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Blair in Nigeria to Promote African Development Initiative - 2002-02-07


Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, is in Nigeria on the first leg of a west-African tour to promote an international initiative for development in Africa.

One of the goals of Mr. Blair's visit is to gather support for what is being called "a New Partnership for African Development." The plan calls for new international aid and investment in Africa to help put a stop to the continent's cycle of poverty and conflict.

This marks the first time a British Prime minister has set foot in the former British colony of Nigeria since 1988. The British leader is visiting a country where the threat of a new outburst of sectarian violence appears to be at an all-time high.

Last weekend, a fresh round of fighting broke out in Lagos between two of the country's largest ethnic groups, the Hausas and the Yorubas. This set off days of rioting that left parts of the city burning and more than 100 people dead. Only the deployment of the army in Lagos' Mushin district succeeded in putting a stop to the fighting.

It has been three years since Nigeria went from decades of military rule to an elected, civilian government. But the historic transition has led to fighting and massacres between some of the country's 250 ethnic groups.

Security forces have been deployed in several Nigerian states to prevent possible revenge killings in the wake of this week's riots in Lagos.

When the governor of Lagos visited the riot zone Wednesday, angry residents mobbed his car. They chanted insults at the official and called for a coup d'etat and a return to military dictatorship.

In the halls of the capital, in Abuja, Mr. Blair will be discussing ways of ending some of Africa's problems.

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