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IRIN-WA Update 464 of events in West Africa (Friday 14 May)
GUINEA BISSAU: Junta frees captured pro-Vieira soldiers
Guinea Bissau's new rulers freed 186 soldiers loyal to ousted President Joao Bernardo Vieira on Thursday, Lusa reported.
The soldiers, aged between 15 and 20 years, were released at a ceremony in Bissau attended by diplomats and ECOMOG troops. Some of the young soldiers had been trained in neighbouring Guinea before joining the loyalist ranks in October, Lusa said. Others, it added, were pressed into service shortly before the Junta unleashed its final drive against Vieira last week.
Church leader urges Vieira to stand trial
Meanwhile, the administrator of Bissau diocese, the Reverend Jose Camnate, has called on Vieira to stand trial and "not fear the truth", Lusa reported. The country's new rulers want him tried for crimes against the state and accusations about gunrunning to separatists in Casamance, southern Senegal. Camnate said Vieira's departure without trial could "undermine the foundations" of the country's fledgling constitutional institutions, according to Lusa.
SIERRA LEONE: Chief of Staff advises against ethnicity in new army
The chief of staff of Sierra Leone's armed forces, Brigadier General Maxwell Khobe, has advised the country's authorities that future recruitment should "be based on merit irrespective of where people come from and there should be an equal number from every district," an army spokesman told IRIN on Friday.
Sierra Leone is rebuilding its army, which was dissolved by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on his return to power in 1998, AFP reported. The dissolved army had been made up mostly of Temnes from north central Sierra Leone, AFP added. The Temne and the Mende - who live in the south and east - are the country's largest ethnic groups.
NIGERIA: Seventeen reported killed in northeast clashes
At least 17 people died in four days of fighting in a land dispute between two communities in northeast Nigeria, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Gombe State Police Commissioner Raimi Odofin told reporters that several thousand people were made homeless by the fighting, which began on Sunday between the Tula and Awak communities. Six villages were burnt to the ground while police arrested 50 people.
Reuters said that so far this year hundreds of people had been killed in communal clashes in the nation of 108 million, where population growth has been putting increasing pressure on available land.
Labour umbrella calls off strike
Nigeria's trade union umbrella, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), says it has called off a month-long strike by public workers strike for higher wages, news reports said on Thursday. The strike was called off in 32 of the country's 36 states whose governments had agreed to pay new salaries, a senior union official told Reuters in Lagos.
The outgoing military government had approved an increase in the public service minimum wage from 1,000 to 3,000 naira (US $30). The NLC called the strike from 13 April after most state governments said they could not afford the new wages.
"In what appears to be a trade off for the higher wage, the government last month ordered the dismissal of thousands of federal and state civil servants from what most agree is an inefficient sector," AFP said.
Abubakar commissions Abuja's international airport terminal
Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar has commissioned a new international flights terminal at Abuja's Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, state-owned Nigerian radio reported on Wednesday. Abubakar also announced that the government had approved the rehabilitation of Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.
Abubakar to brief Obasanjo on state of the nation
Meanwhile Reuters reported senior Nigerian officials as saying that Abubakar would be briefing President-elect Olusegun Obasanjo from 14 to 26 May. The aim of the briefings is to give Obasanjo details of the state of the nation's affairs before he takes over as president on 29 May, Reuters said.
Nigeria has been ruled by the military for all but 10 years since independence from Britain in 1960.
GUINEA: WFP supports for a cleaner Conakry
The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing assistance worth 1.1 million dollars over a one-year period for a city-cleaning pilot project in Conakry, Guinea, WFP said.
The WFP's representative in Guinea, Mohamed Ibrahim Sharif, said on Thursday at the launch of the project that the WFP assistance would go towards improving the disposal and treatment of urban waste, cleaning gutters and other cleaning activities.
During the launch, 14 tonnes of rice, beans and palm oil were distributed to 405 women who, divided into 11 groups, are involved in the clean-up drive, WFP said in a press release.
Under the project, the WFP will distribute 1,935 tonnes of food, washing soap, tools and protective gear to women's and youth groups in poor neighbourhoods in Conakry and to workers of garbage-collection companies.
On 19 February, the WFP and the Guinean government signed agreements on two rural and urban development projects totalling US $4.7 million. The WFP assistance will be mainly in the form of food and other material aid.
Since 1990, the WFP has given Guinea development aid to the sum of US $20 million.
Abidjan, 14 May 1999, 18:10 GMT
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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