UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21-63-35
Fax: +225 21-63-35
IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 10-97 of Main Events in West Africa covering period 19-25 August 1997
[The weekly roundups are based on relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and the media. IRIN-WA issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community, but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original source. Please note IRIN-WA's daily round-up for Monday is included in this report.]
SIERRA LEONE - Subject of up-coming ECOWAS summit
The planned meeting in Guinea between Guinean President Lansana Conte and the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Major Johnny Paul Koroma, at the end of last week failed to take place, as did a previous meeting at the beginning of the month. Koroma said he was unable to attend due to "domestic problems". However, an AFRC delegation arrived in Guinea on 23 August to discuss the upcoming summit of the 16-member nation Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).
In view of the two-day ECOWAS summit scheduled to open in Abuja, Nigeria on 28 August, the Nigerian head-of-state General Sani Abacha paid short visits to Ivorian president, Henri Konan Bedie, Guinean president Lansana Conte, Malian President Alpha Oumar Konore and Burkinabe president Blaise Compaore during the week. Though little information trickled from these meetings, the restoration of democratic rule in Sierra Leone and ECOWAS economic objectives and security in the sub-region were apparently discussed. Abacha told Nigerian television that ECOWAS had "wasted time" on the situation in Sierra Leone and that consultation amongst all ECOWAS members was important for a unified response to the situation.
UN Special Representative Tuliameni Kalomoh and the chief military observer for the UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), Major-General Sikandar Shami, are expected to attend the summit along with a Sierra Leonean delegation led by ousted President Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
The AFRC claims that the main issue of contention is still the reinstatement of Kabbah and has also called on summit leaders to take into consideration the fact that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels have put aside their bush war and been consolidated into the governing body.
SIERRA LEONE - Fighting and refugee flight continues
Renewed fighting was again reported on 23 August at Lungi international airport, 15 kms from Freetown, between AFRC forces and ECOMOG troops. Both accused the other of initiating the conflict. Earlier in the week, the AFRC had restricted all river traffic fearing an river-born attack on Freetown by Kamajor militia loyal to President Tejan Kabbah. A student protest scheduled for 18 August was called off but heightened tensions in Freetown led to the death of at least one student and the arrest of 35 people. A curfew from 22:00 to 06:00 has been in place since 18 August.
Heavy fighting between AFRC forces and Kamajor units erupted near Bo on 21 August when the Kamajor tried to capture a military garrison in the area. According to humanitarian sources several incidents of fighting have been reported, the most volatile area being the far southeast - Kenema south to Zimmi and along the Liberian border.
Heavy fighting along the border area resulted in new groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and a new wave of refugee arrivals in Liberia. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) reported the creation of new IDP camps, notably in Makeni north of Freetown. In Liberia, nearly 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees were also moved to Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County from Tiene due to cross border shelling. A refugee spokesperson said that food availability was a growing concern amongst the refugees, who would have preferred to remain in Tiene due to the accessibility of food from the nearby palm plantation.
Humanitarian agencies have reported a steady increase in reported cases of malnutrition and related illnesses in recent weeks, especially amongst IDPs. Cross-border emergency relief operations conducted from Guinea have been impeded by the enforcement of ECOWAS sanctions. NGOs and UN agencies in Conakry are appealing the decision to block humanitarian aid to ECOWAS, reported Refugees International. ICRC also reported that it was prepared to remind ECOWAS members of the provisions of international humanitarian law regarding what can and can not be subject to embargo.
LIBERIA - Financial crisis
President Charles Taylor in a nation-wide address blamed the country's dismal financial situation on poor management by previous governments. He said uncontrolled spending and borrowing had depleted the treasury, leaving the government with only US$ 17,000. Liberia's domestic debt stands at US$ 200 million and some US$ 2.5 million is owed in civil service salary arrears. The foreign debt stands at US$ 3 billion. Taylor promised to solicit the support of the international financial community while endeavouring to exercise strong financial measures in Liberia.
The chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Banking and Currency said the circulation of two bank notes of unequal value, the Liberty and the JJ Roberts, was hindering commercial transactions. The Committee is expected to begin public hearings on the issue. Taylor had previously promised to buy up some of the old currency and re-introduce the US dollar as legal currency.
LIBERIA - Veterans office created
In his address, Taylor also announced the creation of an office of Veteran's Affairs under the Ministry of Defence to address the needs of former combatants, especially wounded fighters. Given the number of able-body unemployed soldiers this office is expected to be a key element in continued stability within Liberia.
