IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 23-97, 11/21/97

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 23-97, 11/21/97

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

Tel: +225 21-63-35 Fax: +225 21-63-35 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 23-97 of Main Events in West Africa covering the period (Friday) 14 - (Thursday) 20 November 1997

[The weekly round-ups are based on relevant information from UN agencies, NGOs, governments, donors and media. IRIN issues these reports for the benefit of the humanitarian community but accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the original source.]

SIERRA LEONE: AFRC claims "tribal" plot foiled

The ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) on Wednesday claimed that 10 individuals arrested in Freetown were plotting a coup attempt. Colonel Abdul Sesay AFRC secretary-general said that the foiled plot had a "tribal origin". Steve Bio, brother of former military ruler Brigadier Julius Madda Bio and Gibril Massaquoi, spokesman of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were detained on Tuesday. Sources suggested that the two detained men had been attempting to dissuade the RUF, now allied with the AFRC, from disarming in line with the Conakry peace accord. Bio and Massaquoi reportedly tried to talk to Colonel Sam Bockari, RUF deputy leader, saying that a coup had been mandated by Foday Sankoh, the RUF leader detained in Nigeria. No information was provided on the identity of the other coupists.

AFRC and ECOMOG trade accusations on ceasefire violations

The AFRC accused the west African peacekeeping force ECOMOG of violating the recent Sierra Leone ceasefire on Sunday. Speaking to AFP in Freetown, a senior military officer claimed ECOMOG, which occupies the Lungi peninsula opposite Freetown, had fired on army barracks and houses in Murray, in the west of the capital, injuring several people. An AFRC official told AFP that this attack came as no surprise "because ousted president Kabbah is in Nigeria" on a two-day visit. ECOMOG Chief of staff Brigadier General Abdul One Mohammed denied these allegations stating that "Our aircraft was shot so we returned fire", AFP reported. The general said three ships bringing fuel into Freetown were detected by ECOMOG on Saturday in violation of ECOWAS and UN sanctions against the AFRC. Mohammed claimed that warnings to the ships, including in the Freetown press, "didn't work out, so we sent in the Alpha jets". Reuters reported a witness as saying that there had been an exchange of fire between ECOMOG and the AFRC on Sunday, but it was not immediately clear who fired first.

ECOWAS visit postponed

A visit by members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to Sierra Leone planned for Thursday 20 November was postponed. The Committee of Five foreign ministers from Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire were to discuss the restoration of civilian rule with members of the AFRC, as agreed in Conakry last month. According to the BBC, the visit will now take place on 27 November. A senior ECOWAS official told IRIN on Thursday that the postponement was because of difficulties making all the five ministers "available at the same time".

UN calls on AFRC to fulfill peace accord

The UN Security Council called on the AFRC to make good on its obligations In the statement released on Friday, the Council called on all sides to "work for the early and effective implementation of the peace plan".

LIBERIA: Human rights organisation urges justice for war crimes

The US-based Human Rights Watch/Africa has urged the Liberian government to bring to justice individuals who grossly violated civilians' rights. A statement released in New York on Monday said the immunity granted to former faction fighters by the Abuja and other peace accords should not apply to atrocities committed against civilians during the Liberian conflict. Human Rights Watch proposed the establishment of a truth commission to collect testimony on war crimes and expose those responsible. While commending President Charles Taylor's government for setting up a National Human Rights Commission, HRW said that funding and a free hand were needed for it to be effective.

NIGERIA: Abacha dissolves cabinet, three ministers retain portfolio

General Sani Abacha dissolved the Nigerian government and will free an unknown number of dissidents as part of a move towards civilian rule. In a nationwide speech marking the fourth anniversary of the military coup, Abacha said he was appointing a new cabinet since some members wanted to "fully participate" in the upcoming elections. Only three ministers were retained from the former cabinet. Abacha also announced that political prisoners, whose release would constitute no further "impediment" to peace and security in the country would be released. The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) expressed reservations about Abacha's amnesty describing the promise as "vague" and "empty". It added that the gesture would be meaningless if Chief Moshood Abiola, widely believed to be the winner of the 1993 annulled elections, and Beko Ransome-Kuti, a prominent human rights leaders, were not released.

First presidential candidate

The first Nigerian presidential candidate declared himself on Wednesday. Tunji Braithwaite, described by AFP, as a radical lawyer, tried to stand in the 1979 presidential election, but his party the Nigerian Advance Party (NAP) was not registered. A second registered attempt to win the 1983 Nigerian election failed. No other politician has yet decided to stand in the presidential elections.

GHANA: Police detains 120 suspects

Ghanaian police identified 120 suspects as having participated in an attack on police officers in the diamond-rich town of Akwatia, 100 km northwest of Accra. Some 1,000 people were rounded up in a "clean-up operation" on Sunday. According to local media, the Sunday operation in Akwatia was in response to a mob attack earlier in the month on police officers, who were sent to arrest alien diamond dealers. Deputy Police Superintendent Angwubutuge Awuni, quoted by the Ghanaian news agency, said that of the 120 detained, 75 people were foreigners. Ghanaian law bars aliens from entering diamond mining areas except with a vialid permit. Ghana Consolidated Diamonds Ltd owns the Akwatia mine, Ghana's only large-scale diamond works.

NIGER: Thirty killed in attack, rebels claim

Niger rebels claimed that 30 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on two army bases in eastern Niger last Friday. A Front Democratique Revolutionnaire (FDR) communique quoted by AFP claimed that 23 government soldiers and seven rebels were killed in fighting in the Diffa region. "Numerous" soldiers had been injured and six taken prisoner. Issa Lamine, head of the FDR's external affairs, claimed that the Guedira army post and its supplies were still in rebel hands. These attacks were the start of a major FDR military offensive aimed at economic and military targets, Lamine told AFP. The Niger Chief of Staff denied significant rebel gains.

SENEGAL: US missionaries evacuate Casamance

American missionaries and their families have left Senegal's southern province of Casamance because of growing insecurity linked to separatist unrest. US diplomatic sources told Reuters on Saturday that approximately 80 people, who had settled in the village of Fanda, 14 km from the provincial capital of Ziguinchor, had decided to leave for "security reasons". The use of landmines in the conflict has compounded the risk to civilians, according to the source.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Dissidents released

Two Equatorial Guinea opposition leaders gaoled since they were forcibly repatriated from neighbouring Gabon have been released. Felipe Ondo Obiang and Guillermo Nguema Ela were set free by government authorities last Friday.

Abidjan, 21 November 1997


[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-weekly]

Message-Id: <> Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 16:39:43 +0000 From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 23-97 covering 14-20 Nov 1997 97.11.21

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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