IRIN-West Africa Daily Update 181, 98.4.6

IRIN-West Africa Daily Update 181, 98.4.6

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

Tel: +225 21-73-54 Fax: +225 21-63-35 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Update 181 of Events in West Africa, (Saturday-Monday) 3-6 April 1998

Sierra Leone: Rebels fortify diamond city

Ousted junta forces have fortified the diamond town of Koidu, 260 km east of Freetown, and beefed up their presence in the city, Reuters reported Friday, quoting military and government sources. Sources close to the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, said the rebels had made Koidu their headquarters. Civilians fleeing Koidu said ECOMOG had taken a string of diamond towns in the surrounding Kono district. ECOMOG sources quoted by Reuters said ECOMOG troops had surrounded Koidu and were poised to attack. A local humanitarian source in Sierra Leone told IRIN it appeared ECOMOG would attack northwards from Daru, while other ECOMOG troops from Makeni coordinated the assault from the west in a pincer-style movement.

Residents fleeing Koidu said thousands of civilians remained trapped and hunger and disease were killing people every day.

Leader of ousted junta still in country

Sierra Leone's government spokesman, Septimus Kaikai, told a news conference on Friday that the leader of the ousted military junta, Johnny Paul Koroma, was still in Sierra Leone, while the deputy leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), Sam Bockari, had fled to neighbouring Liberia, news agencies reported Friday. Without giving any precise information on the whereabouts of Koroma and other members of the junta, Kaikai said the government hoped Koroma would not be able to leave the country. Referring to Bockari, Kaikai said the RUF number two knew the Liberian border area "very well" and could have easily walked across the border into Liberia. According to AFP, recent press reports in Freetown have alleged that both Koroma and Bockari had been airlifted out of the country by a Liberian military helicopter. But the agency reported the Liberian government possessed no such aircraft.

Kaikai said he had no knowledge of Bockari being "airlifted" to neighbouring Liberia. He said the reinstated civilian government hoped "no country would aid or abet in any way, shape or form the criminal activities of people wanting to, or who have created mayhem in another country", AFP reported. The report noted that Liberian President Charles Taylor helped the RUF when it launched its rebellion in 1991.

Sixty alleged junta collaborators to be deported

Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone government is expected to deport another 60 foreigners, mainly Gambians, for alleged collaboration with the ousted junta, AFP reported, quoting 'The Vision' daily Monday. The attorney-general's office was apparently studying a list of suspected collaborators, which includes Lebanese, Guinean, Malian and Gambian nationals. There was evidence they had helped the ousted junta with cash and other badly needed commodities to sustain the regime, according to the paper.

Refugee NGO assesses situation

Refugees International, a US-based NGO, following a three-week assessment mission to West Africa, has recommended that UNHCR be given additional staff and resources in Guinea to deal with the new influx of Sierra Leone refugees. It estimated that some 85,000 Sierra Leonean refugees had fled into the forest region of Guinea in recent months.

The conditions of Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia have been deteriorating fast due to poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. RI noted that adult men and male children aged 7-15 were conspicuously absent from the refugee population. RI recommended moving the Sierra Leonean refugees further into Liberia away from the border to deny the junta the opportunity to militarise the camps. It also recommended disarming the refugees to avoid a "replay of the eastern Zaire camps, where intimidators gained control." The most vulnerable should be transported immediately by truck before the onset of the rainy season, RI said.

LIBERIA: Government asks UN to lift arms embargo

Liberian President Charles Taylor on Friday said his government had asked the UN to lift an arms embargo imposed in 1992 during the civil war, news agencies reported. Speaking at a press conference, Taylor said the request was based on the establishment of a democratically-elected government last year. He said the request was before the UN sanctions committee, adding the issue of Liberian compliance with the arms embargo was a matter for the UN Security Council not ECOMOG. Star Radio quoted Taylor on Friday as saying that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had lifted the arms embargo. But an ECOMOG official quoted by the radio said the force was unaware of the lifting of the embargo at any level.

Meanwhile, Taylor called on Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha, who is also ECOWAS chairman, to put ECOMOG officers "in their rightful places" as they have "overstepped" their bounds. ECOMOG has accused the Liberian government of recruiting and heavily re-arming former faction fighters, AFP reported.

