IRIN-West Africa Update 259, 27.7.98

IRIN-West Africa Update 259, 27.7.98


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

Tel: +225 21-73-54 Fax: +225 21-63-35


IRIN-WA Update 259 of Events in West Africa, (Saturday-Monday) 25 - 27 July 1998

GUINEA-BISSAU: Ceasefire agreed

After eight weeks of fighting between soldiers of the government of Guinea Bissau and army rebels, a truce was signed on Sunday calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. On Monday, news reports said the truce appeared to be holding. Reuters quoted Portuguese journalists as saying that there were more civilians on the streets of the devastated capital, Bissau, but residents who had fled towards the interior were not yet ready to return.

The ceasefire plan called for formal negotiations to start within eight days, a de-militarised zone around the strategically located town of Mansoa, north of Bissau, the deployment of peacekeeping troops from Portuguese speaking countries and the opening of corridors of humanitarian aid.

Delegations from the Guinea-Bissau government and rebels met at the weekend aboard a Portuguese frigate, the 'Corte Real', anchored in the port of Bissau with mediators from the contact group established by the Community of Portuguese speaking countries (CPLP). Foreign Minister of the Cape Verde Islands, Jose Luis de Jesus, led the negotiations with President Joao Bernardo Vieira of Guinea Bissau and representatives of the army mutineers.

It was not clear whether rebel leader, General Ansumane Mane, participated directly in the talks. Under the agreement, AFP reported that the three sides -- the government, the rebels and the CPLP would hold fresh meetings within eight days. The first round of talks would be on the 'Corte Real' with subsequent meetings in Cape Verde.

Reuters noted that the agreement did not mention the role of the Senegalese and Guinean troops, which were sent in by their respective governments to back the pro-government forces in a bid to quell the rebellion. The rebels had previously set as a condition the withdrawal of these troops from Guinea Bissau before embarking on negotiations.

The revolt against Vieira began on 7 June after he sacked his chief of staff, Mane, for alleged gun smuggling to the neighbouring Senegalese separatist province of Casamance. The mutineers have accused the president of corruption and concentrating power in his own hands.

Ceasefire "a major success"

The BBC reported on Monday that the Foreign minister of Guinea Bissau, Fernardo Defim da Silva, described the ceasefire as a " major success and a great relief." In an interview with Portuguese Radio, Da Silva said it was the start of a very complex process of national reconciliation and there was "great optimism in the country." Portuguese Foreign minister Jaime Gama said there was a "flicker of light at the end of the tunnel."

The latest mediation attempt spearheaded by Portugal and Angola failed three weeks ago, news organisations said. On the military front, there has been a stalemate between rebel troops which hold the airport and the northern area of Bissau.

Lisbon ready to participate alongside CPLP troops

Portuguese Defence Minister Jose Penedos said Portugal would only intervene militarily in Guinea Bissau alongside CPLP troops. In an interview published in the Portuguese daily 'Publico' at the weekend, Penedos said in light of Portugal's recent colonial past with Guinea Bissau, it would not be the best partner in such an intervention. However, he added that his government would be willing to collaborate with a peacekeeping operation deployed under the CPLP auspices. Penedos said its deployment would "facilitate dialogue between the warring factions while guaranteeing that the civilian population is not a target of atrocities."

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealed on Friday to the two warring faction to respect humanitarian law and to protect the civilian population, AFP reported, quoting an ICRC statement. ICRC announced that it had distributed 56 mt of WFP food to 4,000 people in Bafata, the second city in Guinea Bissau.

Urgent need for food aid, claims African agency

A sub-regional African food monitoring body, the Comite permanent inter-Etats de lutte contre la secheresse (CILSS) called for 39,000 mt of food to assist the civilian population in Guinea-Bissau, AFP reported at the weekend.

A CILSS statement warned of a "major catastrophic food crisis" if the fighting continued. It added that food reserves were now very low in Guinea Bissau. CILSS estimated that 31,000 mt of cereals and 8,000 mt of other commodities such as sugar, oil and medicine were needed urgently.

