IRIN-WA Update 598 [19991120]

IRIN-WA Update 598 [19991120]

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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WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Update 598 (Friday 19 November 1999)


SIERRA LEONE: RUF rebels release former president SIERRA LEONE: Weapons handed over to ECOMOG SIERRA LEONE: ICRC in Kenema LIBERIA: New armed forces chiefs named LIBERIA: Press union cautions against government threat to media NIGERIA: Senate committee recommends urgent re-equip of military AFRICA: US Pledges $100 million to UNHCR GABON: Summit of Gulf of Guinea summit GUINEA-BISSAU: Air Afrique resumes Lisbon-Bissau Service

SIERRA LEONE: RUF rebels release former president

Former Sierra Leone president Joseph Saidu Momoh was freed by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Makeni on Thursday, the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, said.

RUF leader Foday Sankoh said Momoh had been released to further the general call for forgiveness in the course of the ongoing peace process. He was flown back to Freetown by helicopter accompanied by Sankoh and officials from ECOMOG and UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and was welcomed by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Momoh had been in Pademba Road Prison since his conviction in 1998 on charges of conspiracy and helping the military junta that ousted Kabbah the previous year. Following the rebel invasion of Freetown in January, Momoh escaped from prison and was held for nearly a year by the RUF prior to his release. He was officially pardoned in July following the signing of the Lome peace accord which granted a general amnesty for all combatants.

Momoh became leader of the All People's Congress and head of state in 1985. Six years later the RUF, dissatisfied with regime, launched their insurgency, and in 1992 Captain Valentine Strasser led a coup to oust Momoh.

SIERRA LEONE: Weapons handed over to ECOMOG

Weapons seized by the RUF from the Guinean contingent of ECOMOG early in September were handed over in Makeni, ECOMOG said. it quoted Sankoh as saying that the weapons could be moved through the territories occupied by his men and reiterated the willingness of his fighters to disarm.

According to the UN, as of Thursday some 999 ex-combatants have disarmed, among whom 94 were children. Some 44,000 former rebels are still assumed to be in the bush, the Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said. The UN will start deploying its new 6,000-strong peacekeeping force next week and will continue until the middle of December.


Since returning to Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone last July, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been helping the government hospital there to meet medical needs, the ICRC said on Friday.

A team, consisting of a surgeon, an anesthetist and two specialised nurses are mainly treating people maimed during the fighting in 1998. So far, it has performed some 130 operations involving reconstructive and/or corrective surgery. An average of 15 surgical operations are now taking place every week, the ICRC said.

Future plans include training of local surgeons in war surgery techniques, building a new 40-bed hospital wing, an operating theatre, outpatient consultation and physiotherapy facilities, ICRC said.

LIBERIA: New armed forces chiefs named

President Charles Taylor has announced new appointments in the leadership of the country's military, Milton Teahjay, deputy information minister told IRIN on Friday.

Brigadier General Kpenkpah Kona has been nominated as the new Armed Forces Chief of Staff. He succeeds Prince C. Johnson who died in October following a car accident.

The new army chief is Colonel John Tarnue who was formerly the training commander of the Special Security Unit. It has not yet been decided who his replacement will be, Teahjay said. A commander of a former rebel faction, Brigadier General Samuel Varney, has been appointed Deputy Chief of Staff. All the appointments are subject to approval by the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday that soldiers had recently been found loitering at business centres and courthouses without permission from their superiors and, according to AFP, Defence Minister Daniel Chea threatened violators with detentions and dishonourable discharges. The army and presidential security guard are routinely accused of harassing civilians and violating human rights, AFP added.

LIBERIA: Press union cautions against government threat to media

The government has threatened to withhold permits to media institutions because of allegations of serious ethical violations, Deputy Information Officer Milton Teahjay told IRIN on Friday.

"The Ministry of Information will be reluctant to renew operation permits to media organisations that have engaged in blackmail and falsehood," Teahjay said. Certain individuals, including some government officials, have been targeted by journalists demanding money not to write defamatory articles about them, he added.

In response, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has advised against any arbitrary action by the government that would result in the withholding of operating permits to media institutions, Malcom Joseph, assistant secretary general told IRIN.

"The government must not take the law into its own own hands," he added.

All media organisations are obliged to register annually with the government to receive the required operational permit.

"We are not condoning ethical violations. If any institution is in breach of ethical standards then the government has a right to take them to court and follow the due processes of the law," Joseph said on Friday.

The PUL has a membership of some 400 individuals and 23 institutions in Liberia.

NIGERIA: Senate committee recommends urgent re-equip of military

Nigeria urgently needs a rolling plan to re-equip its armed forces in the face of growing internal dissent and the threat of external aggression from neighbouring Cameroon, `The Guardian' of Lagos reported on Friday quoting Senate Community of Defence Chairman Adolf Waraba.

"Our dear country is currently facing internal threats in the Niger Delta and externally in the Bakassi Peninsula," the newspaper quoted him as saying on Thursday.

Commenting after a tour of military bases in the country, Waraba said on Thursday that the state of the military's assets was characterised by dilapidated and obsolete weapons, abandoned military projects, inadequate and poor barrack accommodation, and lack of transportation.

Nigeria's economic and military muscle in West Africa has been demonstrated in that it leads, and largely provides troops for the West African Peace Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, deployed in Sierra Leone and before that in Liberia.

AFRICA: US Pledges $100 million to UNHCR

Africa will get half of the US $100 million the US government has pledged to support UHNCR funded programmes operations worldwide in the year 2000, the US Mission to the UN said on Thursday.

"This is to underscore our concern that many programmes in Africa remain under funded; and to ensure that equitable standards of care are provided to African refugees," Laurie Shestack, an advisor to the US mission at the UN, told the General Assembly on Thursday.

The pledge is subject to Congressional appropriation. The US contribution to UNHCR in fiscal year 1999 was at least US $278, the largest ever and Shestack said: "It is crucial for UNHCR to have strong donor support across the board to provide for the millions of refugees who depend on it for their protection."

GABON: Summit of Gulf of Guinea states

A one-day summit of the Gulf of Guinea states ended in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, with the fragile ceasefires in the two Congos and the civil war in Angola were high on the agenda.

The meeting, initiated by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, was also called to discuss the attainment and maintenance of peace in the area. Other leaders present were host Omar Bongo, Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Republic of Congo's (ROC) Denis Sassou-Nguesso, and Sao Tome's Miguel Trovoada.

Democratic Republic of Congo's Laurent-Desire Kabila did not attending, AFP reported. Gabonese officials as saying on Wednesday that the Angola and Cameroon would be represented by their foreign ministers.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Air Afrique resumes Lisbon-Bissau service

Air Afrique, the multinational carrier, resumed its weekly flights between Lisbon and Bissau on Wednesday, a reliable source in Guinea-Bissau told IRIN. Flights from Lisbon to Bissau will be direct, while the return flight will stop in Dakar, Lusa reported. The flight links between Lisbon and Bissau via Dakar were interrupted in June 1998.

Abidjan, 18 November 1999; 19:58 GMT


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

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Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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