IRIN-West Africa Update 269, 98.8.10

IRIN-West Africa Update 269, 98.8.10


Office for the Co-ordination 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 269 of Events in West Africa, (Saturday-Monday) 8 - 10 August 1998

GUINEA BISSAU: Joint mediation efforts welcomed

Joint peace efforts by the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have led to a further easing of tension between the two warring sides at the weekend, the Portuguese news agency Lusa said, quoting observers.

Representatives of the president of Guinea Bissau, Joao Bernardo Vieira, and his sacked armed forces chief of staff, General Ansumane Mane, expressed satisfaction at the two organisations' efforts to restore peace in Guinea Bissau, Lusa said. Vieira was quoted as saying he was "very confident" about the joint peace efforts, while the spokesman for the rebels said after the recent round of talks "a spirit (existed now) to find a diplomatic and peaceful solution."

Vieira's sacking of Mane prompted a mutiny which broke out on 7 June.

ECOWAS team visits Bissau after meeting with CPLP

West African mediators held separate meetings in Bissau on Sunday night with Vieira and Mane to review progress in peace talks, news organisations reported. AFP quoted Essy Amara, the ECOWAS mediation leader and foreign minister of Cote d'Ivoire, as describing the meeting as a "success". Amara said Mane had expressed confidence in ECOWAS and was willing to participate in a peaceful solution to the crisis in Guinea Bissau. This is the first time the ECOWAS committee has met Mane. Amara added that Mane told him he had no interest in becoming president of Guinea Bissau.

Before heading for Sunday's talks in Bissau, the ECOWAS mission also held talks in the Gambian capital, Banjul, with a CPLP team led by Cape Verde Foreign Minister Jose Luis de Jesus on a common solution to the crisis in Guinea Bissau. Amara said the CPLP and ECOWAS shared a common goal, which was "peace and stability in Bissau", Reuters said. Amara announced a joint ECOWAS-CPLP meeting on 11 August in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to work out a "common strategy" before the next round of peace talks between pro-government forces and rebels scheduled in the West African islands of Cape Verde on 18 and 19 August.

According to the Portuguese daily, 'Diario de Noticias', on Monday, the Cape Verde foreign minister said the meeting between the CPLP and ECOWAS had been "very positive", adding that he "did not rule out a joint CPLP-ECOWAS mediation henceforth". However, he underlined that possible participation by ECOWAS at the negotiations on 18 August was "yet to be defined".

Luis de Jesus, quoted by Reuters, said the main objective of ECOWAS should be "to build on the ceasefire" negotiated by the CPLP on 26 July. The ceasefire called for the beginning of negotiations, the deployment of peacekeeping troops preferably from lusophone countries, the demilitarisation of the city of Mansoa, north of Bissau, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

CPLP meets both sides

Meanwhile, the CPLP contact group met government and rebel representatives on Friday and Saturday for a round of talks aboard a Portuguese naval frigate 'Corte Real' off the coast of Bissau, but no breakthrough emerged, news organisations reported. According to Lusa, Luis de Jesus said the peace process was "moving forward", adding that agreement had been reached on dates for formal peace talks, an agenda and the deployment of military observers.

The spokesman for the rebels, Zamora Induta, said the rebels had put forward 20 points they wanted to discuss and representatives of both sides had talked "face-to-face," Reuters said. He added that no agreement had been reached on conditions for opening the airport, which was still under rebel control.

The conflict has uprooted over 350,000 people from their homes in Guinea Bissau.

Distribution of Portuguese humanitarian aid begins

The distribution of some 600 mt of Portuguese humanitarian aid, including 30 mt of rice, started on Saturday in Bissau, Lusa reported. The dispatch said the distribution was monitored by UN aid workers. The aid had been awaiting for clearance by the government since 16 July.

NIGERIA: Journalists wait to be freed

Some seven Nigerian journalists were still waiting to be freed under a general amnesty for political prisoners announced over a month ago, the press watchdog Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) said on Friday.

RSF said the seven included the editor-in-chief of 'The Diet', Niran Malaolu, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in April for taking part in an alleged coup plot against the former hardline ruler, General Sani Abacha. Nevertheless, Malaolu's sentence still stands at 15 years after the new government commuted it, RSF reported.