Arms issued under strict guidelines, Taylor claims

Taylor said arms were only issued to government security forces under strict conditions, Star Radio reported on Friday. He said only Special Security Service officers were permitted to carry arms around the Executive Mansion and the president. Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were not allowed to carry arms outside the barracks. Police officers had to keep their arms in their vehicles. Taylor promised disciplinary action against any security officer violating these restrictions.

A former member of the defunct Council of State, Dr Vamba Kanneh, Sunday welcomed these restrictions, saying the rampant display of arms had been perceived as an attempt to suppress and intimidate Liberians.

Repatriation slows down

The US-based NGO, Refugees International, said the repatriation of Liberian refugees has run into problems. Budget cuts in Liberia have stalled the implementation of community-based projects, while logistics problems have further complicated the repatriation process. Of 125 European Union (EU) donated trucks meant to ease the return of Liberian refugees, 60 were still stuck at the port awaiting spare parts. In Guinea, refugees had been promised seeds and tools on their return home, but not all refugees had received the package because supplies had run out. A UNHCR policy to repatriate only vulnerable refugees and those whose homes were more than 25 km from the border also hampered repatriation, leaving a large number to their own devices, RI noted.

GUINEA: At least 20 Guinean opposition members arrested

At least 20 Guinean opposition members were arrested on Friday and Saturday following a political meeting organised by the Rassemblement du Peuple Guineen (RPG) in Beyla, 850 km east of Conakry, AFP reported Sunday. Two RPG deputies, Momory Camara and Mamadi Famany Conde, were also arrested. Guinean security minister Sekou Koureissy Conde confirmed the arrests to AFP but expressed anger at the incident and said efforts were under way to obtain their "immediate release".

Meanwhile, an opposition coalition, Coordination de l'Opposition Democratique en Guinee (CODEM), threatened to boycott national assembly sessions scheduled to commence this week if their spokesman, Mamadou Ba, and others were not released, AFP reported on Sunday. Ba, also leader of the Union pour la Nouvelle Republique (UNR), was arrested ten days ago following clashes between residents of Kaporo, a neighbourhood in Conakry earmarked for demolition, and security forces.

IMF approves US$ 31 million loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday approved a US$ 31 million loan for Guinea to support its economic reform programme through to year 2000, Reuters reported on Friday. The programme called for a series of fiscal and structural reforms to "create appropriate conditions for sustainable and diversified economic growth".

NIGERIA: Police stop rally by presidential candidate

Nigerian police on Saturday stopped a rally by presidential candidate, Mohammed Dikko Yusufu, in the south-eastern city of Calabar, 570 km south-east of Lagos, AFP reported. A police permit granted to Yusufu, the Grassroots Democratic Movement(GDM) leader, was cancelled at the last minute. A party official said a letter from the police stated the permit given earlier for the rally had been withdrawn on security grounds, AFP reported, quoting independent daily 'The Guardian'. Yusufu has launched a media campaign to support his bid for the August presidential elections. According to AFP, his campaign has been very critical of the present regime.

Senior journalist arrested

Danlami Nmodu, a senior journalist working with Nigerian magazine 'Tell' was arrested by security forces on 27 March, AFP said Monday. There has been no official confirmation of Danlami's arrest. Two other senior journalists working for 'Tell', Onome Osifo-Whiskey and George Mbah, are in detention.

SENEGAL: President proposes public funding for political parties

In a speech Friday celebrating the 38th anniversary of Senegal's independence, President Abdou Diouf proposed financing political parties from public funds and giving the opposition official status after next month's legislative elections, according to news reports. Explaining the need for public funding of political parties, Diouf said the "viability of democracy" hinged on their capacity to fulfill their role. He added that official status for the opposition would enable it to "enjoy its unalienable rights and contribute more effectively to the proper functioning of our institutions". Diouf said the recently created National Elections Observatory (ONEL) and the appointment of a new interior minister were part of the efforts to enhance the reliability and success of the elections, according to PANA. Diouf also called for dialogue and negotiation with the separatist rebels in the southern province of Casamance provided national unity were respected. He also praised the army's achievements against the rebels, AFP reported.

In a related development Saturday, 20 political parties submitted their lists for the legislative elections in May.

