UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup of Main Events 45 in West Africa covering the period (Friday-Thursday) 17-23 April 1998
NIGERIA: Abacha to face elections unopposed
Following the blanket endorsement of Nigerian military ruler General Sani Abacha as the sole presidential candidate, the government announced Monday it would cancel the August presidential elections in favour of a referendum vote. Abacha won the endorsement of the last of the five registered political parties on Monday.
Opposition calls for boycott of Saturday's polls
The United Action for Democracy (UAD), a coalition of 26 pro-democracy groups, on Sunday and throughout the week, called on Nigerians to boycott all elections, starting with Saturday's national assembly polls. A UAD statement quoted by Reuters promised to intensify a programme of civil disobedience to push for a transitional programme. The main opposition coalition National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) echoed the call, AFP reported. NADECO chairman Abraham Adesanya said legal action by NADECO and other pro-democracy groups was also possible.
Meanwhile, authorities deployed 18,542 riot police and civil servants inside and outside polling stations throughout the country on Wednesday, AFP reported. The police threatened to arrest those planning civil disobedience campaigns, AFP added. Local sources told IRIN that a restricted curfew had been announced for Saturday amd only those people voting would be allowed on the streets between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The British government and the US State Department denounced Abacha's nomination as the sole presidential candidate. The US government accused the Nigerian government of manipulating the transition and called on Abacha to refuse the nomination. Meanwhile, the Nigerian bourse index fell sharply on Monday as investors took a dim view of the development, warning that possible sanctions by Western countries could hurt investment prospects, Reuters reported.
Coup trial verdict postponed to next week
The Defence Ministry on Monday announced that the special military tribunal trying Abacha's former deputy, General Oladipo Diya, and 25 others on treason charges, would announce its verdict on 28 April. State radio announced that 10 soldiers and six civilians had been cleared of charges and were expected to report for duty.
Amnesty concerns for detainees' relatives
Nine women and 16 children arrested on 19 April in northern Nigeria could suffer ill-treatment in detention because of their relationship to four political prisoners, the human rights NGO, Amnesty International (AI), said Tuesday. They include Zeenah Ibrahim, wife of the jailed Shia Muslim preacher, Ibrahim Zak-Zaky, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He and three other members of the northern Islamist opposition arrested in September 1996 are on trial for sedition. At least one person was killed Sunday in Kaduna during protests against the arrests of the women and children, the BBC reported. A spokesman for the protestors claimed five people were killed.
Fresh raid on publisher
Forty-six heavily armed State Security Service agents on Monday stormed offices of 'The News' and 'Tempo' magazines and the daily 'P.M. News' in Ikeja, Lagos state, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said. The agents arrested 12 employees and stopped the printing of Monday's edition of 'P.M News'.
SIERRA LEONE: UNHCR tells of ousted junta atrocities
UNHCR on Tuesday accused the ousted junta of committing atrocities against civilians in northeastern Sierra Leone. UNHCR said refugees arriving in Guinea reported terrible atrocities by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The flow of refugees into Guinea was now estimated as high as 1,000 arrivals per day, while tens of thousands were blocked at the border with nowhere to go. A further 20,000 refugees are currently living in three Guinean border villages. Many were suffering from malaria, respiratory diseases, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Moreover, the onset of the rainy season in May would hamper their relocation.
Of the 250,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea, 50,000 have arrived since the beginning of this year, Reuters reported. A further 55,000 refugees arrived in Liberia over the same period.
Warnings of humanitarian crisis in east
The government on 17 April announced that ECOMOG, had gained control of the eastern diamond town of Koidu, Kono district, and was pushing on to Kailahun and Koindu, Reuters reported. Sources close to ECOMOG and aid workers in the area told Reuters that remnants of the AFRC and RUF were holding out in the eastern section of Koidu.