LIBERIA - Security still a priority
The commander of the West African Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG), Major-General Victor Malu, called on ECOMOG forces and Liberians to remain alert and to report individuals who may have arms or weapons in their possession. ECOMOG and the Liberian police embarked on a massive joint patrol to check the wave of crime which has hit the city since the elections and the lifting of the curfew and reduction in check-points. Liberia's Foreign Ministry also announced the issuance of new passports to curb the fraudulent use of illegally obtained passports.
The 300-member UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) will terminate its operations when its mandate runs out on 30 September. UNOMIL was created four years ago to assist ECOMOG with peacekeeping operations in Liberia. In its place, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed the creation of a UN Peace-building Support Office.
NIGERIA - South African appeals to Nigeria
South African foreign minister, Alfred Nzo, appealed on 20 August to the Nigerian government to make a political gesture before the Commonwealth heads of state summit to be held in Edinburgh in October. Nzo warned that if no positive action was taken by the Nigerian government it risked continued suspension from the Commonwealth or expulsion. The foreign minister said that the release of political prisoners would be considered a positive development. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is scheduled to meet in late September to review developments in Nigeria since its last meeting in July. The CMAG had invited Nigerian opposition groups to make a presentation on Nigeria's human rights' records and the electoral process in the July meeting. It indicated that information received from opposition groups and human rights groups such as Amnesty International (AI) and the International Crisis Group (ICG) would be used to formulate its recommendations on the imposition of sanctions to the Commonwealth Summit in October.
NIGERIA - Continued Commonwealth membership questioned
Nigerian foreign minister Tom Ikimi stated that his country would not bow to blackmail by western nations, challenging the national committee mandated with charting the country's economic and political future, Vision 2010, to advise the military government on whether Nigeria should remain in the British-led Commonwealth. The 53-member organisation that shares colonial history with Britain, suspended Nigeria in the aftermath of the November 1995 execution of nine minority rights leaders, including writer and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.
In a 46-page policy statement before the national committee, Ikimi noted that the suspension from the Commonwealth was "stage-managed and calculated to endanger the country" in order to appease human right activists. He further insisted that Nigeria was favourably disposed to dialogue in resolving the impasse. He criticised the Commonwealth for "giving unlimited platform to Nigerian dissidents" which had shaken his confidence in "the Commonwealth's impartiality".
Apart from the Commonwealth, Nigeria is also under a regime of sanctions from the European Union and the United State - an arms embargo and visa restrictions on top officials has been in place for some time. Ikimi remarked that Nigeria needed envoys who are thoroughly "professional and non-partisan". The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, a noted critic of the country's military regime, is due to leave his post in October to take up a position at Harvard University. Carrington, who took up his appointment in November 1993, has criticised the regime for its human rights' record and its slow return to democratic rule. Carrington was summoned several times by the government and most recently asked to explain a 17 December statement by the US State Department warning of possible bomb attacks at Nigerian airports. Ikimi also accused the European Union of meddling in Nigerian affairs and allowing "unfettered" access to Nigerian dissidents and opponents of the military regime.
NIGERIA - Clashes in southern Nigeria leave 50 dead
Clashes between two feuding communities in south-western Osun state have left up to 50 dead in a flare-up of old rivalry between people of Yoruba stock, one of the three main tribes in Nigeria. Despite a curfew imposed upon the Ife and Modakeke communities on Sunday 17 August, last week's violence continued. The violence, which included burning people alive, erupted after a decision on 14 August by the local government to relocate its headquarters from Modakeke to Oke-Ogbo, an Ile-Ife controlled town. The local council's headquarters was also moved in March from Enuwa, where it had been housed in the former palace of the traditional Ife king. Some 5,000 youths from Modakeke took to the streets of Ife to protest, chanting war songs and insulting the Ife monarch. Ensuing clashes required riot police. The two towns have been devastasted. At least 70 people have been killed and many have fled. Local press reports claimed that the Obafemi Awolowo University Hospital Centre located on the outskirts of Ife had started to reject corpses and patients as its facilities were overstretched.
In a television address on Thursday military administrator, Anthony Obi, defended the government's decision to relocate the local council. He explained that the creation of the council was seen by the government as an avenue for people in the troubled area to work together and develop their communities rather than engage in communal feuds. On Thursday, 22 suspects appeared before an Ile-Ife magistrate's court on charges of arson and rioting. The area has been reported as calm since Friday.
