The hanging of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in Nigeria has caused an outcry around the globe.
The hanging came at a very inopportune moment. John Major and Commonwealth leaders were meeting in New Zealand. Nigeria was of-course suspended from the Commonwealth.
The hangings also prompted world leaders to consider sanctions against the West African country. This includes a possible oil embargo - though it is not an "immediate option" yet - aimed at forcing its ruler, General Sani Abacha to keep his repeated promises to improve human rights.
Britain is leading the anti-Nigerian campaign. Horrified reactions have come from Clinton and Mandela. Waves of revulsion failed to soften the Nigerian defiance. Its Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi defended the military junta's actions saying Mr. Saro-Wiwa was guilty of "gruesome murders."
The mood in Britain is that of shock and horror.
The media is asking that the Nigerian government be taught a lesson.
But what lesson can you teach a bankrupt nation reeling under a burden of 23 billion pounds in unpaid debts and moving in the red every year?
The facts of the case have not been properly presented. There are those who portray Ken Saro-Wiwa as a gentleman who cared passionately about the destruction of his country by the oil industry and a corrupt government. There are others - a minority who believed that he did follow his protests by an armed rebellion. Whatever the facts, the outcome is well known.
This execution is bound to divide Africa. Too much of protestations will be viewed by Africans as an interference in African affairs.
Others think it will significantly improve human rights conditions in Africa.
Nelson Mandela has also been dragged in to the case. Why did he remain silent, asked many. Apart from dispatching Archbishop Desmond Tutu to talk to the Nigerians, he did not do much. I doubt whether Mandela's intervention would have saved Saro-Wiwa's life. But his words of protests would have carried weight. On the other hand, criminal charges against Saro-Wiwa were "clearly established" by the Nigerian government.
The regime committed some grave errors. By holding them incommunicado and denying them access to defense lawyers or contact with their families, it lost whatever little credibility it had.
I believe court cases of this nature should be tried openly.
The defense should have the same rights and privileges as the prosecution. Open court cases do not leave any doubt or suspicion. If the government had a strong case and proved its charges, it has the right to implement its verdict.
If the defense can prove otherwise it too has its rights. It also has the right of appeal.
It is unfortunate that in many countries that obtained freedom from colonial rule the spirit and letter of the law spelled out in the judiciary system of these countries is not being followed.