To the Editors:

We write to express our horror at the announcement that the government of Nigeria has once more set out along the path of condemning to death one of our fellow writers: in this case our fellow laureate, Wole Soyinka.

Because we recall the tragic abuse of legality that led to the judicial murder of another fellow writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, by this same government, in 1995, we are bound to take with the greatest seriousness the threat to Soyinka’s life posed by these proceedings. Though Wole Soyinka is already living in exile, we hope he will be offered proper protection by the governments of all nations that respect fundamental human rights, because we cannot have confidence that his life is safe even outside Nigeria from a government so scornful of elementary principles of justice and humanity.

We stand in solidarity with him; and, in doing so, we stand in solidarity, as he would insist we should, with the others—many of them journalists and writers—who have been arrested, imprisoned, and assaulted in the course of the Nigerian government’s campaign to suppress all dissent.

While we speak today as writers for a brother writer, we know that he is in danger because of his work for all Nigerians. And so we stand, with him, in solidarity with the Nigerian people whose deprivation of the rights of democratic citizenship Wole Soyinka and many of those accused with him have made their cause. The Nigerian government has charged with treason against Nigeria a man who is surely one of that country’s most loyal sons.

Saul Bellow
Nadine Gordimer
Toni Morrison
Wislawa Szymborska
Seamus Heaney
Czeslaw Milosz
Kenzaburo Oe
Derek Walcott
PEN American Center
New York City

This Issue

April 24, 1997