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Cablegate: Civil Society Holds Rally Against Chogm And

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 002464

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE, BUT UNCLASSIFIED


PASS GUERNEY, LONDON AND NEARY, PARIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM SOCI XY NI
SUBJECT: CIVIL SOCIETY HOLDS RALLY AGAINST CHOGM AND
OBASANJO

REF: (A) LAGOS 2363 (B) LAGOS 2330


1. (U) SUMMARY: The United Action for Democracy
(UAD) held a rally in the Yaba district of Lagos on
December 3 to protest President Obasanjo's policies and
governance, as well as the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place December 5-8 in
Abuja. Mobile Police (MOPOL) arrested six persons,
including UAD leader Bamidele Aturu, and reportedly
beat several others. Journalists were allegedly
assaulted; and one news agency had its equipment and
film taken and its reporters were briefly detained.
The protestors remain in custody at the State Criminal
Investigation Department at Panti in Yaba. UAD
attorneys have requested their release on bail and
hoped to appear at their possible arraignment December
4. END SUMMARY.


--------------
THE YABA RALLY
--------------


2. (U) Press reports indicate that over 100 MOPOL,
armed with batons and AK-47s, had assembled at 0400 on
December 3 at the Yaba Bus Stop in anticipation of the
rally held later that day. UAD demonstrators
reportedly numbered 1,000 and were soon joined by a few
thousand more street traders from the nearby Yaba
market. After the rally reached Liberation Square in
Yaba, UAD leader Aturu chastised Obasanjo for
squandering the nation's wealth, pointing to the
example of Obasanjo's importation of bulletproof
Mercedes, reportedly worth 400 million USD, while the
rest of Nigerians live in abject poverty. "Obasanjo
believes the support of foreign governments will make
him survive, but the Nigerian people will disgrace him
before his masters," Aturu allegedly said referring to
the CHOGM. During Aturu's speech in the square, MOPOL
used tear gas to disperse the crowd and allegedly began
beating demonstrators with batons and gun butts. MOPOL
also assaulted a television crew from Minaj
Broadcasting International, confiscated its equipment
and film, and briefly detained the crew. Another one
from Galaxy Television reported being beaten, but was
able to keep its film footage. Human rights groups
reported minor injuries among the protestors.


3. (U) In a December 3 press release, the Civil
Liberties Organisation (CLO) listed the following
detainees, in addition to Aturu: Adebowale Balogun,
President of the Yoruba Revolutionary Movement,
Chairperson of the Yoruba Democratic Front, and a party
leader of the National Conscience Party (NCP); Kamilu
Mustapha of the Youth Democratic Front; Daga Tola and
Joseph Anua of the Democratic Socialist Movement; and
Joel Emerole of the Democratic Alternative. CLO claims
that their detention is illegal and infringes on their
constitutional rights of freedom of expression and
assembly. The Nigerian Police assert that the
protestors are being detained for not obtaining a
permit for the rally. As of December 5, the detainees
had yet to be arraigned.


--------------------------------
TENSIONS LEADING UP TO THE RALLY
--------------------------------


4. (U) The UAD, one of the lead organizations behind
the November strike threat over fuel deregulation, has
been agitating for the past several weeks and widely
publicized its intended rally (ref A). The UAD asserts
that in response to its vocal opposition of Obasanjo's
policies and its calls for his impeachment, the State
Security Service (SSS) has been harassing the group.
The CLO, which shares offices with UAD, reported that
SSS personnel visited the UAD secretariat on November
28 and issued "threats of clampdown," intimidated UAD
officials, and has been surveilling UAD members.
Newspapers have also reported that the Director of the
SSS has listed UAD as a "group perceived as a threat to
national peace." Alluding to the December 2 release of
the Human Rights Watch report alleging human rights
abuses by the Obasanjo government -- including torture,
intimidation, extra-judicial killings, and quelling of
public dissent in the press and society at large - the
CLO asserted that the violent dispersal of the rally
and the activities of the SSS "are increasing evidence
of the Obasanjo Government's attempts to stifle freedom
of expression."
5. (SBU) COMMENT: There is no doubt that there is much
discontent among the populace. Abject poverty, endemic
corruption, and the lack of accountability of the
federal, state, and local governments are issues
enflaming discontent. Civil Society has been
vocalizing Nigerians' dissatisfaction with the
Government more audibly ever since the July strikes
over fuel deregulation. Although Obasanjo successfully
prevented another strike over fuel deregulation in
November that would have coincided with the All-Africa
Games, Bamidele Aturu and his like-minded colleagues
continue to carry the torch of civil disobedience and
public outcry, no matter how dim the flame (ref B).
Their apparent defeat in November may have impeded
their efforts, but the rally seems to have motivated
Civil Society to continue agitating against the GON.
Nevertheless it has not yet generated broad support
amongst the body politic. END COMMENT.


HINSON-JONES

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