IRIN-West Africa Update 207, 98.5.14

IRIN-West Africa Update 207, 98.5.14

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 207 of Events in West Africa, (Thursday) 14 May 1998

SIERRA LEONE: "Severe" humanitarian situation in north and east

A UN report on Wednesday said the humanitarian consequences of the ousted junta's campaign of terror in the north and east of Sierra Leone have been "severe". It said despite the intensification of the military campaign by the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, against remnant fighters of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), clusters of RUF fighters had moved north from Kono in a well-coordinated campaign to re-establish some of their former bush camps. Many of the villages on the road from Kabala to Kono and to the north of Makeni in central Sierra Leone have been attacked and many civilians wounded and amputated.

The report said one of the difficulties in developing an appropriate humanitarian response was gauging the scale of the crisis due to a lack of reliable information. Initial reports have indicated that there were some 14,000 internally displaced people in Masingbi, 15,000 in Makeni and 5,000 in Magburaka and Kabala. However, security conditions had hindered interagency verification of the figures. It was suspected that large numbers of displaced were living in the bush but there was no way of confirming this, the report added. Travel by road from Freetown to Makeni and Koidu has been severely restricted.

The report warned that displacement resulting from insecurity in northeastern Sierra Leone would have "dire" consequences in the agricultural sector. If farmers were unable to plant rice by June, the harvest in the north would be lost and large quantities of food aid would be needed. The report pointed out that agricultural recovery projects had averted starvation during the period after the May 1997 coup d'etat and subsequent sanctions.

Amputation terror hits children

A wave of atrocities by the ousted junta forces has left hundreds of civilians disabled, including children, AFP reported on Wednesday. A local NGO, Sierra Leone's Handicapped Amputees Society, said it had recorded 260 mutilation cases, among which victims as young as 10 months old. A UN official quoted by AFP said those who make their way to hospital represented the tip of the iceberg with large numbers dying before they could get any assistance. The medical NGO, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), in Freetown told IRIN it had admitted 160 patients, a number of whom were maimed from 6 April to 14 May. The source stressed that many had had to have their limbs amputated because of infection or other medical reasons.

The UN report said a nationwide assessment of health facilities in Sierra Leone estimated that 60 to 70 per cent of hospitals, and peripheral health units had been destroyed. The hospitals in Kabala, Makeni and Magburaka had been overwhelmed by an influx of war-wounded. There was a lack of beds, drugs and fluids. UNICEF, WHO and MSF had dispatched small quantities of mattresses, medicine, blankets and sheeting to the north, but the needs were still not being met. Local trucking companies have also been reluctant to transport large quantities of supplies for security reasons.

NIGERIA: Thirty-eight activists charged with rioting

A Nigerian opposition leader and 37 activists were charged on Wednesday with rioting and arson after a May Day protest in the southwestern city of Ibadan, news reports said. Seven people were killed and a number of buildings were set ablaze during the protest. Property reportedly valued at US$ 7.1 million was destroyed. The next hearing is scheduled for 18 May.

Ola Oni, a veteran opposition leader and senior official of the pro-democracy coalition, United Action for Democracy (UAD), was charged with inciting the public against the government by publishing a statement calling for Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha to step down. Among other activists arrested are Olisa Agbakoba, the UAD president, and Chief Bola Ige, a former civilian governor. International human rights group have called for their release. The UAD called for protests in several cities on May Day.

Oyo State security on "red alert"

The military administrator of Oyo State, Colonel Ahmed Usman, said security forces had been placed on red alert to stop any protest in the state capital, Ibadan, Nigerian state television reported on Wednesday. Usman told traditional, religious and civic leaders in Oyo state, his administration was committed to protecting lives and property but would not "fold its arms and watch some people unleashing terror on innocent citizens." He said the military had to be accommodated as part of the Nigerian political structure.

