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  • Documents on Democracy

Nigeria

Defying pleas for clemency from world leaders, Nigeria’s military dictatorship executed nine Ogoni men on November 10, having convicted them of inciting others to murder. Among those executed was Ken Saro-Wiwa, a prominent environmentalist, writer, and human rights activist who had been a vocal critic of the Nigerian government. Following are excerpts from a statement that Saro-Wiwa made to a military-appointed tribunal shortly before his execution:

We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher into this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Neither imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory. I repeat that we all stand before history. My colleagues and I are not the only ones on trial. Shell [Oil Company] is here on trial. . . . The crime of the company’s dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.

On trial also is the Nigerian nation, its present rulers, and those who assist them. Any nation which can do to the weak and disadvantaged what the Nigerian nation has done to the Ogoni loses a claim to independence and to freedom from outside influence. I am not one of those who shy away from protesting injustice and oppression, arguing that they are expected in a military regime. The military do not act [End Page 184] alone. They are supported by a gaggle of politicians, lawyers, judges, academics and businessmen, all of them hiding under the claim that they are only doing their duty, men and women too afraid to wash their pants of urine. We all stand on trial, my lord, for by our actions we have denigrated our country and jeopardized the future of our children. . . .

In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side. For the Holy Koran says in Sura 42, verse 41: “All those that fight when oppressed incur no guilt, and Allah shall punish the oppressor.” Come the day.

Cambodia

For 17 years following Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953, until a military coup d’état in 1970, Prince Norodom Sihanouk dominated national politics. In mid-1993, elections administered by the United Nations led to a new constitution and the reinstatement of the monarchy with Sihanouk as king. (See the article by Julio Jeldres on pages 148–57 above.) Following are excerpts from an interview with Sihanouk conducted by Bernard Krisher and Barton Biggs of the Cambodia Daily and published in that newspaper in March 1995:

In the fifties and sixties I was elected under free elections under the CIC (Commission Internationale de Contrôle), with India as the chairman and Poland and Canada as members. In order to run in the elections, I abdicated the throne to my father, and I won the elections. There was then a party like Lee Kuan Yew’s. I was like Lee Kuan Yew. I was like Mahathir. I was like Suharto. So I cannot criticize them, because I was like them. They might say, “Oh, we imitated Sihanouk.”

And Ranariddh says all the time: “You criticize us, but my father was like Lee Kuan Yew, like Mahathir and Suharto. . . . But you impose...

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 184-188
Launched on MUSE
1996-01-01
Open Access
No
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