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JUSTICE WATCH : No Letup on Nigeria

Nelson Mandela, the voice of moral authority in Africa, has intensified his call for a global boycott of Nigerian oil to punish that country’s unrepentant military dictators for hanging nine minority rights activists, including environmentalist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. The world must not let up the pressure.

Since the Nov. 10 hangings, Nigeria has been suspended from the Commonwealth of Britain and its former possessions, the Clinton Administration has banned military sales to the government in Lagos, and South Africa has called for a worldwide embargo on purchases of Nigerian crude, which produces profits that fill the pockets of corrupt national leaders.

Mandela has raised his voice time and again, labeling the government of Nigeria’s president, Gen. Sani Abacha, a “barbaric, arrogant, military dictatorship.” During weekend interviews with British media, he urged Nigerians to challenge their leaders. The fires of resistance, said Mandela, must burn from inside Nigeria, which has ruthlessly crushed dissent, much as South Africa did before Mandela’s release from prison.

The nine men who were executed were critics of the government’s treatment of the minority Ogoni people, whose land and water have been spoiled by oil production. Shame on Nigeria for this cowardly act. Once the jewel of Africa, the continent’s most populous nation is now best known for corruption, silencing dissenters and a drug trade so virulent that it prompted the United States to cut off most foreign aid. Mandela is right. Nigeria must be punished severely.

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