Olusegun Obasanjo
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Human Rights Award 1996

Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria

Political context

Nigeria, like many other African states, is a construct of European colonial policy. Economic interests and the quest for expanding the political sphere of influence led the Great Powers, such as France or Great Britain, to split the Continent of Africa between each other. In 1861, Great Britain started to consolidate several states and thereby several ethnicities into one colony on today's territory of Nigeria. After the declaration of Independence in 1960, a fight for political power and influence emerged among the different ethnic groups and tribes. Besides several military dictatorships (the military dictatorship under Sani Abacha 1995-1998 was one of the worst), democratic powers tried many times to find a peaceful way to reconciliate the different ethnic groups and tribes in the country. Even today, there are many internal civil commotions in Nigeria.

Olusegun Obasanjo at the UN, N.Y.

The Awardee

On May 6th, 1996 the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung honoured Olusegun Obasanjo for his engagement in the democratisation process in Nigeria and the reconciliation of the ethnic groups and tribes, who fought against each other during the several military dictatorships and civil wars. In his position as president of state from 1976 to 1979, he vehemently defended the democratisation of the country and delegated his power to a freely elected government in 1979. He condemned the several military dictatorships in the 80s and 90s, who he hold liable for the difficult situation of the country. Furthermore, he actively supported the work of international organisations engaging in democracy, human rights and peace promotion. Olusegun Obasanjo was re-elected as state president in 1999. After his pro-longed presidential term in 2003, he didn't want to run again for election in 2007 and supported the current president Umaru Yar’Adua in his election campaign.

The human rights award was handed over to Obasanjo’s wife Stella, because Olusegun was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1995 under the Abacha military dictatorship. The prison sentence was abandoned in 1998, because the military dictatorship ended with the death of Abacha.

Further Information
Publications Speeches on the Human Rights Award 1996 Links Website of the FES Department for Africa (German) Website of the FES Office Nigeria

Origin of photo material
© United Nations photographs
Cover picture: UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe
Further photo material: UN Photo / Mark Garten