NIGERIA - Ogonis detainees commence hunger strike
A group of at least 19 Ogoni prisoners held in Port Hartcout prison, Port Hartcourt, Rivers State announced a hunger-strike to protest against the government's decision to stall court proceedings against them. Amnesty International (AI) has expressed serious concern for their well-being given that many are already in poor health due to deplorable prison conditions. In August 1995, a fellow accused, Clement Tusima, died in detention as a result of the conditions. Most of the detainees were arrested in 1994 after the murder of four Ogoni traditional rulers and are awaiting trial by the same special tribunal and on identical murder charges to those which were used to execute Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight Ogoni colleagues. According to AI, the authorities have blocked all the prisoners' attempts to be brought to trial or released. The government has appealed against a Federal High Court decision in July 1997 which stated that the government did not have jurisdiction to decide on the prisoner's application for release. Projects Underground, an activist group, claimed that the detainees were being held because they opposed Shell, the Anglo-Dutch petroleum company, for the devastation of their land.
Shell announced on Wednesday that saboteurs had deliberately spilled 2,000 barrels of oil from its pipeline in Nigeria's southern Bayelsa state. According to the same source, more than 36,500 barrels of oil have been spilled from Shell's facilities in 41 separate sabotage incidents.
NIGERIA - Nigerian opposition locked out of Abiola's residence
Pro-democracy and human rights groups organised a ceremony in Lagos on Sunday to mark the 60th birthday of Moshood Abiola, detained presidential candidate, but had to change the venue at the request of Abiola's family. His family said that it would not allow the ceremony to be held at his residence for fear that security agents may seize the opportunity to descend on opposition members and that there was no cause for celebration until Abiola was released from detention. Those who had assembled before Abiola's residence relocated to the home of prominent lawyer Chief Gani Fawehinwi. AFP reported that there was no noticeable government security presence at the ceremony.
Abiola, a millionaire newspaper owner, has been in detention since June 1994, after he declared himself president on the basis of the June 1994 presidential elections, which he claimed to have won. The elections were annulled by the then military administration of Ibrahim Babangida. This decision sparked a series of demonstrations and civil disobedience movements.
NIGERIA - ECOWAS ministerial council opens in Abuja
The three-day meeting of the ECOWAS ministerial council was opened on Saturday by Nigeria's national planning minister, chief Ayo Ogunlade. It will review economic activities within the subregion, implementation of various agreements and protocols by member-nations and recommendations to the summit on other issues (refer to section on Sierra Leone). Finance and contributions to ECOWAS will also be discussed as member-states owe US$ 44.7 million in arrears to the organisation.
GHANA - President on three-day visit to Cote d'Ivoire
At the end of the Ghanaian head-of-state's three-day visit to Cote d'Ivoire, Jerry Rawlings and Ivorian counterpart Henri Konan Bedie signed a bilateral military cooperation agreement. In a joint statement, the heads-of-states underscored the linkages between development and internal and subregional stability stressing the need for greater cooperation between their respective armies. They expressed their desire to exchange information in order to intensify the fight against crossborder crime and drug trafficking. The official visit by President Jerry Rawlings, the first since 1981, could mark the beginning of a closer relationship between the two neighbouring countries. Some 600,000 to 700,000 Ghanaians live in Cote d'Ivoire. In November 1993 the relationship between Abidjan and Accra was severely strained following the outbreak of violence targeted at Ghanaians after a football match in Abidjan between Ghanaian and Ivorian football teams. 23 Ghanaians were killed, 117 injured while a number of homes and businesses belonging to Ghanaians were destroyed during the manhunt.
CHAD - New Chadian opposition group
A new Chadian opposition group called the Armed Resistance Against Anti-democratic Forces was launched on Sunday in Kano, northern Nigeria. In a statement signed by its leader, Annaby Mousa Ndjole, its stated objective includes a campaign of military warfare aimed at overthrowing the Idris Derby-led government and the creation of a transitional government. The new movement promised to organise a national conference open to all political groups with an emphasis on democracy and human rights.
MALI - President says justice must run its course
Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare said on 23 August that a vital opposition was necessary and promised to announce a broad-based government in the near future. Konare stressed the need for renewed dialogue between the government and the opposition and said the jailing of the ten opposition members, who have been charged in the death of a police officer on 11 August, was regrettable but "a failing that needed to be surpassed". He rejected any suggestion that the ten would be released, saying that "justice must be allowed to follow its course". Five of the ten arrested leaders were relocated to various prisons in the interior of the country on 20 August. An international arrest order was also issued for another member of the radical opposition collective, Oumar Mariko, a former leader of the Malian Student's Movement. All ten started a hunger strike on 21 August to protest there incarceration. Some 300 opposition supporters staged a sit-in at the headquarters of the US/RDA (Union Soudanaise/Rassemblement Democratique Africain -US/RDA) to protest the arrests.
