IRIN-West Africa Update 262, 98.7.30

IRIN-West Africa Update 262, 98.7.30

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


IRIN-WA Update 262 of Events in West Africa, Thursday 30 July 1998


Reports of a major clash between military rebels and the Nigerian-led West African intervention force, ECOMOG, have added urgency to a UN aid conference on Sierra Leone being held this week in New York, media reports said on Thursday.

The BBC quoted ECOMOG commander General Maxwell Khobe as saying the battle took place on Monday in the northern town of Kabala. He said some 200 fighters from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Sierra Leone's former military junta entered Kabala saying they wanted to take advantage of an amnesty.

But as the fighters lined up to surrender, a second group of rebels burst on the scene and attacked.

Casualty figures were not immediately available, but the BBC's correspondent in the capital, Freetown, said the number of people was likely to be high.

Speaking to a news conference, Khobe said some rebel forces were still in the area, but his forces were dealing with the problem. He said ECOMOG's amnesty would still stand, but RUF forces would no longer be allowed to surrender in large groups.

However, humanitarian sources in the capital, Freetown, told IRIN on Thursday, it was not clear ECOMOG was fully in control. One source said he had received unconfirmed reports Kabala had in fact fallen to the rebels. "If this is true, it will be a major set-back for the peace process," one source commented.

Aid conference

Meanwhile in New York, media reports said Sierra Leone's restored civilian president, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was expected to address the opening session of a UN special conference on Sierra Leone. Reuters said the closed-door meeting planned to raise money for Sierra Leone and consider security and humanitarian issues.

Britain also announced on Wednesday it would send four military observers to support the new United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMISL). "We will provide more if they are needed," Reuters quoted Britain's defence secretary George Robertson as saying.

GUINEA BISSAU: Senegal to respect ceasefire

President Abdou Diouf of Senegal said on Wednesday that his government welcomed and would abide by the ceasefire in Guinea Bissau, news reports said. The pro-government daily 'Le Soleil' quoted Diouf as telling a cabinet meeting that the Senegalese military intervention in Guinea Bissau "had saved the constitutional order" in the country.

Senegal sent more than 2,000 troops to back Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira in a bid to quell an army mutiny. The conflict in Guinea Bissau erupted on 7 June after Vieria sacked his chief of army staff, General Ansumane Mane, for alleged gun running to the southern province of Casamance in neighbouring Senegal. A ceasefire signed on Sunday 26 July called for the immediation cessation of hostilities, the deployment of peacekeeping forces, the demilitarisation of the town of Mansao and beginning of negotiations.

Rains worsen humanitarian situation

Missionnary sources said on Wednesday the rains in Guinea Bissau had worsened the state of the internally displaced considerably. The missionary new agency, MISNA, said it had been raining for days while for the most part, the displaced had no shelter or a place to cook their meals. Father Oscar Bosisio quoted by MISNA said "bronchitis and other disesases" were spreading rapidly.

Meanwhile, a coalition of international and national NGOs in Senegal, the Conseil des Organisations Non-Gouvernmentales d'Appui au Developpement (CONGAD), welcomed on Wednesday the ceasefire and called for the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow for the delivery of relief supplies. The CONGAD also called on the international community to dispatch human rights observers in a bid to avert violations of human rights.

NIGERIA: Police shoot dead oil protestor

Nigerian police have shot and killed a protestor this week when some 1,000 youths went on the rampage outside Warri in the southwestern Delta State in a dispute with Mobil Oil over compensation for oil spills in the area. AFP quoting a senior police officer on Wednesday said 15 others were injured.

Last January, Mobil announced a major spill at one of its installations affecting some 150 local communities and poisoning vital fish stocks. The company and community leaders have been in protracted negotiations over a compensation package ever since, AFP reported.

According to local leaders, some 500 people have been killed in the past 15 months in violent clashes over oil spill compensation and land rights issues.

Police admit rights violations

Nigeria's head of police, Ibrahim Coomasie, has confided in a local paper in the commercial capital, Lagos, that his force had routinely trampled human rights in trying to bring criminals to justice. Speaking earlier this week to the 'Post Express', Coomasie also deplored the lack of adequate pay for police officers, which he said has led to corruption.

The paper quoted him as saying that if the state could not provide proper education, work, food, and housing opportunities and remuneration, it would be hard for the police to preserve other rights including individual liberty.

New government has released 1,000 prisoners

Nigeria's new military government has released some 1,000 prisoners since coming to power last month, AFP reported on Thursday.

Quoting a report from the head of Nigeria's prison service, Ibrahim Jarma, AFP said only the detained former ruler, General Olusegun Obasanjo, had actually been given a presidential pardon. All the rest were simply freed or given early release.

LIBERIA: Defence minister sets armed forces limit

Liberia's defence minister, Daniel Chea, has set a limit of some 5,000 men for the country's defence forces, independent Star Radio reported on Wednesday. Speaking at the national unity conference, Chea said the future armed forces would be a well-trained force including an army, navy and air force. He said Liberia's defence forces currently total some 14,000 men.

Human rights groups critical

But a prominent Liberian human rights lawyer criticised the government's military restructuring plans on Wednesday as just adding to insecurity. Star Radio quoted Councillor Benedict Sannoh from the Centre for Law and Human Rights Education as saying it was worrying that most security force members were only drawn from President Charles Taylor's former war-time faction, the National Patriotic Front for Liberia (NPFL).

"No amount of sophisticated security can protect the President unless the citizens themselves feel safe," he added.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN on Thursday, however, that ordinary Liberians felt anything but secure. According to one source Taylor's personal Special Security Service guards were "infamous" for their indiscipline and brutality. "They still look and behave like rebels," she said. "No one has any confidence in them at all."

ECOMOG appoints new chief-of-staff

ECOMOG has appointed Brigadier-General G. Kwabe as new chief-of-staff in Liberia. Star Radio said he was replacing General Abdul One-Mohammed, who was reassigned to Nigeria.

NIGER: Interior minister is given new powers

Parliament in Niger has passed a law giving the interior minister sweeping new powers to declare a state of emergency, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

An assembly official reportedly told the news agency that the law would allow the minister of the interior to declare a 15-day state of emergency on any part of the country in the event of "grave threats to public order". The minister would also have the power to arrest any person considered a threat to state security, he reportedly said.

GAMBIA: Britain releases aid

Britain released some US$ 2.9 million in development aid to The Gambia on Wednesday, AFP reported. London had suspended aid to The Gambia in 1994 following the military coup led by President Yahya Jammeh.

WEST AFRICA: IRIN news report

This update is accompanied by a briefing on the drought situation in the Sahel where International aid agencies say recent rains have brought some relief to drought-stricken areas, but that problems still abound. Subscribers who may not have received this report can request by it e-mail to with "sahel" in the subject line.

Abidjan, 30 July, 1998 18:40 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, 30 Jul 1998 17:54:04 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 262, 98.7.30 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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