Mandela guns for Nigerian dictator

ROBERT BLOCK

Johannesburg

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London