IRIN-West Africa Update 294, 98.9.14

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 294 of Events in West Africa, (Satuday-Monday) 12-14 September 1998

SIERRA LEONE: Rebels kill 16 in weekend raids

Rebels in northern Sierra Leone killed at least 16 civilians in attacks on three villages at the weekend, media reports said. Reuters quoted witnesses and church sources as saying Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and forces from the former Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) had also abducted scores of people in a joint raid.

Civilians were now fleeing Yebaya, Kakula and Kathatinah, near the northwestern town of Kambia, for other towns or the relative safety of the bush, Reuters said.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN they were concerned at the apparent spread of Sierra Leone's conflict. One source said Kambia had previously been regarded as one of the safer parts of Sierra Leone. Prior to May 1997, it had been spared the worst of the eastern bush war, and following the military coup, which toppled President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, it was the first of Sierra Leone's provinces to have its security status reduced to allow UN international staff to return.

However, the RUF had reportedly also attacked two other villages in Kambia last month, in what aid workers described as an apparent bid to destablise the calmer parts of Sierra Leone.

ECOMOG confident

Meanwhile, AFP quoted the overall commander of the Nigerian-led West African intervention force in Sierra Leone, ECOMOG, as describing progress on crushing the RUF and AFRC alliance as "satisfactory". Major General Timothy Shelpidi reportedly told Kabbah last week that ECOMOG troops were poised to crush rebel "pockets of resistance" in the north and east of the country.

However, Sierra Leone analysts told IRIN they could see no early end to the bush war. One analyst said the RUF in particular was well armed, entrenched in familiar territory, and almost certainly getting support from across the border in Liberia.

He said: "The RUF has repeatedly threatened to launch an 'Operation Spare No Soul' to put pressure on the central government to release its leader, Foday Sankoh. They seem determined to do so whatever the cost to civilians."

Sankoh is currently on trial for treason after being extradited to Sierra Leone from Nigeria, where he was arrested last year on alleged possession of firearms, media reports have said.

GUINEA BISSAU: Hard bargaining under way

Armed forces chiefs and military experts from West African and Portuguese-speaking nations meeting in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, engaged in some "hard talking" today (Monday) aimed at presenting a peace plan for Guinea Bissau. Diplomatic sources in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, told IRIN that they had been working on the details of a plan since Sunday so that foreign ministers from both blocs could build on the ceasefire which ended a rebellion by army mutineers.

The sources also said they expected representatives of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and the rebellion leader, General Ansumane Mane, to attend a day of talks in Abidjan tomorrow (Tuesday) with foreign ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP).

PANA news agency quoted an ECOWAS statement at the weekend as saying the talks, to be chaired by Cote d'Ivoire Foreign Minister Amara Essy, would review "observance of the ceasefire, continuation of negotations, establishment of an observer team, composition of interposition forces and other measures aimed at bringing peace to that country".

ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansane Kouyate was quoted by Reuters as telling the army chiefs they had to find a way of consolidating "the present period of calm in Guinea Bissau and make it last".

Mane took up arms on 7 June after he was sacked by Vieira as armed forces chief of staff on charges of aiding separatists in the southern Senegalese province of Casamance. The truce, signed by both sides in July, has largely held.

In a related development, AFP said Senegalese President Abdou Diouf had held talks in Dakar with Guinean President Lansana Conte at the weekend. It quoted Conte as saying the two countries, which both sent troops to back government forces when the rebellion started, wanted to "harmonise" their position ahead of tomorrow's talks.

The Portuguese daily, 'Diario de Noticias', today quoted Vieira as saying "there won't be persecutions of any kind against those who took up arms". He stressed that the main objective is "national reconciliation". Meanwhile, it said eight opposition parties had drawn up a joint document to be submitted in Abidjan which analyses the situation and puts forward proposals.

NIGERIA: Islamists killed in weekend clash

At least two people were killed on Saturday when police in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna clashed with Shi'ite Muslim demonstrators demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim al-Zak Zaky, news organisations said. Reports by AFP and the BBC, however, did not give details of the incident or say how the two had died. AFP quoted Police Commissioner Yakubu Shuabu as saying police had only fired teargas - not live bullets - when they broke up the demonstration. Zak Zaky was detained in 1996 on charges of publishing material allegedly calling the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Government denies troop deployments in disputed area

Nigeria's defence ministry has denied weekend news reports that it deployed fresh troops in the disputed oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula bordering Cameroon, AFP reported. "We will not do anything to escalate tension in Bakassi and will continue to seek peaceful means to resolve the Bakassi issue," defence spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Tella was quoted as saying. The dispute over Bakassi is currently before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Both countries claim the rights to the territory, and they have agreed to abide by an eventual court ruling on the issue.

World Bank official visits Nigeria

The World Bank's vice president for Africa, Jean-Louis Sarbib, today started four days of talks with the government on its pledge to introduce economic reforms before handing power over to an elected civilian government in May next year. Media reports said Sarbib, the most senior World Bank official to visit the country since the annullment of elections in 1993 plunged the country into political crisis, would meet the country's new military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. "There are a lot of changes going on and we will discuss those changes and how the World Bank can help," the World Bank's resident representative, Trevor Byer, told Reuters. "I think they've really started out with quite sound intentions," he added in reference to democratic reforms undertaken by Abubakar.

LIBERIA: Limited overseas telephone communications

The Liberian telecommunications authorities have said damage to the microwave back-up of a key antenna had made it difficult to telephone the country from abroad, according to a weekend report by independent Star Radio. It quoted the deputy managing director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation, Kolubahzizi Howard, as saying only one antenna was currently in operation and that while repairs were under way, there had been congestion on international lines.

WEST AFRICA: Sahel region reports good rains

An FAO early warning report has reported widespread rains during July in the important farming areas of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. The report sent to IRIN also said despite reduced rains in July in Senegal and Gambia, precipitation had been regular, thus improving crop conditions.

In Mauritania, decreased rains in late August have been compensated by improved and widespread rains in early September. In Cape Verde, good rains were registered on the main islands in mid or late August. In Guinea Bissau, it cited satellite readings indicating abundant and widespread rains covering the entire country in August and early September. "The impact, however, of civil strife on farming activities remains unclear," the report said.

"Reflecting generally good rainfall since late July, crops are developing satisfactorily in most producing areas of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Crop prospects improved in Senegal and The Gambia but rains need to last until October to cover the crop growing cycle, following the late start of the rainy season and subsequent reduced rains," the report said.

The FAO report said that although the rains had improved the breeding prospects of locusts, no major locust problem was expected. [Please note this report is available on the Internet World Wide Web at the following address: then click on English and Sahel Reports]

Abidjan, 14 September 1998 18:30 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, 14 Sep 1998 18:32:37 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 294, 98.9.14 Message-Id:

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,