Rebel forces said they were in control of Koindu, the capital of Kailahun district, Star Radio reported on Sunday. The radio quoted RUF leader Sam Bockari, speaking from an undisclosed location, as saying his fighters controlled several towns in the area. Junta forces reportedly massacred some 80 civilians the week before last in Golahun, also in Kailahun district, AFP reported on 17 April. British NGO Merlin, in Freetown, told IRIN that it was difficult to say who controlled what areas.
Meanwhile, Reuters quoted aid workers in the eastern diamond town of Koidu, as predicting a "big humanitarian situation" once the fighting subsided. A local humanitarian source told IRIN that only one international NGO had staff in Koidu and was trying to evacuate them. Another source said he had received eyewitness accounts confirming reports of "horrific" scenes of mutilations and killings by junta forces.
ECOMOG says Liberian fighters destabilising Sierra Leone
Nigerian ECOMOG commander in Sierra Leone Maxwell Khobe reiterated that factional fighters from neighbouring Liberia were embroiled in the Sierra Leone fighting, AFP reported on Tuesday. In a radio interview, Khobe said there was "abundant evidence" of the involvement of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and ULIMO-K, a wing of the United Liberation Movement. Khobe stopped short of accusing Liberian President Charles Taylor of supporting junta remnants.
US Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsh, speaking in Monrovia during talks with Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea, said the reports were creating "fear", Star Radio reported on Monday. Chea also denied the allegations.
UN to deploy 10 military and security officers
The UN Security Council on Friday authorised the deployment of 10 UN military and security officers to Sierra Leone to report on the military situation and assist in the disarmament exercise. In a related development, the European Union (EU) allocated US$ 7 million to assist in the reintegration of demobilised soldiers into society, Reuters reported last Friday.
Government slaps ban on war reports
The government introduced military censorship on war reports unless the stories were cleared by ECOMOG, the BBC reported. The ban followed press reports on the repatriation of 20 bodies of Nigerian ECOMOG soldiers killed in fighting and road accidents. Liberian Star Radio said a few reporters were briefly detained and released with warnings.
Retrained soldiers jailed for atrocities
Some 250 Sierra Leonean soldiers, "retrained" to help fight remnants of the junta, were jailed after civilians accused them of atrocities, AFP reported Wednesday. The retrained soldiers had been deployed alongside the ECOMOG intervention force after they surrendered to it following the ousting of the junta from Freetown in February.
Twenty-three charged with treason, accounts frozen
Twenty-three more people were charged with treason Tuesday for allegedly collaborating with the junta, news organisations reported. The new indictments bring to 59 the number of defendants facing treason charges - punishable by death.
In another development, the government on Tuesday ordered banks to freeze the accounts of 93 nationals and foreigners, mainly foreign businessmen, for allegedly collaborated with the junta, the media reported. Reuters noted that over 20 foreigners had already been expelled for collaboration and defrauding the state.
EU to help fight corruption
The European Union (EU) will provide Sierra Leone with financial experts to fill key government positions and help fight rampant corruption, AFP quoted Finance Minister James Jonah as saying Thursday. Jonah also said the World Bank would send a team to assess the "enormous damage" to industries, infrastructure and businesses. During last May's coup, both the Treasury and the central bank were burnt down, destroying huge quantities of payroll accounts and other vital documents.
LIBERIA: Taylor orders probe over Rights Commissioner
President Charles Taylor Tuesday ordered an investigation into allegations that a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Kromah Bryemah, had been beaten by police, Star Radio reported. Bryemah accused Police Director Joe Tate of ordering the beating. A police spokesman denied the assault. The report is to be submitted within 10 days.
Reconciliation and investment essential for recovery
Reconciliation and economic recovery were at the centre of discussions hosted by Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, in Chicago last weekend, according to USIS. Liberian Finance Minister Elias Saleeby said private investors were "desperately needed" because the country was not "creditworthy" in the international market. The conference was attended by Liberia's first lady, Jewel Howard Taylor, and senior US officials, including US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Susan Rice.
