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Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 12:01 GMT

World: Africa

Jesse Jackson begins West Africa mission

Jackson says there are positive signs for democracy

President Clinton's special envoy for Africa, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, is in Nigeria at the start of a four-nation tour of West Africa to try to promote stability in the region.

Jesse Jackson on BBC Newshour: "Signs of ... a morning of new hope"
The American civil rights leader is due to meet the new military leader, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and other senior officials.

Mr Jackson told the BBC he had been impressed by the way General Abubakar had begun to carry out his promises of democratic reform.

He will also see representatives of the Ogoni ethnic minority on the eve of the third anniversary of the execution of nine activists, including the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Encourage democracy

The main purpose of Mr Jackson's visit - which also takes in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ghana - is to drive home a message first spelt out by President Clinton during his grand tour of the continent earlier this year.

[ image: General Abubakar:
General Abubakar: "A leader of stature and strength"
He will be telling his hosts that the US wants to encourage democracy in Africa; feels that trade rather than aid should be the focus for future partnerships; and that Washington is ready to help Africa address its own security problems.

Mr Jackson said that hope was rising again in Nigeria after what he termed "the tremendous trauma" of General Abacha's leadership.

Political activity was suppressed when the late General Abacha came to power following the annulment of the last democratic elections in 1993.

BBC Lagos Correspondent, Hilary Andersson: "Free party politics are back in Nigeria"
But with the recent registration of nine political parties there are signs that free party politics are returning to the country for the first time in five years.

General Abubakar's new military government, which took power when General Abacha unexpectedly died in June, has promised democratic elections early next year and the race for the presidency has already begun.

Positive signs

[ image: Chief Abiola, who died in July, is presumed to have won the 1993 elections]
Chief Abiola, who died in July, is presumed to have won the 1993 elections
Out of the nine parties registered only those which prove in local elections next month that they have significant nationwide support will be allowed to contest next year's national elections.

Mr Jackson says he hopes that his visit will encourage the Nigerian leader to continue the democratisation process that he had started.

"We've not reached the high noon of democracy yet, but there are some very good signs."

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