Nige­ria hangs hu­man rights ac­tivists

Malta Independent - - DAPHNE ON THURSDAY -

The writer and hu­man rights ac­tivist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, has been ex­e­cuted in Nige­ria de­spite world­wide pleas for clemency.

The coun­try's mil­i­tary rulers or­dered the ex­e­cu­tion of Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight other dis­si­dents should go ahead at 0730 lo­cal time (0830 GMT).

They were taken in chains to a prison in the south­ern city of Port Har­court and hanged.

The ac­tivists were con­demned to death 10 days ago af­ter be­ing found guilty of in­volve­ment in four mur­ders.

Mr Saro-Wiwa in­sisted they were framed be­cause of their op­po­si­tion to the oil in­dus­try in the Niger-Delta re­gion of south­ern Nige­ria.

At his trial Mr Saro-Wiwa said the case was de­signed to pre­vent mem­bers of his tribe, the Ogoni, from stop­ping pol­lu­tion of their home­land and get­ting a fair share of oil prof­its.

Dozens of Ogo­nis have been im­pris­oned by the mil­i­tary regime led by Gen­eral Sani Abacha who seized power two years ago.

‘Ju­di­cial mur­der'

The gov­ern­ment is fear­ful of their op­po­si­tion to min­ing driv­ing the com­pa­nies away, es­pe­cially the An­glo-Dutch group, Shell.

Shell is the largest op­er­a­tor in Nige­ria and oil it ex­tracts in the Niger-Delta re­gion pro­vides most of Nige­ria's ex­port earn­ings.

The deaths of Mr Saro-Wiwa and the other ac­tivists looks likely to lead to Nige­ria's ex­pul­sion or sus­pen­sion from the Com­mon­wealth whose lead­ers are cur­rently meet­ing in New Zealand.

Af­ter news of the ex­e­cu­tions be­came pub­lic, South African Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela said his del­e­ga­tion would rec­om­mend Nige­ria's sus­pen­sion un­til a demo­cratic gov­ern­ment was elected.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter John Ma­jor called the ex­e­cu­tions “ju­di­cial mur­der” and said he did not see how Nige­ria could now re­main in the Com­mon­wealth.

The fol­low­ing day Nige­ria was sus­pended from the Com­mon­wealth and the Euro­pean Union im­posed sanc­tions on the coun­try.

Both the sus­pen­sion and sanc­tions lasted un­til af­ter the death of Gen­eral Sani Abacha in 1998.

Shell's fa­cil­i­ties in Ogo­ni­land were sab­o­taged af­ter the ex­e­cu­tions and the com­pany was forced to aban­don pro­duc­tion there tem­po­rar­ily.

How­ever, it con­tin­ues to be the dom­i­nant oil com­pany in Nige­ria de­spite at­tacks on in­stal­la­tions by mem­bers of the Ogoni and other tribes.

In Septem­ber 2001 a court in New York granted rel­a­tives of Ken Saro-Wiwa and an­other of the ex­e­cuted ac­tivists, John Kpuinen, the right to sue Shell.

The suit al­leges the com­pany fab­ri­cated ev­i­dence to sup­port mur­der charges against the two men.

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