UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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IRIN-WA Update 525 of events in West Africa (Tuesday 10 August)
SIERRA LEONE: SIERRA LEONE: Last hostages freed
Former Sierra Leone Army (ex-SLA) rebels have freed their last remaining hostages as well as women and children abducted in January, Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN from Freetown on Tuesday.
"Fifteen ECOMOG soldiers and one UN military observer along with some 200 women and children have been released," Spencer said. He said the soldiers had arrived in Freetown and seemed to be in good condition, unlike the women and children, who were still on their way to the capital.
"There are reports that the women and children
are weak and some of the girls are pregnant,"
Spencer said. Once they are in Freetown they will receive
medical attention and trauma counselling before returning
to their families, he added.
Information received from former child captives by the ministry responsible for childrens' affairs indicated that girls kidnapped by rebels were used as sex slaves and boys trained to use guns and fight, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
The recently freed hostages formed part of a UN-led mission of 42 who were abducted on 4 August in the Occra Hills, about 70 km east of Freetown, by the ex-SLA, who demanded the liberation of their leader, Johnny Paul Koroma.
Koroma had headed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) junta which ruled Sierra Leone from May 1997 to February 1998 before it was ousted by ECOMOG. The hostage-takers claimed he had been detained by his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) allies.
By last Thursday, they had released seven of the group which included UN military observers, journalists, civilians and ECOMOG soldiers. Over the weekend, Koroma appealed to his men from Liberia via the BBC to release the others as well as the children and, on Sunday, a further 19 hostages were freed. All were reported to be in good health.
When asked what steps would be taken to avoid a repetition of the recent events, Spencer said his government regarded the hostage taking as an "isolated incident," and felt there was still a commitment on all sides involved in the Sierra Leone peace process to continue with its implementation.
Spencer said Koroma had been actively involved in the release of the hostages through his radio broadcast and "several discussions with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah".
In addition, he said, four senior AFRC officers from the Occra Hills were now in Freetown and were expected to travel to Liberia's capital, Monrovia, by Wednesday to meet their leader and "discuss their grievances."
In addition to Koroma's release, the hostage takers had demanded food and medicine, and more of a stake in the 7 July Lome Peace Agreement, negotiated between the RUF and the government.
Spencer told IRIN no food and medicine had been handed over.
Observers in Freetown said another issue was the desire of the former SLA soldiers to be reintegrated into the new Sierra Leonean army.
Preacher reported killed behind rebel lines
Meanwhile, the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone (EFSL) told IRIN on Tuesday that one of its pastors was shot dead in the Northern Province at the weekend.
The General Secretary of the EFSL, Crispin Cole, said reports they had received indicated that the Reverend Francis Turay was shot and killed on Sunday between Makeni and Lunsar, but no other details were available.
Turay, the EFSL Regional Officer for Northern Province, had been working behind rebel lines, the EFSL said.
LIBERIA: Church network appeals for funds
Action by Churches Together (ACT) has launched an appeal for US$ 1,945,472 for a project aimed at helping to speed up the resettlement and reintegration of returning refugees, IDPs, ex-combatants and other persons in Liberia.
The project's targets include support for agriculture, reconstruction of community infrastructure, and food and non-food distribution, the international network of church and related agencies said in its appeal, launched on 5 August.
ACT members involved in the initiative are the Lutheran World Federation, Lutheran Church in Liberia, Christian Health Association of Liberia, United Methodist Committee on Relief and Liberia Council of Churches.
[For more information see ACT's web site, http://www.act-intl.org]
NIGER: New constitution promulgated
The chairman of Niger's ruling Conseil national pour la reconciliation (CNR), Major Daouda Mallam Wanke, on Monday signed a decree promulgating the country's new constitution, the official 'La Voix du Sahel radio reported.
Under the constitution, the president and the prime minister will share power and will have to govern together, a constitutional court is to be set up and amnesty granted to those involved in the military coups in 1996 and 1999.
On 9 April 1999, the CNR overthrew and killed then President
Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, who had seized power in 1996.
It later set up a committee to draft the new constitution,
which was approved at a referendum held in July.
The junta has announced presidential elections for 3 October and parliamentary polls for 14 November.
So far there are at least three nominees for the presidential election.
The former ruling Rassemblement pour la democratie et le progres has split into two factions with each nominating a candidate. The two are chairman Hamid Elgabid and deputy chairman Amadou Boubacar Cisse, who had been Mainassara's prime minister.
The Parti pour la Democratie et le Socialisme has nominated its chair, Mahamadou Issoufou, as its candidate. Issoufou is a former speaker of the national assembly.
NIGERIA: Demonstration over parliamentarians' stipends
Hundreds of trade unionists demonstrated on Tuesday outside Nigeria's National Assembly against the size of allowances to be paid to parliamentarians, a media source told IRIN.
More than 1,000 demonstrators - some media reported up to 3,000 - took part in the protest, organised by the main trade union umbrella, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The allowances, aimed at helping parliamentarians defray the cost of moving from their places of residence to Abuja, the capital, were approved last month by the government.
Each of the 109 federal senators is to receive a moving allowance of 3.5 million naira (about US$ 33,600, while the 360 members of the House of Representatives are to get 2.5 million naira (US$ 24,000), about 800 times the monthly minimum wage of 3000 naira (about US$ 29), the source said.
MALI: IMF approves US $63.06-million loan
Mali will receive SDR 46.65 (US $63.06 million) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support economic reforms, the IMF has reported.
The first tranche of the two-part loan, amounting to SDR 6.75 million (about US $9.12 million), will be available in mid-August, the IMF said in a statement on 6 August. It is being disbursed under the Fund's Enhanced Structural Adjustment facility (ESAP).
The IMF said Mali had made "considerable progress" in reducing macroeconomics imbalances, alleviating economic distortions and fostering growth. However, it added, the economic and financial situation was still fragile, poverty widespread and a substantial chunk of structural and social reforms remained unfinished.
IMF Deputy Managing Director Shigemitsu Sugisaki said the IMF board felt Mali should proceed with efforts to rehabilitate the judicial system, accelerate regulatory reform, deepen financial intermediation and upgrade the banking system.
It should also go ahead with the restructuring of the
energy and telecommunications sectors and "execute
the ambitious development programmes in health and
education sectors", he said.
Abidjan, 10 August 1999, 18:25 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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