Mounting Violence in Nigeria as Ken Saro-Wiwa Laid to Rest


Four and half year after he was summarily executed by the military dictatorship in Nigeria, the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, will be laid to rest in a final farewell on Easter Monday.

MONTREAL – April 19, 2000 – Four and half year after he was summarily executed by the military dictatorship in Nigeria, the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, will be laid to rest in a final farewell in Bane-Ogoni on Easter Monday.

“Ken Saro-Wiwa was sentenced to death in November 10th 1995, with eight other fellow activists after they were accused of murdering four Ogoni elders. Following a trial widely denounced as a sham, they were publicly hanged, their bodies burned with acid and dumped in a common grave. The Wiwa family finally obtained permission to claim the remains of their loved one last year after the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“Ken Saro-Wiwa was the Niger Delta’s most outspoken activist campaigning against the unfair treatment of his people. He was instrumental in telling the world of the plight of the Ogoni and the role of the large oil multinationals, especially Shell, which he accused of destroying the environment and committing genocide against his people.

Ken Saro-Wiwa had the courage to stand up for the human rights of his fellow citizens and paid with his life,” today said Warren Allmand, President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, now known as Rights & Democracy.

Mr. Allmand, who has just returned from a fact-finding visit to Nigeria, said that President Obasanjo should use this opportunity to show that he is indeed a democrat by ordering a posthumous retrial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other eight activists in order to exonerate them. This action has been requested by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and other Nigerian human rights organizations.

He also urged the Nigerian government to take measures to quell the mounting violence in the southeast region ? Ogoniland ? where there have been, according to some reports, up to 10 deaths and several injured following a police raid against activists opposing a road-building project by a company contracted to the Shell oil company.

Mr. Allmand stressed that four and half years after the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the plight of the Ogoni remains unchanged. There is a new alliance between the government and the Nigerian subsidiary of oil group Royal Dutch/Shell but there has been no agreement with the Ogoni people whose survival is threatened by the development project.

Moreover, the present leader of the Ogoni rights group Ledum Mitee and two others were charged yesterday with arson and attempted arson, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Mr. Mitee’s home was one of those burned following clashes between rival groups surrounding the Shell-backed road construction.

“The charges against Mr. Mitee are worrisome. There are political overtones. Although the government of Nigeria seems to be committed to change, at the top, many of the local officials, military and police have yet to embrace new ideals of democracy and the rule of law,” Mr. Allmand said.

A new bill that would create a national commission to redistribute oil revenues to local communities was recently introduced in Nigeria’s Parliament. Representatives of non-governmental organizations who met with Mr. Allmand in Lagos last week expressed high hopes for this proposal but questioned whether it would ever see the light of day. “They also expressed fear about the bureaucracy and corruption at all levels,” he said.