Mauritanian human rights activist expelled

Cheikh Saad Bouh Camara, a Mauritanian human rights activist, was expelled from Senegal on Friday after giving a press conference in Dakar, AFP reported. A statement by the Senegalese NGO Rencontre africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme (RADDHO) condemned the government's decision to expel the activist, saying it was a violation of the freedom of expression. Camara was charged earlier this year in Mauritania with allegedly disseminating false information in a French television documentary on slavery.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Minister accused of arming Senegalese rebels

The suspended former Guinea-Bissau army chief of staff, Brigadier General Ansumane Mane, has accused Defence Minister Samba Lamine Mane and a group of officers of smuggling arms to Senegalese rebels, AFP reported Sunday. In a letter published by the press, Ansumane Mane, suspended for negligence, said Guinea-Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira had "permitted" arms trafficking to separatist fighters in the southern Senegalese Casamance province. He added his suspension from the army was linked to a "shady plan to mount a coup d'etat" and demanded that the "truly guilty" be punished.

Meanwhile, in letter addressed to a parliamentary investigative committee, some 1,500 veterans of Guinea-Bissau's war of liberation from Portugal accused the defence minister of corruption and demanded his resignation. There has been no official reaction. In recent months, the Senegalese press has accused the Guinea-Bissau government of aiding the Casamance separatists. Viera is mediator in the Casamance conflict.

NIGER: Priority is to pay debts, not salaries

Niger Finance Minister Ide Niandou said Friday his government's priority was to service its external debt, Reuters reported. Niandou said it would be "cowardice" for the government to back down for reasons of short-term expediency, adding that "a state is not just about paying salaries". Soldiers mutinied over pay arrears in February and there have been several public sector strikes over pay arrears.

GHANA: World Bank loan for health sector

The World Bank has given Ghana a US$ 35 million soft loan to increase and improve access to health and social services, news agencies reported on Saturday. The programme aims to reduce population growth and the incidence of malnutrition.

WEST AFRICA: Guinea worm disease practically eradicated

Former US President Jimmy Carter announced in the Malian capital, Bamako, that Guinea worm disease had been eradicated by 95 per cent in 16 African countries after seven years' intensive work, AFP reported Sunday. Participants at the 7th meeting in the Malian capital launched a two-year programme to fully eradicate the disease.

Abidjan, 6 April 1998, 19:30 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]

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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

Tel: +225 21-73-54 Fax: +225 21-63-35 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Update 182 of Events in West Africa, (Tuesday) 7 April 1998

SIERRA LEONE: President stops over in Guinea

Sierra Leone President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said on Monday security in the eastern part of Sierra Leone and the general food situation were his government's key concerns, according to AFP. Stopping over in the Guinean capital, Conakry, on his way to Freetown, Kabbah said the situation was gradually returning to normal. Kabbah was expected to meet Guinean President Lansana Conte before heading home on Tuesday. He spent 10 months in exile in Conakry following the May 1997 coup d'etat.

UN maintains arms embargo

The UN Security Council voted on Monday to maintain an arms embargo on Sierra Leone despite the return to civilian rule, news organisations reported. The acting president of the Security Council, Hisashi Owada of Japan, said lifting the embargo was not in the interest of Sierra Leone, because of continued fighting. It would also allow the junta to start importing more arms into the country leading to "intensification of the war", AFP reported. The decision to maintain the arms embargo was said to have come at Kabbah's request, the BBC said. Travel restrictions on members of the ousted junta have also been maintained.

Twenty-one Sierra Leoneans charged with treason

Twenty-one Sierra Leoneans have appeared in court in Freetown and been charged with treason in connection with last year's coup d'etat, according to news reports. The defendants included several people who held ministerial positions in the ousted Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) government. Two women, Olivia Mensah and Dalinda Lebbie, were accused of spying for the junta, while two men were charged with murder and arson, PANA reported. Former attorney-general Claude Campbell did not appear in court due to illness. The case was adjourned to 14 April. Treason is a capital offence in Sierra Leone. Kabbah has not yet said whether he will use his powers of clemency in the event of convictions.

