Letters - Letter of the week

I applaud Peter Stanford's article on the kleptocracy in Angola ("A strange kind of morality", 10 March). As I'm sure the author would agree, Angola is far from alone in Africa in being ruled by an elite acting purely out of self-interest. Nigeria,where I worked for two years, suffers similar problems.

In any government building, one can walk around and find many people sitting around doing nothing in offices with the air-conditioning and television on - while outside millions search for the means to earn a few pennies to survive. Industry and infrastructure stand no hope in a country where everyone is obsessed with latching on to the "government job" gravy train, with all its attendant bribes and patronage.

Equally shocking is western hypocrisy - there may well be as great a moral argument for smart sanctions on these countries as there is in the case of Zimbabwe. I used to visit a makeshift bar in Nigeria where I frequently heard ordinary people say: "We want you to stop our rulers from going on shopping trips in your country and spending all of our money."

I found it both hilarious and tragic last year to see the UK press work itself up into such a self-righteous lather over the northern Nigerian woman who was to be stoned to death under sharia law, and the Miss World contestants who withdrew as a result. This incident was not just the product of an idiotic medieval legal code, but also the direct result of a government that conspires to keep its people ignorant and illiterate, without clean water or infrastructure and locked in poverty - so that a few can enjoy the lifestyle of western millionaires. Yet who among the Miss World contestants and the foreign construction companies and contractors would ever say that they were pulling out in objection to so many Nigerians being welcomed with open arms at Harrods?

Peter Cook

This article first appeared in the 17 March 2003 issue of the New Statesman, What now?