Letter: Time for a new government in beleaguered Nigeria

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Sir: Recently you published my letter (19 June) about the Kenyan newspaper publisher, Njehu Gatabaki, who was detained to stop him attending the World Human Rights Conference in Vienna. He was released after a few days, but his passport is still held.

A Nigerian writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, also had his passport seized to stop him travelling to Vienna. Then, on 21 June, he was arrested and is still held.

Mr Saro-Wiwa is president of the Nigerian Association of Writers. He was travelling to Vienna to represent the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop). The Ogoni people of Eastern Nigeria are campaigning against a new oil pipeline, which they say will cause serious damage to the environment and their way of life.

In Mat the military government introduced a decree prescribing the death penalty for anyone who professes 'ideas that minimise the sovereignty of Nigeria'. The decree was suspended after protest, but it was widely seen as an attempt to suppress discussion of the Ogoni issue.

Nigeria was one of the governments in Vienna that pressed for the United Nations human rights machinery to be strengthened.

The case of Mr Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people is an early test of whether governments are going to take the fine words of the Vienna declaration seriously.

Yours sincerely,


Article 19, International

Centre Against Censorship

London, SE1

2 July