to Sierra Leone
Sir: The approval given by Britain, the US, the UN and the Commonwealth to Nigeria's involvement in Sierra Leone is alarming. There might have been a chance of a negotiated settlement until General Abacha saw an opportunity to make political hay at Sierra Leone's expense. His well-meaning but naive sponsors have sent an arsonist to put out a fire.
How could anyone believe that a dictator who has for the last three years kept his own country's freely elected president, Chief Moshood Abiola, locked in solitary confinement without trial, has suddenly become a fervent protector of democratic principles? The Nigerian army had tanks on the streets of Lagos on 12 June to suppress any expression of dissent by fellow countrymen on the fourth anniversary of the annulment of their democracy, and yet we are led to believe that the soldiers in Freetown are there to do precisely the opposite.
Had the free world acted similarly against their new-found paladin when he and his cohorts stole the will of the Nigerian people in June 1993 then maybe West Africa would have been more stable and more likely to embrace democracy.
No time should be lost in making all approvals subject to, at the very least, agreed terms of engagement to protect the civilian population. The Nigerian army has a rather loose way with people's lives and the navy is quite happy to shell indiscriminately from off the coast.
Norton Canes, Staffordshire
The writer was personal assistant to Chief Abiola, 1993-95