LETTER:How to prevent tragedy and return Nigeria to democracy

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From Mr Zaya Yeebo and others

Sir: On the 35th anniversary of Nigeria's independence from British colonial rule, we would like to add our voice to the growing call for increased pressure on the Nigerian military government to listen to the demands of its people and end the cycle of violence, state terrorism and gross abuse of human rights in that country.

The military junta headed by General Sani Abacha has trampled upon all forms of peaceful opposition in the country and sent most of the pro- democracy movement leadership into jail or exile. In addition, there are hundreds of people in detention under pain of death sentence, life imprisonment and long jail terms on trumped-up charges.

The international community has to help the pro-democracy forces in Nigeria. The regime needs trade, commerce, and diplomatic acceptability to keep it in power. It is amenable to pressures from these quarters. There is much that NGOs, human rights organisations, the British press and well- meaning people in the UK can do to put pressure on the British government, parliament and political parties in this country to achieve a complete isolation of the Abacha regime, and to help the process of return to democratic rule in Nigeria.

Instead of us preparing for the "tragedy waiting to happen", we can prevent it from happening by campaigning and lobbying for:

l. The release of all political detainees without conditions.

2. Restoration of all elected institutions at local, state and national levels, including the presidency.

3. The release of all those serving jail terms, including life, and those suffering the pain of the death sentence over trumped-up charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

4. Isolation of the Abacha regime internationally through mandatory economic sanctions, and diplomatically.

Yours sincerely,

Zaya Yeebo

Editor, The African

Wassa Fatty

Chairman, Africa Research and Information Bureau

Kayode Fayemi

Editor, Nigeria Now

Napoleon Abdulai

Editor, Africa World Review

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

General-Secretary, Pan African Movement

London, SE1

29 September