Page 21 - FSJ June 2012

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came with a small entourage, further
widening my circle of ANC contacts.
The fact that I’d spent most of my
career in Africa enhanced my credibil-
ity, as did my maiden speech at a major
Johannesburg gala evening of CEOs, in
which I laid out in stark terms the dis-
astrous course on which the apartheid
leadership was taking the country and
the need for dramatic change.
Although my relations with the
apartheid government of Pres. De
Klerk were correct, U.K. Ambassador
Robin Renwick tended to take the lead
in dealing with it, while we concen-
trated on cultivating ties to the black
South African leadership. But to show
sensitivity to Afrikaner culture, I took
lessons in Afrikaans (helped by my flu-
ency in German) and used it when I
could, including at church — though I
usually attended a different black
African church each Sunday.
FSJ:
Reflecting on your year as U.S.
ambassador to Nigeria (1992-1993),
you’ve been quoted as expressing regret
that you were unable to dissuade Pres-
ident Gen. Ibrahim Babangida from
canceling national elections, leading to
a long delay in the country’s return to
democracy. Two decades later, how do
you assess Nigeria’s progress?
WLS:
Actually, the elections had al-
ready been held; it was the vote count-
ing that Babangida did not like,
because his opponent, M.K.O. Abiola,
was well ahead. Street protests over
the government’s decision to annul the
process caused many deaths in the
streets of Lagos and other large cities,
and led to the imprisonment of leading
political figures like former President
Olesegun Obasanjo. That unrest is why
I recommended toWashington that we
evacuate the embassy.
Over the past two decades, Nigeria
has returned to elected leadership and
an alternation of power. But the gov-
ernment now faces another kind of
challenge: reconciling the various eth-
nic and religious communities within
Africa’s largest population, while striv-
ing to attract investment, boost the
economy and create jobs to reduce the
economic imbalances within Nigerian
society.
Having led two United Nations
peacekeeping missions, I want to ap-
plaud Nigeria’s contributions to peace-
keeping, both within the Economic
Community of West African States re-
gional framework and in missions on
behalf of the U.N.
FSJ:
You then spent five years as
ambassador to Port-au-Prince, from
1993 to 1998. During that period, a
U.S.-led multinational force returned
exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide to office three years after a mil-
itary coup had ousted him. Looking
back, do you feel Aristide’s return ad-
vanced democracy in Haiti?
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