Date: Tue, 21 NOV 1995 10:30:16 PST
From: Reuter / Felix Onuah <Cfirstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Nigerians berate Mandela at pro-government rally
ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuter) - Supporters of Nigeria's military government hanged effigies of President Clinton Tuesday and burned U.S. and British flags to protest the international outrage over the execution of nine minority right activists.
Effigies of South African President Nelson Mandela and British Prime Minister John Major were also hanged as drumming and traditional dancing gave the rally a carnival atmosphere.
"Shame on Mandela,'' said former presidential candidate Bashir Tofa to loud applause from thousands of Nigerians who turned out for the rally organized by pro-government groups.
Mandela has been a leading force in seeking to have sanction imposed on Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with some 100 million inhabitants.
Among the many anti-Mandela placards one, referring to his estranged wife, read "You betrayed Winnie, who next?'' Another said: "Mandela is biting the finger that fed him.''
No member of Gen. Sani Abacha's government was present at the rally which a police officer said was the largest crowd assembled in Abuja since it became capital in 1992.
Leaders of many Nigerian tribes addressed the crowd in local languages and called for support for the government.
Mandela, who previously pursued a policy of dialogue with the Nigerian military rulers, has come out strongly against the authorities after they defied worldwide appeals for clemency and hanged writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight kinsmen.
Nigeria, already under criticism over its human rights record and non-elected government, faced worldwide outrage over the Nov. 10 execution of the nine members of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni Peoples for the murder last year of four pro-government Ogoni chiefs.
The hangings prompted many governments to withdraw ambassadors and impose limited sanctions on Nigeria but these fell short of banning purchases of Nigerian oil, the military government's economic lifeblood.
Nigeria defends itself by saying the executed men were found guilty of murder and were not hanged because of their politics.
The government has said it would do more to explain its side of the situation to the outside world.
State radio said the governing Provisional Ruling Council and the Council of State which comprises state governors were meeting in Abuja to fashion Nigeria's official response.
It said Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi Tuesday met the Chinese ambassador and called for Chinese support of Nigeria.
Nigeria's cabinet met for six hours Monday and Health Minister Ihechukwu Madubuike said it agreed on the need for Nigeria to explain the events leading to the current stand-off with the international community.
The Abuja rally was the climax of rallies staged in many of Nigeria's 30 states and was organized by two pro-government groups: the Association of Concerned Citizens headed by Ademola Adebo, a former academic, and the National Unity Foundation.
The foundation was formed less than three weeks ago and is led by Olusegun Adeleye, a businessman.
"We are very happy with the turnout at such short notice,'' Adebo said.
Both men are from the Yoruba-speaking southwest, where opposition against Abacha is strongest. The previous military government annulled the 1993 presidential election which businessman Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba, was set to win.
Nigeria was plunged into political and economic crisis by the poll annulment. Abiola has been detained since proclaiming himself president last year.
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