Humanitarian aid continues

A total of 1,300 mt of assorted food commodities is currently available in Sierra Leone with an additional 3,000 mt in Conakry, WFP reported. During the last week in March, WFP released more than 400 mt of assorted food commodities to the French NGO, Action Contre la Faim (ACF), for use in six wet feeding centres catering for some 20,000 children aged under five and 10,000 adults in the most vulnerable communities in Freetown. A one-month ration was distributed to some 10,000 vulnerable persons in Makeni, 150 km north of Freetown, through the NGOs, Concern and CARE.

The WFP report said prices of locally produced commodities, such as palm oil, were decreasing in Freetown in part due to the availability of fuel for transport. However, the price of rice was rising as stocks of the last harvest were being depleted.

LIBERIA: Key roads and bridges to be rehabilitated

WFP announced the launch of a logistics operation focusing on rehabilitating 600 km of key roads and 19 bridges in Liberia to improve accessibility to designated resettlement areas. WFP will focus on four important routes: Gbarnga to Voinjama, Voinjama to Kolahun, Zwedru to Harper, and Pleebo to Barclayville. The one-year project will be carried out in conjunction with Swiss Disaster Relief and the Liberian government at a cost of US$ 6.3 million. WFP said the project would facilitate the repatriation and return of internally displaced to their home areas. Meanwhile, targeted food aid will be distributed as the reinstallation and resettlement of populations takes place.

GUINEA: Opposition to boycott parliament

A statement released by the Guinean opposition coalition, the Coordination de l'Opposition Democratique en Guinee (CODEM), said it had decided "unanimously" on Monday to boycott the on-going parliamentary session, AFP reported. The decision followed the refusal by the president of the national assembly to allow CODEM to air its views on the situation in the country. The statement added opposition members would not return to the national assembly until their colleagues were released from jail. Five members of parliament, including Mamadou Ba, leader of the Union pour la Nouvelle Republique (UNR), were arrested in the course of the past two weeks.

NIGER: Teachers on strike

Teachers in Niger have begun an indefinite national strike to press their demands for the payment of salary areas, the BBC reported on Monday. Schools were due to re-open after the holidays, but students who turned up for classes were told to go home until further notice. Niger President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara recently met a parents' delegation which urged him to listen to the teachers' demands. AFP reported Tuesday that nearly 40,000 civil servants were still owed pay for January and February.

WEST AFRICA: Power shortages worsening

Benin's minister of mines and energy, Emmanuel Golou, said on Monday power shortages had worsened considerably in Benin, AFP reported. He said Benin was coping with less than a quarter of its power needs. Residents in the capital, Cotonou, currently receive barely two hours of power supply per day. The European Union, Germany and the West African Development Bank have provided aid to enable Benin increase its power-generating capacity. The government of Cote d'Ivoire pledged last week to supply Benin and Togo with 50 megawatts of power. However, work will have to be done on power supply lines between Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana before Cote d'Ivoire can make good on its pledge.

Meanwhile, the Ghanaian ministry of mines has signed a contract with a British-based company, Aggeko PLC, for the supply of 30 megawatts of power to the country, PANA reported on Tuesday, quoting a ministerial statement. The company, which specialises in providing emergency power services, will set up a facility near the Tema harbour and begin operations within six weeks. It will supply continuous power to industrial and mining consumers.

Benin, Togo and Ghana depend on the Akossombo hydro-electric dam in Ghana for their power. The water levels of the dam have dropped drastically, resulting in a sharp decline in power output.

Debate on the future of the CFA Franc

The French foreign ministry on Monday said it would seek to defuse fears about the future of the CFA Franc at a meeting of finance ministers on 9 April in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, AFP reported. The introduction of the single European currency, euro, in France in 1999 would not impact on the currency used in most French-speaking African countries, commonly known as the CFA Franc, the ministry added. French Finace Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Vice-Minister for Cooperation Charles Josselin are expected to attend the Libreville meeting.

Strauss-Kahn said parity between the CFA Franc and the French Franc was a French treasury matter and therefore would not adversely impact on the African currency in 1999. Meanwhile, former French prime minister Pierre Messmer said a devaluation of the African currency was to be expected if economies cannot adjust to a high-value currency like the euro. He predicted that the European Union would refuse to take on France's treasury commitments with its former French colonies.

Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo use the same currency.

Abidjan, 7 April 1998, 17:00 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: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 19:43:07 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Daily Update 181, 98.4.6 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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