Abacha's Exiled Foes Call Transition Process a `Sham'

Article excerpt

Nigeria's opposition movement in the United States remains convinced the only way to end military rule is for the soldiers to return to their barracks and allow Moshood K. Abiola, the people's choice, to take office.

Foes of Nigeria's military regime showed up at a news conference in the National Press Building last week called by Nigeria's five registered political parties.

Strongman Sani Abacha sent the parties to convince the United States of the legitimacy of his transition program to civilian rule, and the exile critics, unmoved by affirmations of democracy from Gen. Abacha, criticized lack of progress on this score.

E.C. Ejiogwu, a longtime opponent of military rule in Nigeria, said virtually all Nigerian pro-democracy groups in the United States and Canada plan to meet next month to choose a parliament-in-exile. A key figure in this project is Chief Anthony Enahoro.

Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International's government program officer for Africa, said he had serious doubts about the legitimacy of the transition process. He said the government is anxious to quiet criticism "so it can go about its business" - which he said involves electing Gen. Abacha as president next year.

Stephen Mills, the Sierra Club's campaign director, echoed that sentiment. He questioned Gen. Abacha's sincerity about a transfer of power, noting that the Nigerian leader has never said he will relinquish it.

Owens Wiwa, the brother of executed Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, did not mince words. Mr. Wiwa called the transition process "a sham to deceive the West."

He accused Gen. Abacha of taking lessons from Ghanan President Jerry Rawlings, who first seized power in a military coup then took off his uniform and ran successfuly for president as a civilian.

According to Amnesty International, Nigeria's armed forces still occupy Ogoniland.

Mr. Akwei said the 7,000-member internal security task force boasts of its tactics to destabilize and attack villages. …