IRIN-West Africa Update 144, 98.2.12

IRIN-West Africa Update 144, 98.2.12

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 144 of Events in West Africa, (Thursday) 12 February 1998

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG troops enter Freetown

Troops from the Nigerian-led West African intervention force, ECOMOG, fought their way into Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, on Thursday, AFP reported. According to an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman in Geneva quoted by the news agency, Nigerian troops were now massed near Freetown's parliament building. "The noose is tightening," the spokesman said. Earlier, ECOMOG's commander in Sierra Leone, Colonel Max Khobe, said ECOMOG would capture all of Freetown in three to four days, the BBC reported. According to Khobe, ECOMOG troops had already wrested major sections of the city from Sierra Leone's ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Khobe said there had been little AFRC resistance.

ECOMOG has been battling for control of Freetown for the past week after skirmishes with the AFRC developed into an all-out attempt to oust the military government and restore Sierra Leone's civilian president Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, deposed in last May's coup.

Media sources reported at least four bombs fell on the city's western district on Wednesday night, while intense fighting continued on Thursday morning in both west and east Freetown. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), upwards of 3,000 people had converged on its offices in Freetown looking for shelter. Media reports said other people had gathered in a primary school and the national stadium as ECOMOG and the AFRC exchanged artillery fire.

According to the BBC, the city's main hospital was still functioning, but had been overwhelmed by casualties, mostly suffering from shrapnel wounds. MSF on Thursday called for a ceasefire to allow more wounded to be brought to the hospital.

International reaction

On Wednesday night, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for an end to the fighting. In a statement released in New York, Annan said he was concerned at heavy shelling posing serious risks for the safety of civilians. "It is of paramount importance that all parties facilitate the free access of humanitarian agencies," Annan said. Security Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka also told reporters on Tuesday that the council was concerned at ECOMOG's military action. One ambassador to the UN reportedly told Reuters ECOMOG had no authority from the Security Council to attack Freetown.

Human rights abuses

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International (AI) said civilians in Freetown had been deliberately killed during fighting this week. An AI news release said it had received reports that AFRC forces, joined by Liberian fighters, had been going on a house-to-house search for suspected Kabbah supporters. AI said civilians in south and east Sierra Leone also faced ill-treatment by AFRC forces as well as Kamajor militia, who support Kabbah's restoration. According to AI, unarmed civilians are being tortured and killed by both sides.

AFRC official arrested in Guinea

In a separate development, Liberia's independent Star Radio reported a senior AFRC official was arrested on Wednesday in the Guinean capital, Conakry. According to the Monrovia-based station, Secretary of State for Transport Moshood Williams had already been in Conakry for two days. A spokesman for Kabbah confirmed Williams had been arrested. Two more AFRC "sympathisers" had been detained as well, the spokesman told Star.

LIBERIA: UN launches Liberia appeal

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched a US$ 70 million appeal on Wednesday to meet humanitarian needs in Liberia following the end of the country's seven-year civil war. An OCHA statement said more than 1.4 million people were still affected by the recent fighting, despite considerable progress in normalising the political and security situation in the country. The UN appeal aimed at providing support for the resettlement and reintegration of vulnerable groups in Liberia, including internally displaced people, refugees, ex-combatants and child soldiers, the statement said.

Minister denies insecurity in southeast

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea has denied claims that parts of south-eastern Liberia are insecure, independent Star Radio reported on Thursday. Chea said such claims were intended to create fear among people living in the south-east of the country. Chea was reportedly reacting to a US State Department travel advisory which warned rebels were active in rural Liberia. The minister said the Liberian security forces were in full control.

NIGERIA: Rights groups condemn consensus candidate proposal

Nigerian human rights groups on Wednesday condemned proposals that Nigeria's Head of State General Sani Abacha stand as a cross-party consensus candidate in August's presidential elections, AFP reported. According to media reports, politicians from four of the five registered parties earlier this week proposed that Abacha should continue in office as a civilian president after the promised return to democracy in October. However, Tunji Abayomi, spokesperson for a coalition of 18 human rights and pro-democracy groups, told a news conference in Lagos the plan amounted to a continuation of military rule. The purpose of political parties is to compete fairly and not "foist any consensus candidate on Nigerians", he said.

Abacha has not yet said whether he will take part in the elections, but is widely believed to want to stay in office, AFP said. Nigeria has been ruled by soldiers for all but 10 years since independence from Britain in 1960.

Police break up anti-government demonstration

Nigerian police broke up an anti-government demonstration on Wednesday by hundreds of Shia Muslims in Kaduna, 150 km north of the capital Abuja, media reports said. According to the BBC, eyewitnesses said one man was shot in the arm and several others injured when police fired into the air to disperse the crowd. Demonstrators from the Muslim Brotherhood were protesting against the continued detention of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zak-Zaky. The sheikh has been in detention since 1996 for inciting the public against Abacha and was charged on Tuesday with publishing anti-government propaganda.

SENEGAL: Army kills 13 separatists

The Senegalese army has killed some 13 members of the Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) in an operation this week against the separatist group in Casamance, AFP reported. According to AFP sources, the army caught and killed the separatists when an MFDC attempt to ambush a bus failed. Casamance separatists claim the region in southern Senegal is marginalised by the Dakar government.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Government denies Nigerian killings allegations

The government of Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday described reports by the official Nigerian press agency that hundreds of Nigerian workers had been killed in Guinea as "tendentious", news organisations reported. A Foreign Ministry statement quoted by AFP said the reports were "baseless" and aimed at disrupting the "excellent" relations between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) claimed earlier this week that security forces had killed hundreds of Nigerians following violent clashes between the Bubis from Bioko island and the mainland Fangs last month.

MALI: Thirteen political parties boycott local elections

Thirteen Malian opposition parties on Wednesday announced that they would not participate in the municipal elections slated for April 1998, AFP reported. A spokesman for the opposition coalition, Mountaga Tall, criticised the government for unilaterally setting a date for the municipal elections. Tall added that there was also disagreement over the voters' list.

WEST AFRICA: Clinton to visit Ghana and Senegal

The US government on Wednesday announced the US President Bill Clinton would begin a sixteen-day African tour on 22 March, news organisations reported. He would be visiting Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana and Senegal. A White House spokesman said Clinton's visit was intended to highlight the new American partnership with Africa, which was regarded as a vibrant continent increasingly open to democracy and free market philosophy. Clinton is the first US President to visit sub-Saharan Africa for 20 years.

ECOWAS to meet in Abuja

Heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will meet in Abuja on Tuesday, AFP reported. Quoting the ECOWAS secretariat, AFP said the meeting would discuss economic issues, notably a proposal to create a single currency for the 16 member states. Nigeria currently holds the rotating ECOWAS chairmanship.

Abidjan, 12 February 1998, 19:00 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN West Africa, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-WA Tel: +225 21 73 66 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: for more information or subscription. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the Web at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to . Mailing list: irin-wa-updates]


Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 18:56:12 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 144, 98.2.12 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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