An OCHA official told IRIN that the interim consolidated appeal for Guinea Bissau had requested 3,000 mts of food per month for the affected population in Guinea Bissau .

SIERRA LEONE: RUF leader extradited

The leader of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was extradited from Nigeria at the weekend and made a televised appeal to his supporters to stop fighting.

The RUF supported the military junta overthrown by Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops in February when Sierra Leone's democratically elected government was re-installed. Although the junta was beaten, RUF rebels have continued to fight in rural areas where they have committed widespread atrocities against civilians.

The BBC said Sankoh, imprisoned in Nigeria since March, seemed to be in good health during his television appearance. It quoted Sierra Leone officials as saying he would face trial for crimes against humanity.

"I think we can solve our problem in peace," Reuters quoted him as saying.

But an ECOMOG spokesman said it was too early to talk about Sankoh standing trial for his part in the ousting of President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah last year. Sierra Leone's government has so far put some 38 members of the military junta on trial for treason.

NIGER: Rebel attack kills 15

Some 15 people were killed and six wounded on Friday when Nigerien rebels attacked a village in the eastern province of N'Guigmi, AFP reported. It said state media blamed the attack on the Front Democratique Revolutionaire (FDR), which has reportedly operated for some four years in the extreme southeast of the country near the border with Nigeria and Chad.

The FDR claims control of Manga and Kawar regions from the Niamey government. It is the only rebel group not to have signed a recent peace accord, which saw northern separatists brought into the peace process, media reports said.

GABON: Ruling party seeks Bongo re-election

Gabon's ruling party launched an appeal at the weekend for President Omar Bongo to run for re-election later this year, AFP reported. Local media said the Parti Democratique du Gabon had proclaimed Bongo, whio has ruled the country for 30 years, a "trump card for the third millennium", and insisted he "continue to take the nation's destiny in its hands."

Opposition split

Meanwhile, the leader of the main opposition Rassemblement National de Boucherons (RJB) has yet to respond to his party's call to stand. Referring to splits in the party following the expulsion of his deputy three weeks ago, Father Paul Mba Abessole said he would first have to deal with the crisis caused by Pierre-Andre Kombila's "treachery and indiscipline".

Kombila supporters holding their own congress last weekend in turn accused Abessole of "high treason" and nominated Kombila to run against Bongo.

He has also won the support of three smaller parties, which will not put forward their own candidates, AFP said.

The RJB is the only party thought to have a chance of defeating Bongo

GHANA: Journalists sentenced

Press rights groups took exception on Friday at stiff sentences passed on two Ghanaian journalists found guilty of contempt of court, AFP reported. The Accra-based Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) described the month-long gaol terms and fines imposed on Kweku Baako from 'The Crusading Guide' and Haruna Attah from 'The Statesman' as "crushing and likely to intimidate the press."

Ghana's First Lady, Nana Rawlings, reportedly brought the case in connection with a libel suit. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) also raised its concern for the two.

SENEGAL: Opposition leader gives up seat

A leading member of Senegal's opposition has given up his parliamentary seat to concentrate on presidential elections scheduled for 2000, AFP reported on Friday. Abdoulaye Wade told a press conference his presence in parliament as leader of the Parti Democratique du Senegal (PDS) was not "indispensible".

"I consider that for what I could do in the national assembly, we have enough deputiesÖto do the job in my place," he was quoted as saying. Wade is a long-standing political rival of President Abdou Diouf.

WEST AFRICA: Conflict prevention

Defence and interior ministers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting last week in The Gambia's capital, Banjul, have set up a new working group on conflict prevention, AFP reported at the weekend.

The news agency quoted a statement after the meeting saying ECOWAS would intervene in the internal affairs of member states when a there was risk of humanitarian crisis, sub-regional security was threatened or if a democratic government was in danger of being toppled.

The meeting also reportedly undertook to seek a moratorium on the manufacture, export and import of small arms in the region and other measures to combat crime and drugs trafficking.

Abidjan, 27 July, 1998 1830 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 Jul 1998 10:28:22 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 259, 27.7.98 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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