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Wednesday, June 3, 1998 Published at 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK

Mark Doyle

Mark Doyle with the former military leader of Sierra Leone

West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle answered your questions on Newstalk on Sunday 7 June.

To read the discussion click here

Mark Doyle was late in 1997 appointed the BBC's West Africa Correspondent. Mark has been a correspondent for domestic British TV and for the World Service Radio and World TV networks.

He has also worked as an editor co-ordinating BBC coverage of President Clinton's succesful re-election bid in 1996 and as a trainer of East European journalists in Moldova.

His most recent job before taking up the Abidjan-based West Africa post was as an editor in London - "Sending people off", he recalls "to difficult assignments which I now have to try and cope with myself!".

West Africa Correspondent

Mark covers a vast area which stretches from Mauritania in the Sahara Desert north of the region to Lubumbashi in Zaire's equatorial rain forest.

The 'patch', as journalists call their area, includes trouble spots such as Sierra Leone and countries like Senegal, to which he recently travelled to cover the end of President Clinton's historic tour of the continent.

[ image: Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone]
Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone
It's one of the largest and most varied areas covered by any BBC Correspondent. In February Mark was in Freetown, Sierra Leone, when a Nigerian-led West African intervention force ousted the illegal military junta and reinstalled the democratically elected government:

"It was a situation full of ironies", he says; "Nigeria has its own military regime, but the Nigerian soldiers who kicked out the unpopular junta were seen as heroes by most Sierra Leonians."

African expertise

Mark has worked in Africa before, having lived in, or visited, about half of the countries on the continent.

But although he is considered in London by some BBC Editors to be an 'expert' on the region, Mark shudders from this description of himself: "The little I have learnt about this place", he said, "makes me realise that I am very ignorant about it. It's a vast continent with huge differences between even neighbouring countries.

Like anywhere, it's full of ordinary people just getting on with thier personal, complicated lives. Anyone who claims to be an 'expert' on Africa - as if it were a homogenous region where simple rules apply - is either arrogant or just plain silly."

Mark Doyle first joined the BBC as a producer with the flagship African Service BBC programme 'Focus on Africa' in 1985, having previously worked with the human rights group Amnesty International and the Nigerian-owned weekly magazine 'West Africa'. He first visited the continent, he says "by accident".

"My girlfriend from university got a job in France in 1980 and I tried to get one too, so I could follow her", he said, "but the British organisation employing student teachers offered me one in Senegal instead. They asked me if I would like to go to Dakar, which, in my ignorance, I thought was in Bangladesh!".

Mark took the job in Dakar which led to his African connection and also stayed in touch with the ersthwhile woman student he was trying to follow to France. They now have a son, eight month-old Alex Doyle Jones.

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In this section

Jane Standley

Jim Muir

Bridget Kendall

Andrew Whitehead

David Eades

Carrie Gracie

Mark Doyle

Fergal Keane

Philippa Thomas

George Alagiah

Allan Little

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