IRIN Update 425 for 3/18/99

IRIN Update 425 for 3/18/99

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

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IRIN-WA Update 425 of events in West Africa (Thursday 18 March)

AFRICA: OAU Extraordinary Summit Postponed

An extraordinary summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) has been postponed indefinitely, according to a release yesterday (Wednesday) from the office of OAU chairman President Blaise Compaore.

The summit, scheduled for 30-31 March, was to have focussed on the conflicts in several parts of the continent. According to the release, quoted by PANA, it was postponed because the required quorum could not be met.

Last week, Blaise Compaore announced that rebels in Angola and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would be invited to the summit. This drew a strong reaction from Angola which, early Wednesday, urged other African countries to boycott the planned summit because UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi had been invited to it.

In a statement read out on Angolan TV, Angola's government said it was "ridiculous to suggest that such a person should take part in an OAU summit, as it is publicly known that Jonas Savimbi is subject to international sanctions declared by the UN Security Council, preventing him from travelling to and being received in any country".

The meeting's "real aim is to cleanse Jonas Savimbi's image in view of his international isolation and overwhelming public condemnation of his warmongering and terrorist stance," it said.

LIBERIA: Communities agree to end ethnic row

Representatives of the Loma and Mandingo communities in Lofa County, northeast Liberia, have agreed to end a conflict that has claimed two lives and resulted in the burning of many homes, according to a report yesterday by the independent 'Star Radio'.

Fighting erupted last month between the two communities, which have long been at loggerheads in Lofa county.

The two sides have now signed a reconciliation pact in Zawodamai town, 'Star Radio' said. The agreement was brokered by a team of officials from the ministries of Internal Affairs and State, which conducted a five-day investigation into the clashes, according to the radio station.

TOGO: Few surprises expected at parliamentary poll

There will be few surprises Sunday when Togolese go to the polls to elect their representatives in the country's 81-seat parliament: all but 11 of the 107 candidates are members of the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple togolais (RPT) and allied parties.

Eighty (80) of the parliamentary hopefuls are from the RPT. Two parties considered close to the RPT, the Coordination des Forces Nouvelles (CFN) and the Parti Ecologiste Africain, have put up 11 and five candidates respectively.

Also in the race are one candidate from the Mouvement des Republicains Centristes (MRC) and 10 independents.

Togo's opposition parties are boycotting the poll and, at a mass meeting on Saturday last in Lome, they called on their supporters to stay at home. The opposition has vowed not to take part in elections until a dispute with the government over the results of a mid-1998 presidential poll is settled.

President Gnassingbe Eyadema was declared the winner of that election, but the opposition rejected the result.

In the outgoing parliament, the RPT had 35 seats, the Comite d'Action pour le Renouveau (CAR) 36, the Union Togolaise pour la Democratie (UTD) 7, the Union pour Justice et Democratie (UJD) 2 and the CFN 1.

WEST AFRICA: Tension in the Central Sahara

Insurgents in Niger have denied a charge that they have been aiding a new rebel group in northern Chad. Molimi Barkai, representative in Niamey of the Front arme revolutionnaire du Sahara (FARS) said in a radio interview that his group had been surprised by the claim, made last week by Chad's government.

The Chadian government had reported on 11 March that it had wiped out a unit of Niger rebels that had crossed over into northern Chad to help the Mouvement pour la Democratie et la Justice au Tchad (MDJT) led by former Chadian government minister Youssouf Togoimi.

Togoimi had been defence minister and then minister of home affairs in the government of President Idriss Deby between 1995 and 1997. According to AFP, he retired to his home area in the Tibetsi region, on the border with Libya, in September last after being placed under house arrest in Ndjamena. He then formed the MDJT, whose spokesperson in Paris claimed last week that there had been 15 clashes since then between the rebels and government forces, and that the latter had lost more than 300 men.

(For full story see separate item issued today by IRIN-West Africa)

NIGERIA: IMF chief arrives

International Monetary Fund (IMP) Managing Director Michel Camdessus arrived in Nigeria yesterday for three days of talks on debt relief and reforms. From the airport he went directly for discussions with Finance Minister Ismaila Usman, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the planning minister.

`The Guardian' newspaper of Lagos today (Thursday) reported Camdessus as saying that his aim was to get first-hand knowledge and an error-proof opinion of Nigeria's problems and its appeal for debt relief. Since coming to power in June 1998, military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar has pleaded for the rescheduling of the country's US $30 million debt.

