IRIN-West Africa Update 224, 98.6.8

IRIN-West Africa Update 224, 98.6.8

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 224 of Events in West Africa, (Saturday-Monday) 6-8 June 1998

NIGERIA: Abacha reported dead

Nigerian Head of State General Sani Abacha died on Monday morning after suffering a heart attack, media reports said quoting an official government statement. According to Associated Press (AP), close friends of the Abacha family reported the death. Troops then reportedly sealed off the presidential residence without explanation, provoking speculation about his state of health.

In keeping with Muslim practice, a funeral would be held within 24 hours, the news agency said. Meanwhile, journalists who had been summoned to the General's presidential compound in the capital, Abuja, remained outside waiting for further details, the BBC reported.

Abacha, who was 54, had made few public appearances since greeting Pope John Paul II in March, the BBC said. Last week, he also failed to attend a rally held to welcome him on an official visit to the commercial capital, Lagos.

Abacha seized power in 1993 after cancelling presidential elections and then later imprisoning the presumed civilian winner, Chief Moshood Abiola. Abacha had promised to hand over to a new civilian government in October. But in April, he became the sole consensus candidate of all five registered parties in Nigeria.

GUINEA BISSAU: Fighting in capital continues

Rebel troops attacked army headquarters in Guinea Bissau's capital, Bissau, early on Sunday morning after President Joao Bernardo Vieira removed the armed forces chief of staff, General Ansumane Mane, media reports said. The trouble broke out after General Humberto Gomes replaced Mane on Saturday following recent allegations he was involved in trafficking weapons to separatists in Senegal's southern province of Casamance.

According to media reports, fighting continued on Monday. Local residents were quoted by the BBC as saying they heard gunfire in the Bra area near the city's airport, as government troops apparently tried to re-capture two army barracks from the rebels. Residents said the situation in the city was confused and it was unclear how many troops were engaged on either side. But troops loyal to Vieira seemed to control the city centre and public buildings, AFP reported.

Media reports said fighting had also broken out on Monday at Mansoa, some 60 km north of Bissau.

Vieira had earlier vowed on national radio that he would crush the rebellion. Media reports said he also accused opposition parties of being behind the mutiny and said its defeat was only a matter of time.

Vieira reportedly cancelled his attendance on Monday at the OAU summit in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, because of the crisis. At least 40 people, including some 30 soldiers, and the foreign ministry head of protocol, Eugenio Spain, have so far been killed in the fighting, AFP reported.

LIBERIA: Security worries keep Taylor at home

Meanwhile, domestic security concerns also kept Liberia's President Charles Taylor from attending his first OAU meeting since coming to power last July, AFP reported on Saturday. Liberia's foreign minister, Monie Captan, was quoted by the news agency as confirming earlier indications that "reasons of security" would keep the president away, but he did not elaborate.

However, AFP suggested security concerns were linked to domestic opposition and Taylor's turbulent relationship with the West African peacekeeping force in Liberia, ECOMOG.

According to AFP, security problems also prevented Taylor from attending a meeting with his counterparts from Sierra Leone and Guinea in the Guinean capital, Conakry, last week.

SIERRA LEONE: South Africa establishes diplomatic ties

South Africa will establish full diplomatic relations with Sierra Leone's restored civilian government, a South African official told IRIN on Friday. According to the official, South Africa would provide Sierra Leone with "major aid" as a gesture of its commitment to democracy in Sierra Leone.

Koroma relative seeks asylum

A relative of the chairman of Sierra Leone's former ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) has applied for political asylum in Austria, AFP reported on Sunday. According to AFP, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma's cousin, Kemono Koroma, claimed his life would be at risk if he returned to Sierra Leone.

The Austrian government had initially turned down the asylum request, refugee organisations in Vienna reported on Sunday.

GHANA: Rawlings picks successor

Ghana's head of state, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, declared his support on Saturday for Vice-President JEA Mills to succeed him when his second and final term of office ends in the year 2000, Pana reported. Addressing a rally of the ruling National Democratic Congress, Rawlings effectively ended speculation his wife, Nana Konadu, might succeed him. Rawlings urged party members to support Mills, whom he described as "intelligent, hard-working and a man of integrity".

Mills, a tax law professor and technocrat, was a surprise running mate for Rawlings in 1996, Pana reported.


A US exploration company said on Sunday that Sao Tome e Principe had sufficient oil to make it a second Nigeria or Gabon, AFP reported. However, according to Norreen Wilson of Environmental Remediation Holding Corporation (ERHC), the archipelago would still have to wait 18 - 24 months before exploitation of its reserves could start.

Wilson said a number of European and US oil companies had already expressed interest in buying oil rights when they go on sale in the first quarter of 1999.

MALI: Civil disobedience campaign

A coalition of opposition parties in Mali has called for a nationwide campaign of civili disobedience and an active boycott of municipal elections scheduled for 21 June, AFP reported on Monday.

It quoted Coguel Maiga, leader of the Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau (MPR) as saying opposition leaders were however still open to talks with the government. The report did not say when the campaign would begin or what it would entail.

OAU SUMMIT: Leaders gather for two days of talks

The 34th OAU summit opened in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, on Monday with heads of state confronted with the death of the Nigerian head of state, General Abacha and growing tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea. As 29 of the organisation's 54 heads of state gathered in the Ouaga 2000 conference centre, diplomats told IRIN the impact of Abacha's death and its impact on Nigeria and West Africa were being closely monitored at the summit

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso said in his opening address as the new OAU chairman that Ethiopia and Eritrea should put dialogue before guns and make new efforts to resolve their border confrontation peacefully, news organisations said. When the OAU was founded, one of its guiding principles was the acceptance of former colonial borders, even though they often cut across tribal lands and divided some communities.

Compaore also paid tribute to "our great teacher", the South African president, Nelson Mandela, attending his last OAU summit before he retires.

CORRECTION: Report 221

In IRIN report 221 of 3 June on Britain's proposal to exempt the Sierra Leone from the UN arms embargo, the final paragraph said: "The move follows accusations in Britain that the Foreign Office had assented to covert arms shipments used to help restore Sierra Leone's former military government." It should have read: "x x x to help restore Sierra's elected civilian government."

Abidjan, 8 June, 1998 19:30 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN West Africa, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-WA Tel: +225 21 73 66 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: for more information or subscription. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the Web at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to . Mailing list: irin-wa-updates]

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 19:28:33 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 224, 98.6.8 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific