Mandela guns for Nigerian dictator



The extent to which President Nelson Mandela has dedicated himself to bringing down Nigeria's military ruler, General Sani Abacha, was made clear yesterday in two short sentences. "Abacha is sitting on a volcano," the President told Johannesburg's Sunday Independent. "And I am going to explode it underneath him."

The interview, which was also broadcast on the BBC World Service, was the latest sign that Mr Mandela - stung by criticism that he did not act forcefully enough to stop Nigeria from executing Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other minority-rights activists - was now going after Gen Abacha with guns blazing.

It represented a complete about-turn by Mr Mandela, who only a few weeks ago had urged the world not to push the Nigerian military regime into a corner.

Mr Mandela vowed that South Africa would press ahead with its campaign for "strong actions", including oil sanctions, against Nigeria to ensure that democracy was attained in "the shortest possible time".

"What we are now proposing are short and sharp measures which will produce the results Nigerians and the world desire. We are dealing with an illegitimate, barbaric, arrogant, military dictatorship which has murdered activists, using a kangaroo court and using false evidence," he told the newspaper.

At the same time, he rejected criticism by Nigerian opposition leaders and intellectuals that South Africa was to blame for Saro-Wiwa's death. Instead he criticised the Nigerian resistance for being weak and ineffectual, and said the outcome of his campaign to break Gen Abacha ultimately depended on the Nigerians themselves. "It is of no use for Nigerian leaders to shout from abroad and not to ensure that the fires of resistance are burning inside of Nigeria," Mr Mandela said.

He drew direct parallels with the experience of his African National Congress (ANC) fight against successive apartheid governments. "We did not give in because international opinion would not have been mobilised if there was no vigorous and effective resistance movement inside the country. That is what is lacking in Nigeria, and Nigerian leaders that are blaming South Africa and its president are merely diverting attention from their weakness; from their failure to do what all democrats do - to ensure that there are prominent leaders inside the country who are prepared to face the music, and to challenge Abacha."

Mr Mandela also lashed out at the Shell petroleum company for its decision to go ahead with a $4bn (pounds 2.5bn) gas project in Nigeria, despite worldwide calls for the project to be shelved. He said he told Shell executives in Johannesburg last week that South Africa expected the company to suspend the project as a mark of protest.

"And when they hesitated to do so, I warned them that we are going to take action against them in this country, because we can't allow people to think in terms of their gains when the very lives of human beings are involved. That is the extent to which I have gone in this regard."

Mr Mandela has threatened to call for a boycott of Shell in South Africa. Following the meeting, Shell South Africa placed full-page advertisements in the South African press, defending its human-rights record in Nigeria.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk