IRIN-West Africa Update 200, 98.5.5

IRIN-West Africa Update 200, 98.5.5

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 200 of Events in West Africa, (Tuesday) 5 May 1998

SIERRA LEONE: ECOWAS military chiefs discuss force's mandate

West African defence ministers and chiefs of staff began a two-day session on Monday in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on the future role of the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, in Sierra Leone, news sources reported. Ghanaian Foreign Affairs Minister Victor Gbeho said his government needed ECOMOG's role to be clarified before it could commit its troops. Reuters quoted Gbeho as saying the review should clarify ECOMOG's objectives and role, its rules of engagement and resources needed, and how to raise these resources. Ghebo also called for support from the international community to bring lasting peace to Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, Nigerian chief of staff Abdulsalem Abubakar told Reuters ECOMOG's most pressing problem on the ground was "logistics". ECOMOG needed 6,000 more troops on the ground as well as trucks, tents, generators and military support.

Poor response to UN appeal

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva told IRIN that only US$ 1.06 million had been received out of the requested US $11.2 million for the three-month consolidated appeal as of 22 April. Reuters quoted UN Special Envoy for Sierra Leone Francis Okelo as telling the Accra meeting the response to the appeal had been "rather poor" and that mobilising external resources was urgent. OCHA in Geneva said a new consolidated appeal for Sierra Leone was expected to be launched covering the period June to December 1998.

UN military observers in Freetown

The UN chief military observer, S.C. Joshi of India, and nine other observers arrived in Freetown over the weekend, AFP reported. In a statement, Okelo said the presence of the team would provide "transparency in the demobilisation exercise" and was a visible commitment of the UN and the international community to supporting the peace process in Sierra Leone. The observers would be deployed in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Koidu and Lungi to monitor ECOMOG operations. Joshi will be based in Freetown.

MSF treating growing number of amputees

The medical NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in a statement on Tuesday, said the Connaught hospital in Freetown was admitting a large number of seriously wounded and maimed persons. MSF said the civilian population was terrorised by various armed groups carrying out executions, mutilations, rapes and kidnappings. In a month, MSF treated 140 wounded from the eastern Kono district. The statement added that out of an estimated population of 500,000 in Kono, some 20,000 to 30,000 had fled to the west, while 70,000 fled across the Guinean border.

LIBERIA: Shooting incident at defence ministry

Soldiers on Tuesday fired warning shots near the Liberian defence ministry in Monrovia sending soldiers fleeing and prompting ECOMOG to seal the area, AFP reported. An eyewitness quoted by the agency said a soldier was shot in the leg as the troops fired briefly around 1.00 p.m. to disperse the protest staged by demobilised soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) demanding outstanding benefits. Local sources said the demobilised soldiers had forced their way into the defence ministry and looted several items, including communications equipment. Gunfire was heard from the vicinity of the Barclays Training Centre (BTC) barracks in Monrovia early Tuesday evening.

WFP protests looting of food

WFP, in a statement on Tuesday, protested against the seizure and subsequent looting in Liberia of three commercial trucks carrying 32 mt of WFP food aid. Looters on Saturday made off with some 13 mt of food near the village of Loyea in Nimba county. The relief supplies were to feed more than 2,000 vulnerable people in the town of Zwedru in northwestern Liberia. WFP said armed men attacked the drivers and looted the food. This was the second such incident in 10 days. On 23 April, members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) seized 4.7 mt of bulgar wheat in Tubmanburg, 75 km north of Monrovia. Paul Ares, WFP regional manager for coastal West Africa, said he had lodged an official complaint and expected the Liberian authorities to take strong measures to avoid such acts.

Last week, five security officers, including two soldiers, were arrested in connection with the Tubmanburg incident. The Minister of Defence said the accused would be tried by the Court Martial Board and more arrests were expected.

NIGERIA: EU brands democracy transition "failure"

The president of the European Union (EU) on Tuesday said the "so-called transition" to democracy in Nigeria was already a "failure", AFP reported, quoting an EU statement. The EU, currently chaired by Britain, complained about the Nigerian government's failure to publish results from local government and state assembly elections in March and December 1997. It also said none of the five registered parties had met the electoral commission's deadline for submission of candidates for the 25 April legislative elections. It voiced concern over the "arbitrary disqualification of candidates" and the non-publication of the draft constitution. Western officials estimated turnout in the legislative poll as less than five percent, according to AFP. The low voter turnout confirmed that Nigerians themselves had no confidence in the process, the statement added. The EU considered the transition in "grave danger of being compromised", AFP said.

