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 489 of events in West Africa (Friday 18 June)
SIERRA LEONE: Power-sharing problems
There were varied reactions in Lome to a stay-at-home protest in Freetown against power-sharing between the government and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
An RUF spokesman told IRIN he felt the protest was the work of the government while a government minister hinted that there had been some misunderstanding in Freetown about the Lome process.
Thursday's stay-in was organised by a coalition of groups representing workers, human rights advocates, vendors, drivers and transporters. It came a day after Togolese Foreign Minister Joseph Koffigoh, chair of the mediation committee at talks in Lome between Sierra Leone's government and the RUF, was quoted as telling reporters the two sides had agreed to share power.
[See separate item titled 'SIERRA LEONE: Power-sharing problems'
RUF rebels released 21 children this week in Kontakuma, some 115 km northeast of Freetown, RUF legal representative Omrie Golley told IRIN.
A senior official with the regional peacekeeping force,ECOMOG, told AFP the children had been with the rebels in Lunsar, some 90 km northeast of Freetown. They reportedly walked some 25 km from Lunsar to Kontakuma. The children were given food and drink by ECOMOG before being taken to the capital in Freetown, AFP reported.
Deterioration in humanitarian situation
"The humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone has deteriorated with the advent of the rainy season," according to the most recent report by the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU).
The Sierra Leone government and aid agencies lack the capacity to meet the most urgent needs of rising numbers of displaced, the report adds.
Humanitarian agencies have expressed particular concern over the condition of the displaced living in Kenema, Daru and Blama in Sierra Leone's Eastern Province. Although Kenema has the largest concentration of displaced outside Freetown, it has the least "humanitarian capacity" according to HACU.
According to MERLIN - one of the few agencies operational in the Kenema area - household food insecurity is a serious problem with 6 percent of the population living off the bush and 20 percent relying on relief food. As there has been no general food distribution since April, more and more displaced have been admitted to MERLIN's therapeutic feeding centre, stretching the agency's capacity.
Humanitarian access improves
Although the signing of the ceasefire did not immediately translate into "free and unhindered access" into much of northern Sierra Leone, it enabled relief agencies to assess some RUF-occupied areas. HACU interprets the apparent success of these missions, during which RUF soldiers were encountered without incident, as a measure of the rebels' commitment to peace.
In the coming weeks the humanitarian community in Sierra Leone hopes to conduct inter-agency assessment missions by road and helicopter to areas which have so far been inaccessible. For each of these missions, agencies maintain, the security of humanitarian personnel and beneficiaries must be guaranteed.
HACU notes that humanitarian priorities were among the first set of issues upon which the parties to the conflict at Lome reached agreement. "These have been taken as a clear mandate for humanitarian assistance across the entire country independent of a final peace settlement," HACU said.
CHILDREN:ILO approves new convention on child labour
Member states of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Thursday adopted a landmark treaty, the "Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 1999", aimed at saving children worldwide from the worst types of hazardous and exploitative work.
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said the ILO would immediately launch a campaign for the ratification of the treaty, which was adopted in Geneva at the ILO's annual session.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the convention as "a victory for children everywhere and especially for the tens of millions who are working, often in hazardous conditions, at an age when they should be at school".
"I trust that all States will ratify the Convention swiftly and act on it, so that children are truly protected from slavery, conscription, prostitution and other gross violations of their human rights," he said in a statement.
The new treaty, which will apply to all children under the age of 18, calls on countries to prohibit and eliminate "as a matter of urgency" the worst forms of child labour and exploitative practices - such as slavery, debt bondage and child prostitution - and bans the forced recruitment of child soldiers.
The treaty also requires ratifying countries to provide support for removing children from dangerous labour and ensure access to education or vocational training and says the "special situation of girls" should be taken into account.
According to ILO estimates, some 250 million children between 5 and 14 years of age work in developing countries, with about half working full time. Other ILO surveys show that 50 million to 60 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 worldwide work in hazardous circumstances.
According to ILO's most recent statistics, about 80 million of the roughly 250 million children who work in developing countries worldwide are in Africa.
According to the ILO, the main suppliers of child labour in West Africa are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Togo and the principal recipients Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Benin and Nigeria fall into both categories.
Africa has the highest proportion of working children aged 5 to 14: an estimated 41 percent, but percentages vary from country to country. In Ghana, for example, 13.3 percent of children aged are workers, as against 54.2 percent in Mali.
[See IRIN background report on 'Child Labour in West Africa']
BURKINA FASO: State committee wants presidential guards arrested
A committee of elders exploring crimes of impunity in Burkina Faso has urged the authorities to arrest those responsible for torturing and killing a driver who worked for the president's brother, media organisations reported.
David Ouedraogo, who worked for President Blaise Compaore's younger brother, Francois, was tortured by members of the presidential guard and died from his injuries in January 1998. A journalist investigating the case, Norbert Zongo, was found dead on 13 December 1998.
According to AFP, the 16-member committee said in a statement issued Thursday that it "has demanded the arrest of individuals whose responsibility for David Ouedraogo's death has been clearly established".
President Compaore set up the committee - made up of three former heads of state, traditional and religious leaders, and resource persons - in early June in response to the social unrest that followed Zongo's murder.
The committee is expected to issue a report around mid-July.
GUINEA BISSAU: New Attorney General
Guinea Bissau's Interim President Malam Bacaï Sanha has appointed lawyer Amine Saad as attorney general, Lusa reported.
Saad, who stepped down earlier as secretary-general of the former opposition Uniao para a Mudanca party, replaces Juliano Fernandes, who resigned three months ago.
Abidjan, 18 June 1999, 18:23 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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