IRIN-West Africa Update 221, 98.06.03

IRIN-West Africa Update 221, 98.06.03

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 221 of Events in West Africa, (Wednesday) 3 June 1998

NIGERIA: Abacha cancels Lagos visit

Nigerian Head of State General Sani Abacha cancelled a highly publicised visit to the economic capital, Lagos, on Wednesday, hours before he was due to depart, AFP reported. The decision reportedly embarrassed city officials, who had encouraged residents to welcome Abacha's first appearance in Lagos since he moved Nigeria's capital to Abuja in 1994. According to AFP, Lagos is widely seen as an opposition stronghold. State military administrator Colonel Mohammed Buba Marwa told waiting crowds Abacha was unable to come because of "unforeseen circumstances". However, Marwa gave no further details. Lagos police had earlier banned all opposition protests during Abacha's visit, AFP reported.

Protest planned

But in spite of the government's increasingly tough line, opposition groups announced a series of actions to mark the second anniversary on Thursday of the murder of Kudiratu Abiola, wife of gaoled opposition leader Moshood Abiola, AFP reported. According to the news agency, opposition members say the military government had Kudiratu Abiola shot dead in 1996 after she intensified efforts to release her husband, widely believed to have won 1993 elections annulled by the army. Inquiries into the killing were never concluded, AFP said.

The opposition called on people to wear black and deliver symbolic coffins to military headquarters across the country addressed to Abacha. According to AFP, a dozen opposition supporters have been killed in clashes with police in recent weeks while some 50 others have also been detained.

Opponents challenge Abacha candidacy

Meanwhile, four human rights and pro-democracy activists made a fresh legal challenge to Abacha's adoption earlier this year by Nigeria's five registered political parties as a consensus candidate in August's presidential elections, AFP reported. The suit filed at Lagos High Court by leading opposition lawyer Chief Gani Fawehinmi alleged the candidacy contravenes a 1996 electoral law banning political parties from putting forward serving military officers during Nigeria's transition-to-civilian rule programme.

However, Abacha has not yet said he will stand in the elections despite widespread speculation he is determined to remain president. A federal court of appeal said on Monday it lacked jurisdiction over a similar action brought by two would-be presidential candidates, Tunji Braithwaite and Mohammed Dikko Yusufu.

Lawyer arrested

The Nigerian State Security Service has arrested a lawyer defending a human and environmental rights activist last Friday, Human Rights Watch announced on Tuesday. According to the New York-based group, Bamidele Aturu was detained when he went to a Lagos police station to request bail for Isaac Osuoka, co-ordinator of Oil Watch Africa and an Environmental Rights Action (ERA) activist.

The executive director of the group's Africa section, Peter Takirambudde, called for the immediate release of both men and all other Nigerian political prisoners. "The Nigerian government is flying in the face of international law with these arrests," he said.

SIERRA LEONE: Chief prosecutor warns AFRC defence lawyers

Sierra Leone's chief prosecutor warned defence lawyers acting for 59 members of the former ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to take treason briefs seriously or face investigation, AFP reported on Tuesday. Attorney General Solomon Berewa said some lawyers were not acting in the best interests of their clients. Berewa alleged lawyers who "absented themselves even when witnesses are giving evidence against their clients" were "unprofessional". Lawyers for at least two defendants had reportedly withdrawn from the trials for "personal reasons".

According to AFP sources, the Sierra Leonean government has been "desperate" to demonstrate the fairness of trials for AFRC members captured when the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, restored Sierra Leone's civilian president, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power in February.

Britain proposes arms embargo adjustment

Britain circulated draft proposals to other UN Security Council members on Tuesday exempting the Sierra Leonean government from the current UN arms embargo, AFP reported. According to the news agency, the draft resolution also releases ECOMOG from the arms ban.

The move follows accusations in Britain that the Foreign Office had assented to covert arms shipments used to help restore Sierra Leone's former military government.

LIBERIA: Taylor awarded doctorate

Liberia's President Charles Taylor was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liberia on Tuesday for his commitment to "good governance and the rule of law", AFP reported. Taylor, a former faction leader during Liberia's seven-year civil war, was elected president last July.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Further protests at death sentences

Amnesty International said on Wednesday it was concerned that 15 people sentenced to death by a military court in Equatorial Guinea for separatist attacks last January might be executed "imminently".

In a statement calling on the government not carry out the death sentences, Amnesty said: "It is usual that people sentenced to death in Equatorial Guinea are executed very quickly. There is no right of appeal against convictions and sentences imposed by military courts. These courts are neither independent nor impartial and use 'most summary' procedures, severely curtailing the right to an adequate defence."

Officials said the defendants were convicted of terrorism, treason and illegal possession of weapons. Of the 113 tried last week, more than 50 defendants were served prison terms ranging from six to 24 years. The others were acquitted.

The attacks in January occurred in Equatorial Guinea's main island of Bioko, where the indigenous Bubi minority has been seen self-determination. Meanwhile, AFP reported on Wednesday that President Omar Bongo had sent his personal representative, Michel Essonghe, to Equatorial Guinea with a plea for clemency.

CHAD: Parliamentarian detained

A Chadian opposition member of parliament who accused the president of the National Assembly of accepting money from an oil company has been detained for questioning, AFP reported on Tuesday.

It said the politician, Ngarledjy Yorongar, the only parliamentary representative of the Federation d'Action pour la Republique (FAR), had been deprived of his parliamentary immunity. The action stems from a newspaper interview nearly a year ago in which AFP said Yorongar accused the assembly president, Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue, of receiving the equivalent of FFr 15 million from the French company, ELF It said Yorongar was due to address members of the European Parliament in Brussels next week on multinational oil projects in Chad.

NIGER: Opposition activists released

The authorities in Niger have "provisionally" released 29 opposition activists who were detained in recent weeks during anti-government demonstrations in several towns around the country, AFP reported on Wednesday. The dispatch, quoting opposition sources, not give conditions for their release.

WEST AFRICA: Aid funds for Sao Tome and Principe, Burkina Faso

The African Development Fund (FAD) has granted Sao Tome and Principe a loan of US$ 2.53 million to help alleviate poverty, AFP reported on Wednesday. It also said the FAD, a branch of the African Development Bank reserved for the poorest nations, had also approved US$ 956,000 for improvement of small-scale rural water projects in Burkina Faso.

Mano River Union

The leaders of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will hold talks this week aimed at reviving the defunct Mano River Union (MRU), AFP reported on Wednesday. The meeting was to be held in the Guinean capital, Conakry. "The revival of the union is an important mechanism to foster peace, stability, youth, employment and economic integration in the sub-region," Lamain Camara, the Guinean foreign minister said. AFP said the MRU, founded in 1973, had achieved little beyond the construction of a road linking the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Abidjan, 2 June 1735 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: Wed, 3 Jun 1998 18:04:34 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 221, 98.06.03 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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