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Beware Nigerians bearing arms

Staff Reporter

THE decision by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to clear the way for a Nigerian military invasion of Sierra Leone is like seconding the Mafia to raid dope smokers at a high school. Nigeria’s corrupt and brutal military regime has had an enormous destabilising role in West Africa. Ordinary Liberians and Sierra Leoneans blame the Nigerian military junta and its ambitions for hegemony in West Africa for assisting the warlords and 20-something military captains in the ruination of their countries.

The popularity of the Nigerian military did not improve when they shelled Freetown from a gunboat last week. Nor did their generally inept performance, resulting in the capture of hundreds of Nigerian troops, inspire confidence. Ecowas - the Nigerian- controlled West African “peace-keeping” force that the OAU is relying on to restore stability - has been an unmitigated disaster in whichever unfortunate country it has been imposed.

The South African decision to back the OAU position, presumably in the interests of a phoney African solidarity, is as short- sighted as those nations that sought to reward Zairean dictator Mobuto Sese Seko in 1994 for providing refugee camps for Hutus.

If the OAU was really serious about standing up to the forces that impede democracy on the continent - as that great democrat and now OAU chairman Robert Mugabe claims it is - it should be assembling an intervention force to go into Nigeria and overthrow Sani Abacha who illegally came to power in a coup in 1993.

It should be lobbying for the accession to power of Moshood Abiola, whose election victory in 1992 was suspended by the military, and who languishes in prison. It should go for the big guys because, as in the case of Mobutu, they have the capacity to corrupt entire regions. But there is not a whisper even about economic sanctions against Abacha.

That is because restoring democracy is not what this “trade union of criminals” - as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni described them so succinctly last week - is seeking to achieve. Many of the current OAU leaders themselves came to power through military coups. The principle involved is not preventing military take-overs, but self- preservation.

Once again South Africa, one of the few members of the club that has real democratic credentials, has flunked the test of leadership. We should not be party to this farce.

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