IRIN-West Africa Update 196, 98.4.27

IRIN-West Africa Update 196, 98.4.27

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 196 of Events in West Africa, (Tuesday) 28 April 1998

NIGERIA: Death sentences issued in coup trial

Nigeria's former number two, General Oladipo Diya, and five other defendants were found guilty of plotting a coup last December and sentenced to death on Tuesday, AFP reported. Those found guilty also include General Abdulkarim Adisa, former minister of public works; Tajudeen Olarewanju, former minister of communications; Major Olusegun Fadipe, Diya's head of security; and Bola Adebanjo, a civilian said to be close to Diya. Found guilty of information-gathering and implication in the alleged coup and sentenced to life imprisonment were Colonel Edwin Jando, former head of the artillery brigade at Abeokuta, southwestern Nigeria; Niran Malaolu, editor of the independent daily 'The Diet', Shola Shoinde and Isaiah Adebowale. AFP also listed 14 defendants acquitted on unspecified charges.

The defendants were among 26 people tried by closed military tribunal for allegedly plotting to overthrow Nigerian military leader General Sani Abacha last December. Only the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC), the military government's highest decision-making body headed by Abacha, can modify the judgement.

Government shuts news group

Nigerian military authorities shut down and occupied the offices of the Independent Communication Network Limited (ICNL) and its printer 24 Hours Press Limited on 23 April, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported Monday. Staff members were ordered to leave the premises. Nine workers were arrested and computers seized a few days prior to the shutdown. According to CPJ, a total of 13 ICNL employees have been detained and correspondent Bagunda Kaltho remains unaccounted for since his disappearance in 1996. The ICNL publishes 'The News', 'Tempo' and 'P.M. News'.

Meanwhile, 'Tell' magazine's chief editor, Onome Osifo-Whiskey, imprisoned since November, was released from jail, AFP reported, quoting the independent daily 'Punch'. Although the date of his release was unknown, he is the third journalist to be released in a week. Two others were released on Friday. He said he had been relatively well treated throughout his detention, AFP said.

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG says Liberians helping junta

The Nigerian-led West African intervention force, ECOMOG, Monday repeated allegations that Liberia was aiding remnants of the ousted Sierra Leonean military junta, news agencies reported. A statement by Nigerian defence headquarters in Lagos quoted by AFP said: "ECOMOG air reconnaissance and intelligence reports show that Liberian troops are fighting side by side with Sierra Leone rebels along the border between the two countries." The statement appealed to regional leaders to persuade Liberian President Charles Taylor "to desist from aiding the rebels", a charge Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea denied last week.

Meanwhile, ECOMOG announced it had liberated the mining villages of Jaiama Sewafe, Bumpeh, Tumbudu and Motema, near Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone, Reuters reported on Monday. Survivors reported mass killings and mutilations. ECOMOG evacuated 68 civilians in critical condition to the capital, Freetown, on Monday. Most had one or two amputated limbs or machete or gunshot wounds.

LIBERIA: Sierra Leone war spill-over concerns

Lofa County District Commissioner Tennyson Farcornia raised concerns that fighting in eastern Sierra Leone could spill over into the Liberia border towns of Warsonga, Mendicorma and Sodu, Star Radio reported Monday. He added that ECOMOG jets regularly fly low near the border towns, raising fears they may accidentally stray into Liberian air space.

Meanwhile, over 100 former Sierra Leonean junta and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters have reportedly turned themselves in to Liberian immigration authorities in western Vahun since February, Star Radio reported. The fighters have been transferred inland for security reasons. Humanitarian sources told IRIN there are some 2,000 ex-Sierra Leonean combatants in the Vahun camps.

Food crisis forces relocation of Sierra Leonean refugees

Two to three Sierra Leonean refugees die from hunger and disease each day in Vahun, Star Radio reported, quoting District Paramount Chief Collins Brima Ganda. He claimed no relief supplies had arrived since February despite the high influx of refugees. But a humanitarian source told IRIN the death rate was no worse than in the surrounding towns, although food shortages were growing, complicated by poor road conditions and a lack of transport. At one point no food shipments had arrived in a three-week period, he said.

The field supervisor for the government refugee agency, Alfred Boima, said WFP was making every effort to bring in food, but poor road conditions were making the 50 kms from Kolahun to Vahun difficult. WFP Liberia confirmed to IRIN poor road conditions were hampering its operations but food deliveries were continuing. Traditional leaders also warned that all the local cassava had been harvested and a local food shortage was imminent, Star Radio reported.

The rainy season, which is hampering transport, began three weeks ago and is expected to continue into September. Vahun has a small light-aircraft landing strip, which precludes major airlift operations. Once the roads become impassable, all food aid to Vahun will cease, a humanitarian source told IRIN.

UNHCR told IRIN refugees therefore were being encouraged to relocate to a new site in Kolahun, which will be easier to provision with food and medical aid. British medical NGO MERLIN said it would retain a small team in Vahun but most of the other agencies are expected to relocate to Kolahun. Refugees were initially reluctant to move, but growing food shortages and a UNHCR information campaign have encouraged some 2,000 to register for the move. Their numbers are expected to increase in the next few weeks. Except for the most vulnerable, the refugees will have to make the journey on foot. Ten transport trucks have been allocated for the relocation exercise, which will start next Monday.

