How Abacha Fooled Mandela On Saro-Wiwa, Others, By Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki, former South African President, has revealed how the former Nigerian Military Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha, betrayed Nelson Mandela, leader of African National Congress (ANC) and first post-apartheid South African President, by killing Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni people despite agreement to free them.
Mbeki, according to information posted on his facebook account on Monday, explained that South Africa under a new democratic dispensation at that time was expected to lead the campaign for respect of human rights in Africa, but expressed regrets that the execution of Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in New Zealand 1995 was a great betrayal on Mandela despite promise and assurance from Abacha to pardon them if convicted by the tribunal at that time.
His words: “President Mandela came under great pressure publicly to condemn the Nigerian Abacha military government, especially for its continued detention of M.K.O. Abiola who had won the 1993 Presidential elections, and agree to the imposition of some sanctions against Nigeria.
“President Mandela resisted all this until news came through that on the very first day of the CHOGM; the Nigerian Government had executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his Ogoni colleagues.”
Mbeki explained further how he led a delegation to Nigeria after the first visit of Mandela to discuss with the military government on how to release those detained by the government.
“In July 1995, I led a small delegation of our Government to Nigeria to meet General Abacha. This time our focus was on the two matters of persuading General Abacha and his Government to release the Ogoni leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and his co-accused, as well as to release Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Yar’ Adua, who were detained for allegedly having been involved in a planned coup d’état.”
“A day or so later, then Chief of Defence Staff and effective Deputy to Abacha, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya, invited us to lunch. During this lunch he gave us General Abacha’s response to the issues we had raised. This response was that with regard to the matter of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his co-accused, Gen Abacha could not intervene to stop a legal judicial process which involved murder charges.
“However, if the accused were to be found guilty and sentenced to death, he would use his prerogative as Head of State to reprieve the accused so that they would not be executed,” he said.
Mbeki also narrated how Gen. Diya conveyed the message that Abacha had agreed to extend similar gesture to Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Yar’Adua standing trial on phantom coup by the tribunal.
“It was necessary that he should allow the tribunal to complete its work. His view was that the tribunal would recommend the release of the two Generals, failing which he would again intervene to release them.”
The former South African President, Mbeki, stated that the group urged Diya to convey their appreciation to Abacha and advised the government to make the announcement at the proper time instead of them making it.
“Diya agreed to this and said that Gen. Abacha would issue the necessary orders at the appropriate moments,” he further stated.
The delegation according to Mbeki had a journalist who was prepared to use the encounter between the delegation and the military government as a scoop but was advised against using the story because of its implication.
“She therefore had a real “scoop”! Together with her, we agreed that if she were to publish what we had been told by Gen. Diya, the likelihood was that not only would the Nigerians deny the story, but this would also inevitably condemn Ken Saro-Wiwa and others – Generals Obasanjo and Yar’Adua to death.
“It was with this understanding that President Mandela left South Africa to attend the New Zealand CHOGM.
“When Ken Saro-Wiwa and others were executed, President Mandela was truly surprised and genuinely outraged that Gen. Abacha could evidently so easily betray his solemn undertaking in this regard. “Undoubtedly our Government drew its own conclusions from this painful experience with regard to the complexities of the construction of inter-state relations, including as this relates to the effective promotion of human rights,” he concluded.