IRIN-West Africa Update 263, 98.7.31

IRIN-West Africa Update 263, 98.7.31

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 263 of Events in West Africa, Friday 31 July 1998

NIGERIA: Key Abacha aide "retired"

Lieutenant-General Jeremiah Useni, a close associate of the late Nigerian military ruler, General Sani Abacha, will retire from the army on 1 August, news organisations reported. Useni, a former member of Nigeria's ruling military council and one of the country's highest ranking army officials, has taken "terminal leave" said Nigerian Defence ministry spokesman, Colonel Godwin Ugbo, quoted by AFP.

He said Useni had resigned "voluntarily." Analysts said Useni was linked with the plan under which five government-approved parties chose Abacha as their only candidate for planned presidential elections. Useni, 55, had been in government for 14 years and in the army for over 40 years.

Abacha died of a suspected heart attack on 8 June, following which the new Nigerian leader, Abdulsalam Abubakar, announced a schedule for fresh elections.

New political parties formed

The leader of a Nigerian youth group, which campaigned for Abacha's election, announced on Thursday plans to form a political party in a bid to run in elections slated for 1999, AFP said. Daniel Kanu, head of the defunct Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha 98 (YEAA), said the new party would be called Agenda 99. Kanu said it would campaign for "a massive overhaul of the economy," and the creation of a "new empire for the Nigerian army" which should benefit, AFP reported, from an "ample percentage of the country's budget".

In a related development, a group of 34 leading Nigerian politicians agreed to form a "broad-based" party with a national agenda since the military government lifted the ban on political parties on 20 July, according to AFP.

In a statement published in the local press, the group said "civilian politicians, at this stage, could not afford the luxury of ideologically divided small parties. We are convinced that what is required for the decisive battle for democracy, is a national, broad-based and formidable political party." Presidential elections in Nigeria are slated for the first quarter of 1999.

African charity feeds refugees

A new African charity, African Concern, has supplied food, medicines, and farming utensils to some 1,500 Liberian and Sierra Leoneans refugees in camps in southwest Nigeria, AFP said on Friday. "One of the objectives of African Concern is to participate in humanitarian efforts, geared towards the alleviation of hunger, poverty, disease and human suffering in Africa among Africans," an African Concern staffer said. The camp at Oru-Ijebu in the southwestern state of Ogun was set up in 1990 for Liberians, then joined later by Sierra Leoneans fleeing the war.

New rules on oil exploitation licences

The Nigerian military government unveiled on Thursday fresh rules governing the awarding of licenses to foreign companies seeking to prospect and sell crude oil, AFP said. The report said under the new rules, licenses for oil prospecting and sales would be given only to companies with a "minimum yearly turnover of US$ 100 million" and a "proven commitment to the development of the Nigerian economy".

Senior government figures in the Abacha regime were regularly accused of giving oil contracts in unclear circumstances.

GUINEA BISSAU: Peace talks

As the first substantive peace talks between army rebels and the government in Guinea Bissau started on Friday under the auspices of the contact group the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), media reports said the ceasefire signed at the beginning of the week continued to hold.

AFP quoted a spokesman for the Lusophone contact group on Guinea Bissau as saying at least 100 military observers drawn from the former colonial power, Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Sao Tome e Principe would deploy in coming days with a mandate to observe the ceasefire.

The truce was signed on Sunday bringing an end to nearly two months of shelling exchanges between Senegalese-backed government forces of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and General Ansumane Mane. The fighting started after Vieira sacked Mane as army chief of staff, for alleged gun smuggling to separatists the neighbouring Senegalese province of Casamance.

The Lusophone executive secretary, former Angolan premier Marcolino Moco told a news conference in Lisbon on the eve of a meeting in New York with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: "The CPLP will do everything it can to ensure that the situation does not run into complications, to avoid misunderstandings between the protagonists and above, to make sure that military tension does not get any worse than it already is."