According to a humanitarian source, Vahun has some 105,000 refugees, of which 50,000 are old caseload refugees who arrived over the last seven years and have integrated into the local population, while the remaining 55,000 have arrived since February. Vahun's indigenous population is estimated at 15,000.

WFP food aid seized

Unidentified security personnel in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, reportedly seized a consignment of WFP food intended for internally displaced people, Star Radio reported on Sunday. The consignment was destined for Tewor District, Grand Cape Mount County. Bomi County Assistant Superintendent Joseph Holmes said the WFP food was the first consignment in eight months.

GHANA: Food shortages

The first consignment of government food aid arrived Monday in northern Ghana's Upper East region, where two years of erratic rainfall have caused crop failure and severe food shortages, AFP reported. The government had announced on 15 April it would buy five billion cedis (US$ 2.1 million) of food to avert a food deficit crisis. Most of the 10,000 bags of rice, beans and maize will be sold on the local market at subsidised prices in an effort to bring soaring food prices under control. According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, 20 percent of the food had also been earmarked for direct distribution to those unable to afford even the subsidised price.

WFP told IRIN on 15 April it planned to expand its Upper East special feeding programme in May from 6,000 malnourished children to 30,000 from vulnerable groups over a four-month period. However, a humanitarian source told IRIN Tuesday new government figures indicated the vulnerable population could exceed initial projections.

Poor rains have reduced crop output to only 1,300 mt, well below the 34,000 mt required to sustain the population, AFP quoted aid workers as saying. The crisis has also led to a rural exodus to urban centres.

NIGER: Conference called to examine violence

Amid mounting political tension and violence, Nigerien President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara on Tuesday invited MPs, ministers, senior civil servants and heads of unions and state companies to a brainstorming session in the capital, Niamey, AFP reported. The meeting starting Wednesday is expected to examine the recent wave of strikes and violence in the country. The opposition has reportedly ignored the president's appeal for dialogue as well as earlier appeals by human rights groups and Islamic associations.

On 12 April, opposition groups launched a series of nationwide protests calling for Mainassara's resignation. Most turned violent.

Presidential ally breaks ranks

Meanwhile, Moumouni Djermakoye of the Alliance nigerienne pour la democratie et le progres (ANDP), announced Tuesday his party would withdraw from the pro-Mainassara Rassemblement pour la democratie et le progres (RDP), AFP reported. Djermakoye's withdrawal followed that on Monday of another prominent politician, former Higher Education Minister Sanoussi Jackou. Djermakoye said the ANDP had been "humiliated and marginalised" by Mainassara.

The ANDP joined Mainassara's supporters after his victory in the 1996 presidential polls, which international observers charged were fraudulent.

NGOs warn of famine

Three million Nigeriens are facing famine for a second consecutive year, AFP reported, quoting French humanitarian agencies meeting in Paris on Tuesday. Action contre la Faim, the French Red Cross and Secours Catholique said in an official communique Niger's 4,000 mt of emergency stock could not meet the 150,000 mt deficit forecast by the Niger monitoring agency Systeme d'alerte precoce (SAP). The agencies appealed for international assistance over the next six months.

SENEGAL: Police clash with students

A dozen people, including seven police officers, were injured Monday when security forces and students clashed in Senegal's capital, Dakar, AFP reported. Police sources accused students of setting up barricades, throwing rocks and burning cars, news agencies reported. Police reportedly responded with tear gas. The police arrested some students but did not give any numbers, according to Reuters. The students are demanding an increase in grants.

BURKINA FASO: Civil servants protest

Some 3,000 civil servants in Burkina Faso demonstrated Monday in the capital, Ouagadougou, against a proposed new bill linking performance to promotion, news sources reported. The workers, who presented a 15,000-signature petition, claimed the bill was being forced on the government by international donors and would lead to nepotism, the BBC said.

Japan aid for food deficit

Japan announced Monday a US$ three million donation to purchase rice to offset the country's food shortage, AFP reported. Burkina's harvest showed a 19 percent shortfall from the previous year.

MALI & BURKINA FASO: Rwandans refused refugee status

UNHCR in Mali Monday refused to grant refugee status to two Rwandan military officers wanted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, news agencies reported. According to the BBC, there is no extradition treaty between the two countries but Mali would probably hand the two men over if requested. Colonels Francois Sibourama and Laurent Simpenzwe Serubuga are reportedly under police surveillance in the capital, Bamako, AFP added. Some 20 other Rwandan asylum-seekers in Mali have appealed to the UNHCR for refugee status.

Meanwhile, a former Rwandan police chief and genocide suspect, Colonel Alphonse Ntezeryayo, was arrested in Burkina Faso and faces extradition to the Arusha Tribunal, the BBC reported.

The Arusha Tribunal was established in 1996 to try ringleaders of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Abidjan, 28 April 1998, 20:00 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: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 20:09:54 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 196, 98.4.27 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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