IRIN-West Africa Update 293, 98.9.11

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IRIN-WA Update 293 of Events in West Africa, (Friday) 11 September 1998

NIGERIA: Parties wait for registration announcement

Nigeria's aspiring political parties were waiting for the results of this month's registration process to find out if they had qualified under the military government's stringent national unity criteria to compete in civilian elections promised next year, media reports said yesterday (Thursday).

Nigerian radio said that some 32 political groups had collected registration forms, but only 25 had beaten Wednesday's deadline to submit their request.

Under Independent National Elections Commission (INEC) rules, political parties have to "show commitment" to keeping Nigeria united, guarantee that the party is open to all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic origin or gender, and produce a detailed manifesto covering policies on the economy, health and education.

"We will be monitoring closely to see that what they said on their forms is borne out on the ground," AFP quoted INEC chairman Justice Ephraim Akpata as saying.

Parties must also be represented by offices in 24 of Nigeria's 36 states and avoid any regional or ethnic bias in their literature, rules and symbols, AFP reported. They also have to set up headquarters in the capital, Abuja, and produce a non-refundable registration fee of 100,000 naira (US$ 1,200).

A list of parties qualifying to contest the elections would be published in two weeks, INEC announced.

Front runners in Nigeria's booming political process since the sudden death of the former hardline ruler, General Sani Abacha, in June, include the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the All People's Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD).

The AD was formed only on Tuesday after a group of mainly southern leaders split from the APP alleging the APP included known Abacha supporters in its ranks.

According to AFP, more than half of Nigeria's population of 120 million are expected to register to vote in the elections, which start with local polls in December and continue through to the presidential run-off in February.

Political exiles reluctant to return

Leading Nigerian exiles have remained unconvinced by government calls for them to return home, Nigerian radio state reported earlier this week. The radio quoted the chairman of the opposition National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Abraham Adesanya, as saying exiles had told him on a recent trip abroad that acceptable conditions for return were still not in place. Adesanya cited Decree 2, under which many detainees were held in custody without charge, as a major stumbling block. Repealing the decree "wouldn't be asking too much", he said.

On Monday, Nigeria's new military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, told an international press conference that he had lifted arrest orders so "self-exiles" should now have no "excuse" to stay away.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday he welcomed Abubakar's call to exiles to participate in the political and economic development of the country. Annan said he was also "encouraged" by Abubakar's actions to restore confidence in the government and bring about democracy in Nigeria.

Canada to re-open mission

Canada and Nigeria announced on Wednesday they would restore full diplomatic relations by mid-October after a two-year gap in protest against Nigeria's human rights record.

AFP said Canada was one of Nigeria's fiercest critics during the Abacha regime, but Canada's Africa minister, David Kilgour, who has been visiting Nigeria this week, announced his country would re-open its high commission following a meeting with Abubakar and the minister of foreign affairs, Ignatius Olisemeka.

Canada and Nigeria were "long-standing friends", Kilgour said, adding the Nigerian representation would also be re-opening in Ottawa in October.

GUINEA BISSAU: Opposition intends to take part in peace talks

Eight opposition parties in Guinea Bissau have said they intend to take part in peace talks in Cote d'Ivoire's economic capital, Abidjan, next week between the government of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and army rebels, the Portuguese news agency, Lusa, said.

A mutiny broke out on 7 June, when Vieira sacked his armed forces chief of staff, General Ansumane Mane, on charges of gun smuggling to separatists in neighbouring Senegal's Casamance province.

The Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) successfully negotiated a ceasefire between the two sides in July. However, media reports have said much work remains to find a final solution to the crisis, which has been complicated by the intervention of some 3,000 foreign troops from Senegal and Guinea (Conakry).

LIBERIA: Taylor signs teacher pay deal

President Charles Taylor has signed a payroll order for Liberia's teachers, some of whom have not been paid since before the outbreak of Liberia's seven-year civil war, which ended in 1997, media reports said.

The Monrovia-based independent Star Radio said Taylor had personally signed the order to release back-pay to teachers as part of his government's "back-to-school" programme. Taylor has also raised the national education budget from US$ 121 million to US$ 264 million, Star Radio reported.

Last month, Taylor pledged to raise educational standards at a national conference called to discuss progress on putting Liberia back on its feet after the end of the war.

Taylor, who led the National Patriotic Front for Liberia (NPFL) during the conflict, reportedly admitted his government had "failed" to do much since he was swept to power in July 1997 elections. However, blamed the international community for withholding development funds.

Aid officials told IRIN they were waiting for signs of better management of the budget before releasing money to government projects. Taylor reportedly shocked many Liberia analysts last year by allocating over 75 percent of the budget to the army.

NIGER: Trouble brews over emir's appointment

Trouble has been brewing in Niger's western province of Dosso over the appointment of a new emir by the central government, the BBC reported. The radio said over 2,000 people had gathered to stage a protest against the appointment of Issousa Seydou Djermakoye, a retired former ambassador to Paris.

Although Djermakoye comes from one of seven families traditionally entitled to hold the position, protestors have said he is out of touch with local issues after decades abroad, and they should be allowed to choose their own candidate.

The seven families filed a petition to the high court last week asking for the appointment to be annulled, the BBC said.

Opposition satisfied

Meanwhile, Nigerien opposition parties said on Wednesday that they were satisfied with the implementation of a deal negotiated with the government in July on the conduct of municipal elections, AFP said.

The dispatch quoted former head of state Mahamane Ousmane as telling a joint opposition meeting with President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara that the opposition was satisfied the government had stuck to its side of the bargain.

The agreement brokered by the former colonial power, France, was reportedly designed to ensure opposition participation in elections it has previously boycotted alleging government fraud.

The accord stipulated a revision of the electoral roll by the independent elections commission, equal access to media, and government guarantees of neutrality by the military, traditional leaders and foreign diplomats, media reports said. "We are satisfied, but will stay alert," Ousmane reportedly commented.

WEST AFRICA: Nigeria moves troops to Bakassi

Nigeria has said it has moved more troops into the disputed Bakassi Peninsula, two days after accusing Cameroon of deploying hundreds more policemen there, the BBC reported today.

The BBC quoted a Nigerian defence spokesman in Lagos as saying there had been no incidents yet, but Nigeria did not want to be caught "off guard".

Nigeria and Cameroon have clashed several times over the peninsula, which is thought to contain significant reserves of oil. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is currently considering the dispute over sovereignty. Nigeria, however, has disputed the court's jurisdiction, media reports have said.

Abidjan, 11 September 1998, 19:00 gmt


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Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 19:15:46 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 293, 98.9.11 Message-Id:

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,