Finance Minister Usman said the government regarded Camdessus's visit "as a confirmation of international concern for Nigeria". In January, Abuja accepted that the IMF should monitor the country's political and economic reforms, marking a resumption of relations.

Ties between Nigeria and the IMF had been broken by the late General Sani Abacha.

New envoys named in massive sweep of Foreign Ministry

Nigeria's outgoing military government yesterday named 41 envoys to head diplomatic missions in what has been described as the largest single reshuffle in its diplomatic service, news reports said, citing an official statement.

The ministry said the move, which concerns mostly career diplomats, was "an integral part" of an effort to return Nigeria to international respectability after years of isolation because of its poor human rights record under Abacha's military regime.

One of the new appointees, career diplomat Eni Onobu, is being posted to Ethiopia to head Nigeria's mission to the Organisation of African Unity, Africa's foremost political body, PANA reported yesterday.

"The deployment of envoys is coming on the heels of the suspension of the plan to prune the country's foreign missions, currently put at 92," 'The Guardian' said.

US $580-million investment for Niger Delta

After years of neglect, Niger's troubled Delta area could have a brighter future with the announcement of plans yesterday for a multi-million-dollar programme to develop the region, news reports said.

The presidential Committee on Development Options for the Niger Delta submitted its recommendation yesterday for the immediate launch of the 20-year regional master plan, `The Post Express' newspaper of Lagos said today.

The 22-member committee, chaired by Major General Oladayo Popoola, recommended the earmarking of 15.3 billion naira (US $175 million) for infrastructural development this year, in addition to other spending plans. According to AFP, the Federal Ministry of Transport has agreed to invest 30.4 billion naira (US $350 million) in infrastructure this year and the Communications Ministry, 19.7 billion naira (US $230 million).

Among many other recommendations, the committee called for the establishment of a Niger Delta Consultative Council, chaired by the chief of general staff or vice president, with representatives of stakeholders as members.

Popoola said that the Delta had the highest concentration of commercial investment financed with public funds. He called on citizens of the area to refrain from violence and use appropriate channels to seek redress for their grievances. That sentiment was echoed yesterday by the secretary-general of the Ijaw Youths Solidarity Movement, Stephen Youyah, who said: "Youths are opting for peace."

There have been many kidnappings and seizures of oil flow stations in the Niger Delta area. Youyah said youths had taken to violence because of neglect and the resulting poverty. Most young people, he said, had ways to make a living but needed tools and material to "enable them activate their profession", The Guardian reported him as saying.

"There needs to be money going to small business projects, micro-credit, rather that big government projects," Pat Utomi, a leading Nigerian economist told AFP today. Utomi, who heads the political department at the Lagos Business School, said the massive investment announced by government was unlikely to raise living standards in the Delta.

"What is needed is the creation of an enabling business environment for the region, tax breaks and so on, that will encourage people at the low level to get into non-oil businesses, setting up motorbike repair ships, small manufacturing, agriculture," he added.

NIGERIA: Thirty-nine still detained under oppressive decree

Thirty-nine Nigerians are still detained under a controversial decree that permits indefinite detention on unspecified security grounds, a local rights group said today in Lagos.

AFP quotes the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) as saying that 12 of the 39 persons being held under Decree 2 of 1984 were suspected of involvement in various coup plots. The remainder were bankers imprisoned under the military administration of the late General Sani Abacha.

Nigeria has still not repealed measures suspending constitutional guarantees of human rights, allowing the existence of special tribunals and barring courts from considering executive actions.

SIERRA LEONE: Government spokesman on amnesty issue

Sierra Leonean presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN today he had seen no document from the rebels/former armed forces asking for a general amnesty and their incorporation into a new army now being built.

Kaikai was responding to an AFP report that renegade soldiers had put forward these measures as conditions for ending their rebellion.

Meanwhile, peace talks between the government and rebels are likely to begin in April, with Togo the likely host, various sources reported yesterday. Kaikai told IRIN the talks would be aimed at achieving "peace and security in Sierra Leone."

(For full story see separate item issued today IRIN-WEST AFRICA)

Abidjan, 18 March 1999, 19:20 GMT


Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 19:24:14 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: WEST AFRICA: IRIN Update 425 for 18 March [19990319]

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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