NIGER - New party leader for RDP
On 20 August, Hamid Algabid, former secretary-general of the Islamic Conference Organisation, was named chair of Niger's ruling party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (Rassemblement Pour la Democratie et le Progress /Djama'a - RDP/Djama'a), at its national congress. The RDP/Djama'a replaced the National Union of Independents for Democratic Renewal (Union Nationale des Independants Pour le Renouveau Democratique - UNIRD), which was created to support General Mainassara's presidential candidacy, taking 59 of the 83 seats in the 1996 elections. The elections were declared declared 'suspect and fraudulent' by international observers. Mainassara's prime minister, Amadou Boubacar Cisse, was named vice-chair. The appointment was necessary as the Niger constitution does not permit the president to remain as head of a political party.
NIGER - Integration of rebels in army begins
The integration of ex-rebels into the national Niger Armed Forces began on August under the 24 April 1995 Peace Accord between the government and Toureg rebels. In all, some 250 rebels are to be integrated, 200 in the army and in the National Gendarmerie.
SENEGAL - Resurgence in rebel activities
The bodies of 25 Senegalese soldiers, who went missing in a military clean-up operation launched 19 August in Casamance, were found in a mass grave in Madina Macagne near Zinguichor, the regional capital, 450 kilometres south of Dakar. The soldiers had engaged rebels from the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance - MFDC) on the outskirts of Zinguichor when they went missing. According to military sources, some 30 MFDC separatists were also killed in the skirmish. MFDC European representative Mamadou NíKrumah Sane immediately advised tourists to leave Casamance for their own safety. Last Friday, some 40 members of the Military Wives Association organised a peaceful demonstration in Tambacounda, south-east of Senegal, to denounce the violence in Casamance.
Recent incidents have raised fears of a derailed peace process. Current negotiations began following a unilateral ceasefire in December 1995, which was initiated by MFDC leader, Father Diamacoune Senghor. The MFDC has been fighting a guerrilla war since 1982, calling for the independence of the Southern Casamance region. The separatist movement originated within the Diola tribe, whose members resented being dominated by Dakar's central authority and settlers from the North of Senegal. The latest round of peace talks were facilitated by the French Ambassador to Senegal, Andre Lewin.
SENEGAL, THE GAMBIA & MAURITANIA - Crops threatened
According to an FAO report dated 20 August, the dry spell which started in mid-July over most parts of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania persisted into early August over most parts of the centre and the north of Senegal and over western Mauritania. Some precipitation resumed in Mauritania and the south and west of Senegal, but remained limited or absent in other areas. According to PANA, recent rainfalls in Senegal have diminished fears of a prolonged drought. As crops and animals withered people in the worst hit areas had already started migrating. A government plan to raise agricultural production from its present 2.1 % per annum to 4 % will also have to be reviewed because of delayed rains. Some 90 % of groundnut crops in the north-central basin have been lost due to drought. In other areas, 70 to 100% of the crops have reportedly withered in the fields. Amadou Mboj, an agricultural officer, said only 20.9 millimetres of rain had fallen before mid-August, compared with 88.3 millimetres the previous year and the 250 millimetres required for normal production activities. The growing resurgence of rebel activity in the fertile Casamance region also threaten to aggravate the situation (refer to Senegal section above).
In The Gambia the rains started in late-July but remained limited. As a result, the government declared a partial crop failure during a meeting with the donor community on 14 August. On 25 August, humanitarian sources reported persistent rains in The Gambia as well as Senegal. If the rains persist a partial crop recovery may be possible, a humanitarian source told IRIN.
WEST AFRICA & LIBYA - Declaration of support
During last weekend's sub-regional summit in Tripoli, Niger's leader, General Mainassara, said he foresaw a 'military union' with Libya as part of the economic treaty to be signed between Libya and Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad. The heads of states of the four Sahelian countries also called for an end to UN sanctions against Libya which were imposed following Libya's refusal to co-operate in the extradition of suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Representatives from the countries are to meet again on 15 September to formulate concrete proposals on the economic treaty. In a related development, the Executive Board of the 20th Conference of the Union of African Parliaments (UAP) meeting in Cotonou, Benin on 22 August tabled a resolution calling for the end to UN sanctions.
General Mainassara also met with Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi from 14 to 18 August for the sixth meeting of the Libya Arab-Niger Joint Committee. The two sides agreed to bolster trade through the use of Libya's ports by Niger exporters. They also agreed to set up a joint chamber of commerce and to improve co-operation in the education, cultural and mass media sector.
Abidjan, 25 August 1997
[Via the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa (IRIN-WA) Reports mailing list. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the UN or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should be attributed to the original sources where appropriate. For further information: e-mail email@example.com, Tel: +225 217367 Fax: +225 216335.]
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 1997 10:37:10 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: UN DHA IRIN - West Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 10-97, 19-25 August 1997 97.8.25 (fwd) Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.970826103636.11998Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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