UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN-WA Update 193 of Events in West Africa, (Thursday) 23 April 1998
NIGERIA: Boycott call, warnings ahead of poll
Ahead of Saturday's national assembly polls, Nigeria's opposition coalition Thursday called for a boycott while authorities deployed thousands of riot police, AFP reported. The United Action for Democracy (UAD) called for a "massive boycott" of the parliamentary polls as participation could only help Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha carry out his plan to become president. By endorsing Abacha as sole candidate for August's presidential poll, the five registered parties and Abacha "had declared war on the Nigerian people", the UAD said. It would disclose its action plan within the forthcoming week, it added
Meanwhile 18,542 policemen and civil servants Wednesday were deployed inside and outside polling stations throughout the country in an effort to guarantee a smooth and orderly vote, AFP added. According to media reports quoted by the agency, police said they were informed of plans by unidentified politicians and opponents to the government to cause trouble on election day. These would not be tolerated, the police pledged. AFP said the police had issued a severe warning to those planning a civil disobedience campaign against Abacha's presidential candidacy. AFP noted that Mohammad Dikko Yusufu, former head of police under General Olusegun Obasanjo, was reported as saying earlier this week he was ready to mobilise people, including civil servants and trade union members, in favour of civil disobedience in protest over Abacha's candidacy. A police spokesman branded Yusufu's remarks as "vacuous boasting" and warned he might be arrested if he carried out his threats, AFP added.
Lagos blast kills three
An explosion Wednesday in Nigeria's main commercial city, Lagos, left at least three people dead, the BBC reported. Eyewitnesses said many more people were injured in the evening blast in Ebute-Meta, a busy district usually crowded with street vendors and the scene of recent anti-government demonstrations. Police have cordoned off the area and are investigating the cause of the explosion, the BBC added.
SIERRA LEONE: Government slaps ban on war reports
The government has introduced military censorship on reporting on the war in the east of the country unless the stories are cleared by the ECOMOG press officer, the BBC reported. The ban announced by Information Minister Julius Spencer followed reports of the flying home of 20 bodies of Nigerian ECOMOG soldiers. Spencer said censorship was quite normal in a country at war.
According to Star Radio in Monrovia, the government accused the press of being unpatriotic with the casualty reports. The radio added a few reporters were briefly detained and released with warning.
EU to help fight corruption
The European Union (EU) will provide Sierra Leone with financial experts to fill key government positions and help fight rampant corruption, AFP quoted Finance Minister James Jonah as saying Thursday. An EU technical assistance team is due in Freetown soon "to help set up a sound fiscal management," he added. "The stench of corruption has spread across all levels of the fabric of society, and a maximum effort must now be made to tackle it," Jonah told reporters. As part of a "radical reform exercise" the EU is to provide an accountant general and a financial secretary, Jonah said. Both posts were previously held by Sierra Leoneans. Jonah said he advocated setting up independent authorities to monitor internal revenue and customs and excise.
AFP also quoted Jonah as saying the World Bank was to send a team to assess the "enormous damage" to industries, infrastructure and businesses during the nine months the junta was in power. During last May's coup, both the Treasury and the central bank were burnt down, destroying huge quantities of payroll accounts and other vital documents. Prior to the seizure of power by the military junta, there was enough evidence that the civilian government was making appreciable progress in meeting the provisions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Jonah said. Jonah also admitted that the Ministry of Finance, Development and Economic Planning was overstaffed, especially in the accounts department which has over 400 employees, and predicted that job cuts would soon be made.
LIBERIA: Taylor orders probe over Rights Commissioner
President Charles Taylor Tuesday ordered an investigation into allegations that a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had been beaten, Star Radio reported. Taylor's National Security Advisor Charles Deshield will head the probe and shall report within 10 days. Acting Information Minister J. Milton Teahjay said government would not relent in investigating and punishing any human rights violation proven by law. He promised Taylor would take the necessary action consistent with international protocols on human rights following the investigation. NHRC member Kromah Bryemah said he was beaten by police. He accused Police Director Joe Tate of ordering the beating without an investigation, but police denied the claims.
NIGER: Student violence over arrears
A dozen people were wounded Wednesday in Niamey as student protests over grant arrears became violent, news organisations reported. The BBC said police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who set fire to cars and attempted to block roads. According to Reuters, students set a bus on fire, although it was not clear whether any of the wounded were linked to this incident. The protesters are demanding the payment of some 20 months' grant arrears and the re-opening of the university campus, which was closed after violence on 27 February. High school and college students on Wednesday gave the government 24 hours to resolve the arrears problem or extend the academic year because of frequent course disruptions during a prolonged crisis, student leaders said.
Government denies attacking opponent
The government Wednesday denied being behind a gun attack on the home of opposition leader Ali Sabo, the BBC reported. Interior Minister Souley Abdoulaye challenged the opposition coalition, the Front pour la restauration et la defense de la democratie (FRDD), to produce evidence to support its allegations of government involvement. He said the authorities were investigating Tuesday's incident in which unidentified gunmen fired on Sabo's house in Niamey. Sabo was not injured.
IMF loans US$ 110 million
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ide Gnandou Thursday said the country was about to receive a 7.5 billion CFA Francs (US$ 110 million) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), AFP reported. The release was conditional on Niger meeting the performance standards laid out in a 1996 Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF).
WEST AFRICA: Benin, Senegal denied debt relief
Benin and Senegal will not benefit from the World Bank's debt relief initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor countries (HIPC), PANA news agency reported Wednesday. Axel van Trotsenburg, head of the bank's HIPC implementation team, told reporters the existing debt relief mechanisms can deal with the two countries' debt burdens. Debt relief under the initiative is restricted to countries that are eligible to borrow from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's soft-loan facility, and have a track record of sustained economic reform. Eligible countries must also have unsustainable debt burdens even after traditional debt relief mechanisms are applied. Unsustainability of a country's debt is assessed on the basis of its debt level compared to export earnings. Van Trotsenburg said Benin and Senegal will benefit from debt relief from the Paris Club of official creditors. Already, Senegal, with the help of the World Bank, has benefited from a commercial debt buy-back amounting to US$ 100 million. He said the bank is currently working on debt sustainability analysis for Mauritania and Togo, with Chad expected to come on the line later in the year.
Burkina Faso defends water, energy policies
Burkina Faso Tuesday denied the construction of dams
in the country had contributed to the low level of
water in Ghana's Akosombo dam, Ghanaian Joy FM Online
reported. In a statement issued by its embassy in Accra,
the Burkinabe government said the cause was rather
the low level of rainfall in the sub-region over the
last two decades, and 1997 in particular, when exceptionally
low rainfall figures were recorded. The government
said it had complied with the principles of international
law on the management of common resources in the construction
of all the dams. This was why international donors
had committed themselves to financing these projects.
The statement stressed the need to promote a co-ordinated
tapping of resources in the sub-region and the formation
of an Inter-State Commission, as proposed by the Burkinabes,
to ensure integrated management of water resources
in the Volta basin.
Abidjan, 23 April 1998, 17:30 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: email@example.com 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: http://www.reliefweb.int/emergenc or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . Mailing list: irin-wa-updates]
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 17:37:18 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <email@example.com> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 193, 98.4.23 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.95.980423173511.9102Afirstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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