New Health Minister
Taylor Tuesday appointed the nation's former chief physician,
Dr Peter Coleman, as minister of Health and Social
Welfare, PANA reported. Coleman will be replacing Fahn-boah
Dakinah, an opposition politician who will now co-chair
a newly created 15-member presidential task force for
the productive engagement of manpower. Star Radio quoted
Taylor as saying that US$ one million of a three million
Taiwanese grant for ex-combatants would be used for
agriculture, health and education programmes supervised
by the task force.
Liberian refugees leave Ghana
A total of 408 Liberian refugees left Ghana for Liberia on Monday, AFP reported. UNHCR said this brought the number of returning refugees to 3,000 with more expected from Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire over the week.
NIGER: More anti-government demonstrations
Opposition supporters demonstrated over the weekend in Zinder and Maradi, in southern Niger, setting fire to a police station and the regional headquarters of the ruling party in Zinder, 700 km east of Niamey, the capital. Meanwhile, opposition supporters in Maradi, 550 km east of the capital, tried to march into the city centre on Saturday to protest against a planned rally for the ruling party, Reuters reported. Demonstrators ransacked buildings, built barricades and burned tyres. However, the rally went ahead with a heavy police presence. Some 10 people were wounded, including four policemen.
The protests were part of a nationwide series of demonstrations calling for President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara's resignation launched by the eight-party opposition coalition Front pour la restauration et la defense de la democratie (FRDD) on 11 April.
The government announced Monday that three opposition leaders had been arrested on charges of inciting violence and four others were being sought. Meanwhile, a local human rights NGO, the Association du Niger pour la defense des droits de l'homme, denounced the acts of violence by opposition activists, Reuters reported on Monday.
Attacks on opposition targets
Unidentified individuals fired on the home of Ali Sabo, a leading member of the opposition Mouvement national pour la societe de developpement (MNSD) in Niamey, AFP reported on Tuesday. The government Wednesday denied allegations that it was behind the attack, the BBC reported.
The government also denied that the 15 April attack on a pro-opposition publishing house was "politically motivated", AFP reported. A dozen armed men stormed the premises of the publishing house, but were prevented from setting the building ablaze by police. The publishing house director claimed the incident was politically motivated.
Refugees return from Algeria
Some 482 refugees, who fled fighting between Niger security forces and Tuareg rebels in the early 1990s, returned home from Algeria on 15 April. A humanitarian source told IRIN that 3,000 Nigeriens were expected to be repatriated by the end of May.
SENEGAL: Eleven die in Casamance clash
Ten rebels of the Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) and one government soldier were killed Tuesday in a clash in Senegal's troubled southern province, AFP reported. Fighting in the region diminished following the December 1997 appeal for a ceasefire, but armed attacks by separatists or bandits against villagers and travellers remain frequent.
Rebel warning over election
MFDC spokesman Mamadou N'Krumah Sane told AFP on Tuesday that the rebel movement "was not and would never be concerned" by Senegal's forthcoming general election. Those Casamance people willing to cast their vote on 24 May would be free to do so, but MFDC forces would stand up against the Senegalese army if the latter tried to force people into voting, he warned.
More clashes with Mauritanian refugees
Three people were killed and several others injured on Sunday during an attack by armed bandits on the Mama Ndao village in the department of Kidira, near the border with Mauritania and Mali, according to AFP. The assailants are suspected of being Mauritanian refugees retaliating against the killings of four refugees last week.
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Over 200 arrested
More than 200 opposition activists were arrested in a police crackdown in mainland Equatorial Guinea, AFP reported Tuesday. The Popular Union (UP) claimed the arrests last week followed their refusal to join forces with the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE).
CHAD: US Peace Corps withdraws from country
The United States on Monday withdrew all 34 Peace Corps volunteers from Chad and suspended its programme because of growing violence and civil unrest in the country, a Peace Corps statement said.
Abidjan, 24 April 1998, 18:45 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: email@example.com 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: http://www.reliefweb.int/emergenc or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to archive@dha..unon.org. Mailing list: irin-wa-weekly]
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 18:45:46 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup 45, 98.4.24 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.95.980424184403.17532Bemail@example.com>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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