IRIN-West Africa Update 346 for 1998.11.25

IRIN-West Africa Update 346 for 1998.11.25


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 346 of Events in West Africa (Wednesday 25 November)

TOGO: European Commission halts consultation with Lome

The European Commission, the executive of the European Union, decided today (Wednesday) to halt consultations with Togo because of its poor human rights record and the government's failure to abide by democratic principles and the rule of law, the commission said in a statement in Brussels received by IRIN.

The commission said these elements were mandatory for signatories to the Lome Convention on trade with the European Union.

Consultations followed Togo's presidential elections in June which the incumbent, Gnassingbe Eyadema, won. However on 26 June, the EU expressed concern about the conduct of the polls and the results announced by the Interior Ministry.

The EU and Togo held consultations on 30 July over the state of human rights, democracy and rule of law in the country but the EU was dissatisfied with the government's explanations. The EU said despite the halt in talks with the government it would avoid "penalising the civil society".

[The full text of the European Commission statement is available on IRIN-WA Extra].

EU gives 10 million ecus for micro projects

The European Union has given Togo 10 million ecus (US $11.2 million) to support small-scale business projects by the nation's poorest, the EU said today. The grant will favour money-generating activities in agricultural and animal husbandry.

In another statement sent to IRIN today, the EU said the money would also be spent on education, health, water supply, transport, and commercial infrastructure. The three-year programme, beginning on 1 December, will mostly benefit rural Togo, and to a lesser degree people living on city outskirts. African cities tend to be surrounded by shanty towns.

NIGERIA: Human rights activists say 295 detainees still held

A Nigerian human rights group told visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Soli Sorabjee, that the government still held 295 political detainees although it had freed scores of others, media agencies reported yesterday (Tuesday). The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights said the remaining political prisoners included several aides of former hardline military ruler, General Sani Abacha, as well as convicted coup plotters. In a letter to Sorabjee quoted by Reuters it said:" we urge... you to impress it on the military junta to take advantage of your presence and reconsider its reluctant posture by releasing immediately, and unconditionally too, all detainees".

The Nigerian minister of employment, labour, and productivity, Emmanuel Udogwu, told the rapporteur that three decrees said to be restricting freedom of association among labour unions were in the process of being repealed, Nigerian television reported yesterday. The rapporteur had called for the repeal of repressive laws.

Sorabjee began his one-week mission to Nigeria on 22 November.

LIBERIA: Work programmes for former combatants and unemployed youths

Liberian President Charles Taylor has announced the launch of a national work programme for former fighters and unemployed youths, the independent Monrovia-based Star Radio reported yesterday. The programme would employ an average of 300 young people in various cities to clean up their communities. Speaking in Tubmanburg, Bomi county, Taylor said the government would fund the programme for the first three months and called on the European Union (EU) to help provide employment opportunities for out-of-work youths through EU-sponsored projects.

A European Union official in Monrovia told IRIN today the EU had started funding micro-projects dubbed "Jobs for Guns" for former fighters in Liberia in November 1996 when they were demobilised. Some 7,000 fighters had been recruited and earned one US dollar a day and a hot meal at lunchtime. In a bid to promote reconciliation after the end of the seven-year war, the EU initiated a new series of micro-projects which recruited half of its workers amongst former combatants. This brought together combatants and non-combatants in development schemes, the official added. The projects entailed building roads, clearing ditches and swamps and preparing land for agricultural activities use as well as providing training and tools.

Transport union calls on police to halt harassment

The Liberian Federation of Transport Union appealed yesterday to police authorities to stop harassing drivers and called for an end to police roadblocks, Star Radio reported. The drivers complained that police officers seized their licences to force them to pay money. They also called on the government to introduce a toll system and to increase the salaries of the traffic police. The Union said the income from the toll could be used for the rehabilitation of roads and bridges around the country.

WEST AFRICA: UNHCR regional workshop on refugee children and teenagers

A three-day regional workshop sponsored by UNHCR and the NGO, Save the Children (SCF), opened yesterday in Abidjan to draft an action plan advocating the protection of refugee children and teenagers in West Africa, a UNHCR official told IRIN today. The workshop aims at training people dealing with refugee children and teenagers, who make up more than 52 percent of the world refugee population. Training modules would be used by participants and adapted to the West African socio-economic environment.

