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Tuesday, December 2, 1997 Published at 10:42 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Hilary Andersson ]Hilary Andersson

Nigeria's military leader, General Sani Abacha, has criticised the west for trying to force western-style democracies on African countries. Speaking in the capital, Abuja, whilst addressing a conference on militaries, democracies and security in sub-Saharan Africa, he said the west was guilty of double standards because it condoned monarchies in some places, whilst demanding Western-style democracies in others. From Lagos, Hilary Andersson reports.

General Abacha appealed to the international community to understand what he called the special circumstances in African countries and emphasised his favourite theme - the need for security.

With carefully chosen words, General Abacha made the point that military regimes were better at ensuring security than democratic governments. This is not the first time an African leader has complained that western-style democracy is not appropriate in Africa, a continent in which ethnic divisions have led to many civil wars.

Leaders like Kenya's Daniel arap Moi have long argued that Africa needs its own-style democracy. In many places, this is translated into one-party states.

Nigerian seems to be gearing up for a similar scenario, since three of the five political parties have expressed support for the idea of adopting General Abacha himself as a common candidate in next year's presidential elections. State television here reinforces the message that strong government is paramount by repeatedly running an advert with past scenes of the chaos in Somalia and Rwanda and asking if this is what Nigerians want, too.

An influential part of Nigeria's establishment supports the idea of General Abacha staying on in power as a civilian President, saying that this is the way to slowly work the military out of Nigerian politics. Many ordinary Nigerians, though, are impatient and want democracy with real choices right away.

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