More arrests in southwest

Some 20 pro-democracy activists were arrested following the violent May Day protests on Friday in Ibadan, 140 km west of Lagos, according to news sources. Two politicians, Alhaji Lam Adesina and Niyi Owolade, a former deputy speaker of the southwestern Osun state parliament, were arrested in Ibadan, in the last 48 hours. A Marxist scholar, Ola Oni, was also arrested.

Meanwhile, a human rights activist with the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Olusegun Maiyegun, was arrested on Monday near his Lagos office by four plain-clothes security men, AFP reported, quoting a CDHR statement. It added that Maiyegun was taken to an unknown destination. There was no other confirmation of his arrest.

NIGER: Two journalists arrested, radio station closed down

The authorities in Niger on Monday closed down an independent radio station, Afani, shortly after it broadcast a statement protesting against censorship, news organisations reported. Two journalists had been detained earlier: the editor of 'Alternance', who had read out the statement, Moussa Tchangari, and a BBC reporter based in the town of Zinder, Keita Suleiman. The statement said the return of censorship and physical threats to journalists were "violations of constitutional rights". The BBC reporter was placed under arrest and accused of spreading false information, Reuters reported.

Food crisis warning

The president of the friendship group 'France-Niger', French deputy Claude Desbons, warned of an impending famine in Niger in a statement co-signed by four French NGOs. The statement said Niger was hit by a serious drought compounded by a chronic food deficit which could lead to famine for three million men, women and children. It added that the very poor rainfall in southern regions had affected the harvest in the areas of Maradi, Dosso and Zinder. The four French NGOs which signed the statement are the Croix Rouge francaise, Action contre la Faim (ACF), l'Association Raoul Follereau and Secours Catholique.

A humanitarian source in Niger told IRIN that Niger had had three consecutive years of poor rainfall, which had affected some areas more than others. In these pockets, he said, malnutrition and price hikes for basic staples were on the increase. The source added that there had been no in-country donor meeting by the NGOs to discuss the famine claim.

Meanwhile, the government of Japan said it had allocated two donations valued at US $ 7.5 million to provide assistance to Niger to address the current food crisis. The funds would be used to buy rice, tools, seeds and other input.

SENEGAL: Election campaign begins

The campaign for the 24 May legislative elections officially opened on Sunday with 18 parties vying for 140 seats in the national assembly, news agencies reported. According to analysts, the ruling Parti Socialiste du Senegal (PS) probably faces its greatest challenge from former Foreign Minister Djibo Ka, who defected from the PS and set up the Renouveau Democratique. The PS also faces veteran politician Abdoulaye Wade, leader of the largest opposition party, Parti Democratique Senegalais (PDS). Wade was a close runner-up to Senegalese President Abdou Diouf in the 1993 presidential elections.

Call for free and fair elections

The Geneva-based Commission Internationale des Juristes (CIJ) called for "free, transparent and democratic" elections in Senegal, AFP reported on Monday. CIJ also expressed concerns over the contending parties' "political games" in the lead-up to the elections which, it said, was detrimental to the process. The call was further echoed by Senegal's Muslim and Christian leaders, Reuters added.

MALI: Democracy workshop

Mali is hosting a multilateral workshop on democracy and good governance in Bamako on 4-5 May, media sources said. The conference, sponsored by the US, Britain and France, will bring together aid recipients and donors, including multilateral institutions, to discuss a "new model of partnership for democratic development". The two-day conference in Mali follows pledges at last year's G-7 summit in Denver to better coordinate efforts to promote democracy.

TOGO: Call for one opposition candidate

Former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo on Monday announced he would not be running in presidential elections slated in June, news agencies reported. Reuters quoted Kodjo, leader of the Union togolaise pour la democratie (UTD), as saying the Togolese wanted to choose between one opposition candidate and the incumbent, President Gnassingbe Eyadema of the ruling Rassemblement du peuple togolais (RPT).

Abidjan, 5 May 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]

Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 200, 98.5.5 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.95.980505200152.7485B-p://

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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