the tragic Ken
This time, he is biting off more than he can chew. However
much Abacha may harass or intimidate the democratic
opposition, our position remains that Abacha is not the
legitimate president of Nigeria any more than an armed robber
is the legitimate owner of the property he has stolen.
It is very difficult to be surprised by this predictable
despot and his gang. If I had been in Nigeria when the coup
was engineered, I'd have been the first on the list of those
to be arraigned. Although I am not an Ogoni, I would probably
have featured in the list of those sacrificed for speaking out
against genocide in Ogoniland.
So this whole orchestration has been set in motion since I
became Abacha's most prominent nemesis. I was supposed to have
been in Benin Republic on January 28, attending a meeting of
labour leaders and students, where "we planned to disrupt the
local government election".
At the time in question, I was in Davos in Switzerland at the
World Economic Summit and among my witnesses are Nelson
Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Kofi Annan and Binyamin Netanyahu. As
though this was not enough, Abacha granted an interview to The
Washington Times newspaper in February, where he repeated the
allegation that I am a terrorist responsible for all the bomb
blasts in Nigeria.
The Washington Times is now facing a libel suit for the
indiscretion of publishing this blatant lie.
I and other members of the democratic movement are already
condemned to long jail sentences for another "treasonable
offence". This combination of diversion, bloody-mindedness and
lies will not intimidate the opposition into silence. Neither
will it confuse any discerning observer as to the true state
of things in Nigeria, which is the reign of terror unleashed
by Abacha. Dissent in Nigeria will not go away until he has
Yet it is important to put Abacha into perspective. He knows
that he is nothing without his foreign collaborators in
What further proof is demanded by the world? Why have African
leaders failed to halt Abacha's repetitious game or to
challenge his transparent ploy of buying time?
Take the regime's elaborate charade called "transition to
civilian rule". Even as it becomes clearer by the day that
Abacha is seeking to perpetuate himself as a civilian
president, foreign governments continue to say let's wait a
little longer. Really, he has promised us that this time, once
this latest exercise is over, he will make his pronouncement.
However, just in case the compliance of his hypnotised
watchers and consumers of Nigerian oil begins to wear thin,
Abacha has stumbled on the perfect plot: concoct treason
charges against Soyinka, Enahoro and others, and while that
case drags on in the court in which he is judge, jury and
executioner, declare your presidential ambition.
Yet the world watches in cold complicity as this conspiracy to
eliminate all real and imaginary opponents to Abacha's
dictatorship is concretised.
Those governments that believe that Nigeria's Godot is just
around the corner in the labyrinths of Aso-Rock Fortress are
no friends to the Nigerian people. They have forgotten their
own history or, for reasons best known to them, have chosen to
patronise us, to treat us as second-class subjects of the
Perhaps, though, their intent may be to deliver the message
that we do not hear, or that we are too complacent in the
certitude of justice to understand: which is that our destiny
rests in no other hands but ours.
If that is so, we welcome the distressing signals and their
implicit challenge. Our commitment remains to the enthronement
of genuine democracy, as expressed on June 12 1993, and to the
permanent removal of the military from our lives. This, we
know, is no small task but we are prepared for a marathon.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
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