Waging Peace: Nigeria
Since its independence from Great Britain in 1960 until its historic presidential election in 1999, Nigeria was under military rule for all but 10 years. For three decades, the country suffered from unfettered corruption and ethnic violence. After the death of dictator General Sani Abacha in June 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar rose to power and instituted democratic reforms. He legalized political parties, political prisoners were released, and the press operated unhindered. The Carter Center was invited to observe elections called for February 1999. Read full text >
Because a free press is vital to a strong democracy, The Carter Center arranged professional training workshops in 1999 for print and broadcast reporters in Nigeria covering the elections and political issues. Workshops focused on such topics as story structure, the media's role in free and fair elections, and how to deal with censorship and government interference. The project was a collaborative effort of the U.S. Information Service's Democracy and Governance Program, the Nigerian nongovernmental organization Media Rights Agenda, The Carter Center, and the DeWitt Wallace Center at Duke University in North Carolina.
To promote peace and democracy, The Carter Center often speaks out against human rights violations. In November 1995, President Carter wrote to Nigeria Head of State General Sani Abacha to express his "profound dismay and shock" at the execution of nine environmental and minority rights advocates, including Ken Saro-Wiwa. President Carter called on General Abacha to "release all other prisoners detained or convicted on the basis of the peaceful expression of their beliefs, to commute the sentences of other detainees facing capital punishment on politically inspired grounds, and to give full effect to the rule of law in Nigeria."
A letter also was sent to the secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations stating that the executions raised "serious questions as to Nigeria's continued good standing with the international community."
President Carter visited the Niger River Delta in February 1999 to meet with activists, who had grown more confrontational in protesting policies and practices of the government and major oil companies operating in the area.
After meetings with Ijaw Youth Council representatives and elders from the Ijaw, Urhobo, Isoko, Ogoni, and Itsekiri peoples, President Carter recommended consideration of several options. They included initiating a dialogue with representatives chosen by the Delta people themselves and establishing a clearer federal oil revenue-sharing formula to allow local and state officials in the Delta region to administer oil revenues for new roads and other projects. He also suggested that a social development trust fund be administered privately with local participation to support more such projects.