The workshop would also review the issues of demobilisation of child soldiers, non-accompanied children and the prevention of child exploitation. UNHCR, SCF, UNICEF, NGOs and government officials from African states are attending the workshop.

CAMEROON-NIGERIA: Exchange of prisoners of war

Nigeria and Cameroon exchanged more than 200 prisoners of war held since clashes in 1996 over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula straddling the two countries. The Cameroonian authorities released 124 Nigerians and 87 Cameroonians were freed by Nigeria, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) statement received by IRIN said. The ICRC said it had acted as a neutral intermediary in the release of the prisoners, who were flown in an ICRC-chartered aircraft to their respective countries. AFP quoted the commanding officer of the Nigerian division for the area, General Oladayo Popoola, as saying the exchange was made in the "spirit of reconciliation in our countries". The peninsula is believed to hold important oil reserves.

Fighting in the Bakassi area first flared in 1994 and both countries have a large military presence there. The BBC reported that the release indicated a thaw in relations but the real test would come when the International Court of Justice ruled on the two countries' separate claims to sovereignty over the peninsula.

SIERRA LEONE: Priests look for captured colleague

Three Roman Catholic priests have begun a search for the Reverend Mario Guerra who was captured in northern Sierra Leone two week ago by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), AFP reported, quoting church sources, today.

The sources told AFP that the search party was led by Father Superior Marchille. As a condition for Guerra's release, the abductors are demanding a satellite telephone, medical supplies and radio contact between deputy rebel leader Solomon Musa and his wife, who is in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital.

Government gives go-ahead for British firm to defend Sankoh

Sierra Leone has agreed that three British lawyers may defend RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh, who is appealing against a conviction for treason by a Freetown court, AFP reported yesterday. The team is made up of former British agriculture minister Douglas Hogg, Charles Buckley and David Hood. They offered to represent Sankoh because local lawyers refused the job.

AFP reported the government as saying in a statement on Tuesday it would "leave no stone unturned" to ensure Sankoh got a fair trial.

An official at the British Foreign Office (ministry) told IRIN today that Hogg, who served in the previous Conservative government, would be acting in a private capacity if he defended Sankoh.

Sankoh, the RUF leader, was sentenced to death in October for collaborating with the military regime that ousted President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997. The RUF has been fighting successive governments in Freetown and has been committing atrocities against the civil population in the north and east of the country.

WEST AFRICA: Niger, Burkina Faso launch polio vaccination campaigns

Burkina Faso and Niger launched polio vaccination campaigns over the weekend in a bid to arrest the spread of the disease in children under the age of five. An official in the Ministry of Health in Burkina Faso told IRIN today that the campaign was the third edition and would cover all 45 provinces in the country. The campaign against the crippling disease targeted more than five million children. About 15,000 workers, including 11,000 volunteers, would carry out the vaccinations in two five-day periods,.

In Niger, more than two million children will be vaccinated in a three-day campaign. One in three children in Niger dies before the age of five from various diseases. Only 15 percent of the children under the age of two have been innoculated.

The African Confederation of Football and WHO launched in 1996 a high-visibility campaign in West Africa called "Kick Polio out of Africa".

BURKINA FASO: Supreme court validates presidential poll

Burkina Faso's Supreme Court validated on Tuesday Blaise Compaore's victory in the 15 November presidential poll, AFP reported.

Compaore won 87.52 percent of the vote on the ticket of le Congres pour la democratie et le progres (CDP), and Ram Ouedraogo of le Parti des verts du Burkina (PVB) 6.6 percent. Third was Frederic Guirma with 5.9 percent for the Front du refus-Rassemblement democratique Africain (FR-RDA).

Some 2.26 million of the 4.2 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout of 56 percent. Leading opposition parties boycotted the poll, saying the electoral commission was pro-government. When the opposition boycotted polls in 1991, Compaore won with just 25 percent voter participation.

Abidjan, 25 November 1998 17:45 gmt


Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 18:02:33 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 346 for 1998.11.25

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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