IRIN-WA Update 520 for 2-3 August [19990807]

IRIN-WA Update 520 for 2-3 August [19990807]

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

Tel: +225 21 73 54 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Update 520 of events in West Africa (Monday 2 August and Tuesday 3 August 1999)

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG troops delay departure

Malian troops serving in the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) force have had their departure delayed, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Tuesday.

Some 150 soldiers were due to leave on Sunday but, according to Olukolade, there were some "hitches in the travel arrangements" and they are still in Freetown. He said he did not have a new departure date for the soldiers and was not aware of any other departures of ECOMOG troops in the coming weeks.

Secretary-General proposes greater UN presence

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a report submitted to the Security Council on Monday, has recommended an immediate increase in the number of military observers from the current authorised strength of 70 to 210, according to the UN Department of Public Information.

The Lome Peace Agreement, signed on 7 July, requires the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) to perform significantly expanded and new tasks in close coordination with ECOMOG, Annan said. He said ECOMOG's mandate will need to be revised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in consultation with the United Nations.

Annan also recommended that the Security Council may wish to consider setting up a commission of enquiry into atrocities and human rights abuses as recommended to the government by Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Temporary registration of former combatants

UNOMSIL has carried out the temporary registration of 200 ex-combatants, according to a news briefing on Friday by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, deputy spokesman for the Secretary General.

Arrangements are underway for their transfer to Lungi International Airport where the Registration, Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration programme will take place.

The three reception sites which had been set up temporarily in Freetown to deal with the influx of ex-combatants will be closed once they are all at Lungi, the deputy spokesman said.

OAU gives US $200,000 in humanitarian aid

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) has donated US $200,000 to help the government of Sierra Leone in "its ongoing efforts to address the grave humanitarian situation in the country," the OAU announced on Friday.

OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim said that unless the humanitarian situation was addressed it would be difficult for the government to proceed with the huge task of rehabilitating, reconstructing and developing the country.

The humanitarian situation, Salim said, was therefore to be addressed along with other priority areas such as the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes, otherwise the implementation of the peace agreement would be very difficult.

Salim said the OAU was considering "ways and means whereby it could give more concrete assistance to the implementation of the (Lome) agreement ..."

Otunnu to explore ways of protecting children

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Olara Otunnu, will visit Sierra Leone at the end of August to assess the condition of children, according to a UN news release.

Otunnu, who will be in Sierra Leone from 30 August to 3 September, will study the post-war needs of children and the extent to which these are addressed by current peace efforts, it said. He will look at ways to protect all children more effectively and to promote the inclusion of the welfare of children in the peace agenda for Sierra Leone, the news release added.

LIBERIA: Justice & Peace Commission rejects smear campaign charge

The national chairman of Liberia's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Stephen Wreh-Wilson, told IRIN on Tuesday his organisation's disclosure of wrong-doing by security forces and the poor treatment of prisoners was aimed at alerting government to take corrective measures.

"Government is not fulfilling its promises to the people, especially on security issues," he said.

Wreh-Wilson described as untrue accusations by ranking government officials and bodies - such as the Ministry of Information, the police and the youth wing of the ruling National Patriotic Party - that the commission was conducting a smear campaign to discourage foreign aid to the government. He said the commission wanted government to act against security bodies that molested the public.

Wreh-Wilson said dozens of civil war veterans had ransacked last week the home of the executive director of the Centre for Democratic Empowerment, Commany Wesseh, because Wesseh had said it was not the United Nations' responsibility to help the ex-fighters.

Human rights abuses blamed on security operatives, he said, included the murder of a Criminal Investigation Department officer , George Yalley.

"We say that the culture of impunity must not be encouraged," he said.

Wreh-Wilson also decried the conditions in the nation's prisons and detention centres as being inhumane. In Kakata's Carter High Prison, he said, inmates urinated and defecated in their cells, which exposed them to all sorts of diseases.

In Sanniquellie others slept in the same space as goats, others prisons had no roofs or windows, prisoners often lacked food and some were beaten, he said.

"The mentality is that once a prisoner you've lost all your rights," he said.

Rights group calls for action against lawlessness

The National Human Rights Centre, for its part, has urged Liberia's government to end increasing incidents of lawlessness in the country, Star Radio reported on Tuesday.

The Centre cited Yalley's death, the attack on Wesseh's home and persistent reports of harassment and intimidation by state security in Lofa County. It said these acts of lawlessness were creating fear among area residents. The Centre urged the government to outlaw weapons in public places and, eventually, to make Liberia an arms-free society.

SENEGAL: Truth and reconciliation body on torture proposed

A leading Senegalese human rights body, the Rencontre africaine pour la defense des droits de l'Homme (RADDHO), has called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on human rights violations in the country's southern area of Casamance, AFP reported.

