IRIN-West Africa Update 292, 98.9.10

IRIN-West Africa Update 292, 98.9.10


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IRIN-WA Update 292 of Events in West Africa, (Thursday) 10 September 1998

SIERRA LEONE: Rebels attack northern town

Sierra Leonean rebels attacked the northern town of Kamalu on Tuesday, killing scores of civilians and injuring others, media reports said.

AFP quoted missionaries in the area as saying Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters and troops from Sierra Leone's ousted Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) had descended on Kamalu, some 160 km north of the capital, Freetown, early in the morning and killed about 50 people with machetes. However, the news agency said casualty figures could not be independently confirmed.

Meanwhile, troops from the Nigerian-led West African intervention force in Sierra Leone, ECOMOG, had arrived on the scene to launch a hunt for the attackers, missionaries said.

ECOMOG has been carrying out a protracted bush war against the RUF and AFRC in northern and eastern Sierra Leone since it forced the two rebel groups out of Freetown in February. However, it had not been able to destroy rebel bases in Sierra Leone's thick northern jungle, media reports have said.

Treason case civilians appeal death sentences

Sixteen civilians sentenced to death last month by Sierra Leone's high court for colluding with the AFRC have appealed against their sentences, AFP reported yesterday (Wednesday).

They included a former AFRC spokesman, Allieu Kamara, a former presenter on the BBC's Africa Service, Hilton Fyle, the former head of state radio, Gipu Felix-George, and Olivia Mensah, a woman broadcaster who gave birth in prison a month ago.

Sierra Leone's state prosecutor, Soloman Berewa, was quoted as telling journalists that a date for the appeals to be heard had not been set. He said five of the 16 had also appealed against the court's verdict. The British government and several international human rights organisations have appealed to President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to commute the sentences. Sources in Freetown have told IRIN that the government is under pressure to demonstrate a tough line against the AFRC and RUF.

Meanwhile, three more civilian treason trials were still being heard, media reports said, including the trial of the RUF's leader, Foday Sankoh, and a former president, Joseph Momoh.

Some 38 soldiers were also expected to face court martial, AFP reported.

NIGERIA: Pope says political changes show "God's love"

Pope John Paul II has told Nigeria's bishops that the succession of the new head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, which has led to the sweeping political change, has shown "God's love" for the country, AFP reported yesterday.

The news agency quoted the Pope's letter as saying that "a new air of optimism and hope can be discerned among people of all ages and classes since the ascension of General Abubakar."

A papal request to release political detainees during the Pope's visit to Nigeria in March was unheeded by Nigeria's previous military ruler, General Sani Abacha.

Since Abacha's sudden death in June, thousands of prisoners of conscience have been released by the new military government, which has promised to crown its transition to democracy by handing over to a civilian government next year.

GUINEA: State asks for death sentences for mutineers

The Guinean government has asked for death sentences to be handed down for five murder suspects being tried for their part in a 1996 mutiny over army pay and conditions, which turned into a coup attempt, AFP reported. The news agency quoted Guinea's public affairs minister as saying four of the accused, who were all junior special forces officers and sergeants at the time of the mutiny, had killed their superior officer, Colonel Seny Bangoura, who commanded the Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp. One of the officers had also allegedly shot dead a young man, who had shouted his support for Guinea's president, Lansana Conte.

AFP said the state also asked for sentences of between five and 20 years for some 32 other officers and men accused of treason. However, the minister asked for leniency from the court for eight other officers, including Colonel Mohamed Lamine Traore, the former director of the defence minister's military staff, Abdouramane Kaba, the chief of staff of the gendarmerie, and the navy's former chief of staff, Sekou Camara.

Some 88 officers and men had appeared before the high court in connection with the coup attempt since proceedings began in March. The trial would re-open tomorrow (Friday), when defence lawyers would take the floor, the report said.

LIBERIA: Government fines independent radio

Authorities in Liberia have fined Monrovia's independent Star Radio US$ 2,000 for allegedly employing expatriate staff without valid work permits, AFP reported.

The news agency said Liberia's ministry of labour had given Star Radio's British chief of radio, George Bennett, and its American head of administration, Jeanette Carter, 24 hours to each pay US$ 500 in amends. Star Radio itself was levied with a US$ 1,000 fine.

AFP quoted a ministry communique as saying further fines would imposed for any late payment.

Star Radio started broadcasting in Liberia in July 1997 to give all political parties equal access to media prior to elections that month, which President Charles Taylor's former faction, the National Patriotic Front for Liberia (NPFL), won by a landslide.

In January, the radio was shut down for a number of weeks after its broadcasting licence was withdrawn over a technicality.

Star Radio is run by the Swiss-based Fondation Hirondelle, which has a number of similar independent information projects in countries affected by conflict.

GUINEA BISSAU: Negotiations to start in Abidjan on 15 September

Delegations from Guinea Bissau's government and army rebels were now expected to meet in the Ivory Coast's economic capital, Abidjan, on 15 September to continue talks started last month to find a peaceful solution to the four-month civil war, media reports said. AFP quoted an official in the Ivory Coast's ministry of foreign affairs as saying the talks, originally slated for 11 and 12 September this week, would now go ahead next Tuesday after military experts and chiefs of staff from the regional body, ECOWAS, had met to discuss the crisis.

ECOWAS foreign ministers and representatives from the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), which originally brokered a ceasefire between the two sides in July, would also be at the meeting.

The meeting would discuss an agenda for final peace talks and setting up an armed ceasefire observer group, AFP said.

A mutiny broke out on 7 June, when the president of Guinea Bissau, Joao Bernardo Vieira, sacked his armed forces chief of staff, General Ansumane Mane, on charges of gun smuggling to the neighbouring separatist province of Casamance in Senegal.

SENEGAL: Government asked to guard genocide prisoners

The president of Rwanda's international war crimes tribunal has asked Senegal to consider providing prison space for suspects found guilty of genocide, AFP reported yesterday.

The news agency quoted the Senegalese president of the court, Leyti Kama, as saying he had made the request to President Abdou Diouf at an audience in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

Kama said he was also looking for other African countries to provide space for those found guilty of taking part in the 1994 killings of some half a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

WEST AFRICA: Nigeria agrees anti-banditry measures with neighbours Nigeria has agreed a series of security measures with its northern neighbours, Chad and Niger, to reduce cross border banditry, AFP reported yesterday.

The dispatch said the administrator of Nigeria's northern Gombe border state, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Bawa, told reporters that joint border patrols would complement the work of a new multinational force the three countries had set up. No date was given for the force to start operations, AFP reported.

West Africa: Gap between rich and poor widening

Consumption of goods and services has skyrocketed globally to a new high of US $ 24 trillion, while poverty in developing countries has soared, and homelessness and illiteracy in industrialised countries have continued to rise, a UN report released yesterday said. The 1998 Human Development Report, commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), documents the devastating human consequences of the growing gap between rich and poor.

The report said 86 per cent of the world's goods and services were consumed by just 20 per cent of the world's population. The poorest, who consume the least, suffer the most from the resulting pollution to the environment. The report calls for more sustainable patterns of consumption to spread wealth and curb environmental pollution. The report includes a human development index ranking 174 countries according to the progress made in improving life expectancy, education and income. Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone were among the countries at the bottom of that list, while Canada, followed by France, Norway, the United States and Iceland, headed it.

Abidjan, 10 September 1998, 18:30 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, 10 Sep 1998 18:43:42 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 292, 98.9.10 Message-Id:

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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