UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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 485 of events in West Africa (Monday 14 June)
NIGERIA: Warri declared disaster zone
Delta State Governor James Ibori has declared the troubled oil town of Warri a disaster zone so that his administration can provide relief for residents made homeless by last week's intercommunal fighting.
In a broadcast on Delta State television at the weekend, he announced that a Warri Urban Development Authority would be set up to rehabilitate the town. The body would also assess the damage to homes, identify their owners and provide some form of relief aid.
Youths, many of whom had been involved in last week's fighting that left up to 200 people dead, would get vocational training and work, he said. He also announced plans to buy back guns from the warring Ijaw, Urhobo and Itsekiri youths.
Underscoring these efforts to bring real change to the poverty-stricken Niger Delta, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced at the weekend that a new body was being created to build up the area, Nigerian radio reported on Saturday.
"We have reached an agreement on a body that will be responsible for the development of the Niger Delta," he said in Port Harcourt after a meeting with state governors and community leaders in the area. "We have also reached an agreement on what we should do in the immediate," he added.
Details of this deal would, he said, be made public shortly.
LIBERIA: WFP resumes operations in Voinjama
The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has resumed limited operations in northern Liberian town of Voinjama.
In its latest Emergency Report, WFP says that as of 10 June, 400 mt of food had been sent to Upper Lofa region, which includes Voinjama, for refugees and other activities. In the last week of May, WFP delivered food rations to some 5,630 Sierra Leonean refugees in Sinje Camp.
Food deliveries had been halted after gunmen kidnapped 17 UN staff members in Voinjama on 22 April. As a result, WFP lost 408 mt of its 660 mt food stock. Deliveries have resumed despite the looting of a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) warehouse on 6 June.
New ambassador to Sierra Leone named
Liberia has named Macdonald Bowen, 47, as its new ambassador to Sierra Leone, AFP quoted Sierra Leonean national radio as saying on Saturday.
The appointment could signal the beginning of improved relations between the two countries, AFP said. However, an African diplomat told IRIN that despite appearances, relations had been cordial.
Nevertheless, there have been many reports of strains in relations with Sierra Leone accusing Liberia of supporting dissidents trying to topple successive governments in Freetown since 1991. Liberia has always denied its involvement but acknowledged that 3,000 Liberian mercenaries have been fighting with the RUF for their personal gain.
SIERRA LEONE: Security Council extends UNOMSIL mandate
The Security Council has extended the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) by six months to 13 December.
In a weekend statement, the Council also said it had taken note of the UN Secretary-General's intention to make recommendations for a revised UNOMSIL concept of operations, should the ongoing peace talks between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Sierra Leonean government succeed in Lome, Togo.
"The Council emphasized the strong commitment of the international community to support a sustainable peace settlement," it said. The Council also called on the RUF to be more flexible in the peace process.
In his report to the Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said there had been "significant progress" in pursuing talks between the RUF and the government but he, too, called on the RUF to "show flexibility" in the interest of peace.
Talks still give hope for peace
Peace talks between the Sierra Leonean government and the RUF, deadlocked over power sharing in a transitional government, still have a chance of success, news organisations reported mediators as saying.
"There is a glimmer of hope," AFP quoted Togo's foreign minister, Joseph Koffigoh, as saying on Sunday. According to AFP, Koffigoh - whose nation chairs the 16-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
trying to broker a peace deal - said there had been agreement on the RUF turning into a political party.
Agreement had earlier been reached on key issues such as the release of POWs and the opening of highways for the delivery of humanitarian supplies, but not on an RUF demand for a transitional government in which the rebels would take part.
NIGER: Elections set for October-November
The first round of presidential elections will be held in Niger on 3 October, while 14 November is the date set for the second round and general elections, the Conseil electoral national independant (CENI) announced at the weekend.
The polls will be preceded by a referendum on 11 July at which Niger's people will vote on a new constitution drawn up by a committee appointed by the military government which seized power on 9 April and approved this month by a broad-based commission.
According to the Panafrican News Agency (PANA), CENI Chairman Issaka Sounna said on Saturday that the country needed some 4.11 billion CFA francs (about US $7 million) for the referendum and elections.
GUINEA: Local elections postponed
Guinea's government has postponed local elections from 29 June to December, Interior Minister Moussa Solano announced on Friday. The reason given for the postponement was "budget recession" according to AFP.
A media source in Conakry told IRIN the move was reportedly linked to the pressure presidential elections in 1998 and the cost of contributing troops to the Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) had put on the national treasury. Guinea has troops in Sierra Leone and, until recently, Guinea Bissau.
The source told IRIN that the Union pour le Progres (UPR), one of the largest opposition forces in the country, had criticised the postponement as illegal.
Abidjan, 14 June 1999, 18:25 GMT
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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