In a report published on Tuesday, RADDHO condemned the existence of torture and inhuman treatment in Casamance, where the Mouvement de forces democratique de la Casamance has been fighting a secessionist war for the past 17 years.

AFP did not report whom RADDHO was condemning for the human rights abuses, but the NGO has accused government troops of such practices in the past.

BURKINA FASO: Elders call for government of national unity

A committee of elders has asked for a government of national unity in Burkina Faso following its investigations into unpunished political crimes, AFP reported on Monday.

In a report submitted to President Blaise Compaore, the committee also suggested that a truth commission be set up to achieve national reconciliation and a way out of the current national crisis. Compaore said he would make a decision on the committee's recommendations after carrying out consultations, AFP reported.

The committee was set up by Compaore in early June to look into unpunished political crimes committed since independence in 1960. Its formation came in the wake of a report released on 7 May by an independent commission which found that independent journalist Norbert Zongo had been the victim of a political killing.

Zongo's body was found along with three others in his car on 13 December in Sapouy, about 100km from the capital, Ouagadougou,

NIGER: Former prime minister to run for president

Former prime minister Amadou Boubacar Cisse has been nominated for October's presidential election, news organisations reported.

Cisse, nominated on Sunday by his party, le Rassemblement pour la democratie et le progres (RDP) is the first to declare that he will run for president, according to news organisations.

Meanwhile there are reports of splits within the RDP over his candidature with supporters of his rival, RDP President Hamid Algabid, denouncing Sunday's congress and announcing that they plan to hold their own on 7 August, AFP said.

Cisse was prime minister to President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, who was shot dead by the presidential guard at the military airport outside the capital, Niamey, on 9 April. The commander of the presidential guard, Major Daouda Malam Wanke, was appointed interim head of state and has promised to return Niger to civilian rule after a nine-month transition.

CAPE VERDE: Parliament approves revised constitution

Cape Verde's parliament on Friday approved amendments to its constitution, with the ruling Movimento para Democracia (MpD) voting for the revision and the opposition Partido Africano da Independencia de Cabo Verde (PAICV) against, LUSA reported.

LUSA said the revision's main changes related to the judicial system, and that the new constitution also paves the way for Creole, the mother tongue of most of Cape Verdians, to join Portuguese eventually as an official language of the archipelago.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Junta Leader called to testify on role in conflict

The leader of Guinea-Bissau's Military Junta, Brigadier General Ansumane Mane, has been asked to testify in an ongoing investigation into responsibilities for the country's recent conflict, according to news reports.

LUSA reported Deputy Attorney General Mamadou Balde as announcing on Monday that Mane would be asked to clarify a statement he allegedly made to the effect that he had prepared a plan to "physically eliminate" former president Nino Vieira just before the June 1998 military uprising.

Vieira was ousted by Junta forces on May 7.

NIGERIA: Dozens reported dead in new outbreak of violence

Dozens of people were killed in fighting between two rival ethnic groups in southwest Nigeria at the weekend, news organisations reported on Tuesday.

AFP quoted Paddy Dare, spokesman of the governor of Ondo State, as saying that the violence erupted on Friday between members of the Ilaje and Ijaw ethnic communities, locked in a dispute over control of the settlements of Oroto and Apaja.

AFP and BBC reported state governor Adebayo Adefarati as appealing in a radio broadcast for a halt to the clashes between the two groups and asking them to attend peace talks on Wednesday.

Dare said details of the fighting were sketchy, but that "certainly, not more than 50 lives were lost", according to AFP, which reported a journalist in Akure as saying the trouble started after Ilajes displaced by fighting in the area in September 1998 sought to return to their former settlements.

The Ijaws, who had taken over the settlements refused to leave, and fighting followed, he said.

According to the BBC, the 1998 clashes cost hundreds of lives and were caused by a dispute over land believed rich in oil reserves.

Rights commission to meet in mid-August

A commission of inquiry into human rights violations under military regimes since 1983 has postponed its first meeting to mid-August to give more time to plaintiffs to file complaints, AFP reported, quoting commission spokesperson Matthew Kukah.

The seven-member body, which should have met on Monday to plot its work programme, is already inundated with complaints, AFP said.

Former Supreme Court judge Chukwudifu Oputa chairs the commission, set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo to investigate individuals and institutions suspected of killings and of human rights violations from 1983 to May 1999.

Last military regime misappropriated US $400 million

Nigeria's last military leaders misappropriated US $400 million just five days before handing over to a civilian government, Energy Minister Bola Ige was reported as saying on Sunday.

Using his ministry as an example, Ige said the military leaders siphoned this money on phony projects, according to a 'Vanguard' newspaper report quoted by AFP.

They included, Ige said, a US $147-million dredging contract awarded to a relative of one the country's leaders, whose identity he did not reveal, AFP added.

ABIDJAN, 3 August 1999; 20:02 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1381

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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