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Africa’s democratic cloak

Multi-party democracy has scored few successes since it swept through sub-Saharan Africa five years ago. Imposed by western aid donors, it has failed to alleviate corruption, tribalism and civil war. Can Africa grow its own democratic culture? Nelson Mandela's denunciation of the Nigerian regime is a first step. Mark Huband reports

By Mark Huband   January 1996

Late one evening in November 1989 a confidential telex message arrived on the desk of the national assembly president in the Atlantic Ocean port city of Cotonou. Two pages of instructions laid out the future of the country to which the message had been sent-the tiny African state of Benin.

The telex had been tapped out in the heart of Paris, in the wing of the Elysée Palace reserved for the cellule Africaine, the bureau attached to the French presidency, not the French foreign ministry. From there, most important decisions regarding France’s Africa policy are made-at that time by former…

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