Nigerian Politics

November 10, 1995 at 12:00 AM EDT

JAMES MATES: Ken Saro-Wiwa, writer, human rights activist, campaigner on behalf of his fellow tribesmen, hanged this morning in a Nigerian prison. His alleged crime, the murder of four men, charges he adamantly denied.

KEN SARO-WIWA: There is no possibility that I or Mossob could ever have planned any such action.

JAMES MATES: He was an inspirational leader to members of Nigeria’s Ogoni tribe, whose ancient tribal lands have the misfortune to contain Nigeria’s most productive oil fields. It became Ken Saro-Wiwa’s life’s work to stop the environmental damage being done by the oil industry, and it’s for this he claimed he was framed by the country’s military dictators.

Nigeria’s foreign minister, in New Zealand for the Commonwealth Conference, has refused to back down in the face of worldwide condemnation of his government.

CHIEF TOM IKIMI, Foreign Minister, Nigeria: That is a trial for the murder of four people and it is not a trial for civil rights or a trial for environmental degradation. I thank you.

JAMES MATES: Many commonwealth heads of government will have been deeply shocked these executions were carried out during their conference, almost mocking their appeals for clemency.

NELSON MANDELA, President, South Africa: In view of this latest development, the South African delegation at the commonwealth conference will recommend the expulsion of Nigeria from the commonwealth, pending the installation of a democratic government.

JOHN MAJOR, Prime Minister, Great Britain: I said yesterday that I thought this was a fraudulent trial, a bad verdict, an unjust sentence, and it has now been followed by judicial murder.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Nigeria’s fellow members of the British Commonwealth were not the only nations to react strongly to the executions. The United States late today recalled its ambassador to Nigeria and halted military sales. This afternoon, the United Nations Security Council debated the issue.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, UN Ambassador: Their conviction was stunning in its absence of any modicum of the due process under law. The unseemly haste of this reported step contravenes all values of the civilized world. The defendants were not given a fair and free trial, were not able to present witnesses or evidence.

BENNO ANTONIUS EITEL, UN Ambassador, Germany: The government has worked for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. We shall continue to do so. If the shocking news I have just mentioned should prove to be correct, my delegation cannot but join those delegations that have before me expressed their utter dismay over these executions.

JOHN WESTON, UN Ambassador, Great Britain: The British government has stated in London that the British government is appalled at this callous act. The British prime minister is in close contact with his colleagues at Aukland about further steps. Thank you, Mr. President.

ISAAC AYEWAH, Deputy UN Ambassador, Nigeria: The Nigerian delegation wishes to remind those delegations which have ascribed to themselves the rule of the world’s policemen to kindly note that what has reportedly taken place in Nigeria today in relation to the subject of their comment bears no relevance to the item under consideration in the council.

The Nigerian delegation, therefore, finds it unacceptable for those members to want to meddle in the domestic affairs of Nigeria. We regard it as a gross interference in our internal affairs. I thank you.