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Ken Saro-Wiwa's 96-year-old father
"The inquiry cannot bring my son back"
 real 28k

Oronto Douglas, human rights activist
"The panel needs to have powers, it does not have powers, it is lame."
 real 28k

Monday, 15 January, 2001, 09:22 GMT
Ogoni abuses in the spotlight
Ken Saro-Wiwa
Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa: Hanged in 1995
Nigeria's human rights inquiry begins public hearings on Monday in the southern city of Port Harcourt looking into abuses committed by former military regimes.

Amongst the petitions it is scheduled to hear are many from the Ogoni people who suffered some of the worst repression under the military.

The government hopes its Human Rights Commission will serve a similar function as South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, publicly exposing wrongdoings and thereby perhaps beginning the process of reconciliation.

It has already held hearings in Lagos and Abuja which have been closely followed on television by the Nigerian public.

But there have been few important confessions from senior figures in former military governments.

Ogoni

The most keenly awaited hearings concern the Ogoni people, and the son of the executed Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, has already presented a petition.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
President Obasanjo: Visited Ogoniland last year to appeal for unity
Mr Saro-Wiwa, a writer and human rights activist, led a campaign against the Nigerian military government and oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell for a better deal for Ogonis, saying oil exploitation had devastated their environment and left them in poverty.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed in 1995 along with eight supporters.

Their hanging led to international sanctions against Nigeria and its suspension from the Commonwealth.

Boycott talk

The oil multinational Shell, which was accused of collaborating with the military, is due to give evidence.

But few Ogonis have any faith in the commission, which they regard as powerless.

There is even talk of a boycott if more time is not allocated to the thousands of petitions prepared by the Ogonis.

The Ogonis are just one of dozens of small ethnic minorities in the impoverished oil-producing region which was under heavy military control for much of the 1990s.

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See also:

18 Dec 00 | Africa
Nigeria's weeping generals
02 Dec 00 | Africa
Inside Nigeria's terror cells
25 Oct 00 | Africa
Horrors of the Abacha regime
25 Apr 00 | Africa
Symbolic funeral for Saro-Wiwa
08 Jun 00 | Africa
Oil: Nigeria's blessing and curse
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
15 Jan 01 | Africa
No end to Saro-Wiwa's struggle
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