Rights group urges G8 to take action against Nigeria

A London-based human rights organisation, Article 19, urged the Group of Eight (G8), a gathering of industrialised countries, to coordinate international action against the Nigerian regime, Reuters reported on Thursday. Article 19's deputy director, Malcolm Smart, said the human rights situation in Nigeria is "appalling" and denounced the international community's wait-and-see approach. It was apparent that the transition process was flawed, he said. Smart called on Britain to show consistency and resolve in applying what Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said would be an ethically-based foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's High Commissioner (ambassador) to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Malami, said he did not have to make any apologies for his government's human rights' record, South Africa's 'Business Day' reported on Wednesday. Speaking to a South African foreign affairs committee on the situation in Nigeria, Malami said Nigeria was being maligned in the South African media who "sheepishly echoed the prejudices of their western counterparts".

Fuel buffer stocks considered

Nigeria may establish a strategic fuel reserve to prevent chronic fuel supply problems, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Nigerian Petroleum Minister Dan Etete said the government was studying the feasibility of establishing a strategic reserve to cover 30 to 45 days. Major Nigerian cities have been facing chronic fuel shortages over recent months.

SENEGAL: Mine kills one, wounds seven in Casamance

One person was killed and seven injured, three seriously, on Tuesday when the public transport vehicle they were in struck an anti-tank mine in the southern province of Casamance, AFP reported. The incident took place at Mangadouka, 30 km east of the provincial capital, Ziguinchor. Government troops reportedly clashed with alleged rebels of the separatist Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) who tried to attack villages in Kolda region, the report said.

The Senegalese army launched a major offensive against the MFDC earlier this year. Appeals for a ceasefire by the leader of the moderate wing of the MFDC, Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, have been rejected by MFDC hardliners.

NIGER: Ten papers shut for tax debts

The authorities in Niger on Wednesday closed down 10 private newspapers over non-payment of taxes, AFP reported. Almost all the independent press has been affected by the move, the report said. The offices of the largest paper 'Tribune du Peuple' was sealed and staff evicted. Only the weekly 'Republicain' was unaffected. According to AFP, most of the closed papers have suffered similar measures in the past but have always managed to obtain reprieves from the tax authorities.

Tension between the press and President Ibrahim Mainassara's government has increased since the opposition launched a campaign of demonstrations demanding Mainassara's resignation in mid-April. Since then the government has repeatedly accused the press of "propagating false news under the control of the opposition", AFP said. Journalists have also complained of censorship and intimidation.

Opposition supporters released

Meanwhile, eight students accused of rioting were released on Tuesday, AFP reported, quoting reliable sources. The interior ministry claimed the eight were acting on behalf of opposition groups calling for Mainassara's resignation. According to the police, several opposition supporters detained in late April during violent demonstrations in the southern city of Zinder were also released, AFP said. Official sources quoted by AFP also said six other suspected "rioters", including several students, were still in detention.

GHANA: Togo and Ghana to forget past differences

Ghanian President Jerry Rawlings and his Togolese counterpart, Gnassingbe Eyadema, signed a memorandum of understanding on economic, political and security cooperation at the conclusion of Eyadema's two-day visit to Ghana on Wednesday, news organisations reported. The two countries also agreed to put past "misunderstandings and irritants" behind them and stressed their commitment to "the sustenance of democracy", according to Reuters. In the past, Togo has accused Ghana of supporting subversive activities by the opposition.

LIBERIA: France pledges US$ 5 million to restore phones

France on Wednesday pledged US$ 5 million to help rehabilitate Liberia's telecommunications system which was severely damaged during the civil war, Reuters reported. The money will be used to replace telephone cables, improve international telephone links and provide technical expertise.

MALI: Japanese aid

Japan has donated 5 billion CFA francs (about US$ 8.3 billion) to Mali for the purchase of manufactured products and types of equipment, PANA reported on Wednesday.

Abidjan, 14 May 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: 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: Thu, 14 May 1998 17:50:49 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 207, 98.5.14 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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