RSF also expressed concern over allegations that Bagauda Kaltho, a correspondent for 'News Magazine' in Kaduna, who was until recently regarded as missing, had died a few months ago while in detention in the Kaduna premises of the State Security Services.

Opposition lawyer wins award

Nigerian lawyer and opposition activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi has won the International Bar Association's 1998 Bernard Simmons Memorial Award, AFP reported on Sunday.

The news agency quoted Fawehinmi's office as saying the UN's chief war crimes prosecutor, Louise Arbour, would present the award in recognition of Fawehinmi's human rights and pro-democracy work.

Fawehinmi heads the opposition Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON) and has been arrested several times for criticising the military government, AFP reported.

SIERRA LEONE: Aid workers found safe and well

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) told IRIN on Monday six staff members reported missing after a rebel attack last week on Kabala in northern Sierra Leone had turned up safe and well.

Speaking from the capital, Freetown, one CRS official said the six had fled into the bush after fighting between the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Nigerian-led West African intervention force, ECOMOG, interrupted a CRS food distribution.

Another four CRS staff members managed to take an agency vehicle to safety in neighbouring Guinea.

"They were in the middle of the distribution when the rebels attacked," the official said. "But all our staff are accounted for now," he added.

CRS has been carrying out a vulnerable group feeding programme in Kabala since the town became accessible to aid agencies earlier this year.

ECOMOG commander seconded to Sierra Leone defence force

The commander of ECOMOG, Brigadier General Maxwell Khobe, has been seconded to serve as chief of staff to Sierra Leone's armed forces, Nigerian radio reported on Thursday.

A humanitarian source in Freetown told IRIN Khobe's promotion signalled Nigerian troops were set to stay in Sierra Leone "for the foreseeable future".

According to another source, restored civilian President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was trying to institutionalise Nigeria's presence after his own military revolted in the May 1997 coup. "He still does not trust any but a handful of Sierra Leonean officers," the source added.

Brigadier Abu Amadou reportedly replaces Khobe as commander of ECOMOG forces in Sierra Leone.

NIGER: Fifteen political parties form presidential coalition

Supporters of Nigerien President General Ibrahim Bare Mainassara decided to set up a 15-party coalition named the Convergence pour la republique(CPR) to support his efforts towards economic recovery in Niger, news reports said on Saturday. In a radio broadcast, the CPR announced that it would draw up a comprehensive strategy aimed at strengthening democracy and promoting human rights in Niger. The CPR is headed by Hamid Algabid, the former Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

Local and municipal elections, which would complete the electoral process, are scheduled for 22 November. All political parties in Niger have agreed to participate in the polls. The three main political parties in Niger are: the CPR, Alliance des forces democratiques (AFDS) and the Front de restauration et de defense de la democratie (FRDD).

TOGO: Three journalists detained

Three Togolese journalists, including two editors of independent publications, were arrested and charged with "besmirching the honour of the president and his wife", AFP reported on Friday, quoting judicial sources.

According to the news agency, the three are accused of publishing reports alleging that the widow of the late President Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire, Bobi Mobuto, had requested that the Togolese First Lady return "17 trunks of jewelry which disappeared in Lome". Mobuto spent some time in Togo on his way to exile in Morocco.

The three detained journalists were: Pamphile Gnimassou, editor of the weekly 'Abito'; Asionbo Augustin, editor of the weekly 'Tingo Tingo' and Hounkali Elias, a writer of the weekly 'Nouveau Combat'.

BENIN: Journalists protest against police

Journalists in Benin protested against the beating of a fellow reporter by police during independence day celebrations last week, AFP reported on Friday.

The news agency said some 1,000 journalists, reporters and civic leaders marched through the capital, Cotonou, chanting "never again".

Robert Amegah from 'Golf FM' was allegedly handcuffed and beaten after an altercation between security forces and his team of reporters covering the celebrations of 38 years of independence.

The police later confirmed on state media that Amegah had been detained for three hours for an "act of rebellion", AFP added.

"He was looking to cross swords with the security forces," Commissioner Bienvenu Agbidinoukoun said.

Abidjan, 10 August 1998, 18:00 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: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 18:08:51 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 269, 98.8.10 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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