The Lusophone nations, the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were ready intensify joint efforts to consolidate the ceasefire and provide assistance for some 300,000 people displaced by the fighting, media reports said on Friday.

SIERRA LEONE : Kabbah addresses UN

The President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, has told a special United Nations conference in New York this week that rebels loyal to the ousted military junta continued to terrorise parts of the country. He also said the rebels continued to indulge in "inhuman" behaviour and were still perpetrating gruesome atrocities on innocent victims.

"We fear that unless assistance for the troops is forthcoming, as a matter of urgency, rebel activities will not only continue and create more human tragedy, but will also drain our limited resources," he said. The New York conference was aimed at trying to raise money to help Sierra Leone recover from seven years of civil war, which has displaced at least one million people and destroyed the country's infrastructure.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, appealed to the the rebels to lay down their arms and said there had been too many false starts in Sierra Leone and in Africa in general. It was time, he said, to say enough is enough.

ECOMOG reinforcements sent to north

Meanwhile, the commander of the West African ECOMOG intervention force said he had sent additional troops to the northern town of Kabala after rebels there opened fire on peacekeepers while pretending to surrender. The commander, Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe has declined to give any casualty figures in the incident on Monday described as a "major" clash.

LIBERIA: ECOMOG general regrets no army reform

ECOMOG's outgoing chief-of-staff in Liberia has said he regrets Liberia's security forces were not retrained at the end of the civil war, independent Star Radio reported on Thursday. Speaking to journalists at ECOMOG headquarters in the capital, Monrovia, Brigadier General Abdul One-Mohammed said re-structuring the Armed Forces of Liberia had been a "vital" provision of Liberia's 1996 peace accord.

The agreement paved the way for presidential elections last July, which former faction leader Charles Taylor won by a landslide. However, Mohammed said ECOMOG had been frustrated in establishing a gun-free society in Liberia because "former warlords" had encouraged their fighters not to give up their weapons.

"People charged with security must be adequately trained," Star Radio quoted him as saying.

GHANA: Third journalist gaoled in contempt ruling

Ghana's high court has gaoled a newspaper editor for three weeks after he failed to pay a fine imposed for contempt of court, media reports said on Thursday.

According to the Canada-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the editor of the bi-weekly 'Free Press', Ebenezer Ato Sam, was told on Monday to pay a 5 million cedis (US$ 2,000) fine by the end of the day or go to prison.

The conviction reportedly arose from libel charges brought by the minister for local government and rural development, Kwamena Ahwoi, over an article 'Free press' had published claiming the minister had siphoned official funds.

Last week, two other Ghanaian journalists were also gaoled for a month after being found guilty of contempt in a case brought by Ghana's first lady, Nana Rawlings.

BENIN: Chinese police enter Benin embassy

Chinese police entered Benin's embassy in the capital, Beijing, on Thursday to evict Beninois students who had been blockading the building since Tuesday to demand payment of grants, AFP reported.

The news agency quoted a student spokesman as saying 20 police went into the complex to force out students who had chained themselves to gates. He said several students were hit during scuffles with police.

But the students still hoped to have direct contact with Benin's President Mathieu Kerekou, who they said has promised to release grant arrears accumulated since 1994, AFP reported.

TOGO: Prime Minister in talks with EU

The prime minister of Togo, Kwassi Klutse, held talks in Brussels with senior European Union (EU) officials to discuss the result of June's presidential elections, which gave the incumbent, Gnassingbe Eyadema, a new five-year mandate, news organisations said. An EU statement issued on Thursday said Klutse's explanations "differed considerably from the evaluation of the EU observers" adding that they would be examined in detail before deciding whether to pursue further talks. Eyadema's reelection was contested by Togolese opposition leaders as well as EU election monitors on the ground.

The EU partially suspended cooperation with Togo in 1993 after repeated clashes between security forces and pro-democracy activists.

Abidjan, 31 July 1998 16:05 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: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 16:14:38 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 263, 98.7.31 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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