Hundreds Honor Nigerian Activist
Apr. 24, 2000
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Hundreds poured into the Niger Delta village of Bane on Monday for a symbolic burial of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the prominent writer and political activist whose 1995 execution sparked worldwide anger and helped turn Nigeria's former military government into an international pariah.
Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists from the minority Ogoni tribe were hanged on Nov. 10, 1995. They were accused of treason and involvement in a string of killings. Activists say the nine were executed because of their work against Nigeria's then-military government.
The Nigerian government has never revealed where the bodies are buried, though they are believed to be in a cemetery in Nigeria's main oil city of Port Harcourt, about 75 miles from Bane, Saro-Wiwa's home village.
With no remains to bury, family members planned to inter a coffin filled with some of the activist's personal effects after a church service. Local reporters said by telephone that hundreds of people were arriving for the service.
Saro-Wiwa, the leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, spearheaded a campaign for oil giants to compensate Ogonis for environmental damage done to their region.
The international reaction to the executions was swift. The Commonwealth, the organization of Britain and its former colonies, promptly suspended Nigeria. More than a dozen countries, including the United States, recalled their ambassadors.
The former military government of Gen. Sani Abacha ended with his sudden death in 1998, paving the way for democratic elections and bringing Nigeria back into the international community. Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president in February 1999.
Although Nigeria is the world's sixth-largest oil producer, the Delta remains desperately poor and is regularly rocked by violence among feuding groups. Western oil companies, their workers and their installations also are often targets.