IRIN-West Africa Update 302, 98.9.24

IRIN-West Africa Update 302, 98.9.24

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 302 of Events in West Africa, (Thursday) 24 September 1998

LIBERIA: Embassy standoff

A standoff between Liberia and the US government over an arch-rival of President Charles Taylor holed up in the US embassy entered is fifth day today without a solution.

The Liberian government reiterated that it would not tolerate demonstrations outside the embassy or use force to secure the handover of Roosevelt Johnson. In Washington, a State Department spokesman quoted by news reports said Johnson's refuge in the embassy was not "the preference of the US government".

He said Johnson had been granted "temporary refuge" in the embassy in accordance with international law because of an "immediate and clear threat to his life". Johnson took refuge at the embassy on Saturday after government forces entered his heavily-armed ethnic Krahn stronghold in central Monrovia. After armed clashes, which claimed at least 47 lives, according to news agencies, government forces gained control of the area.

NIGERIA: Return to Commonwealth depends on democracy

Nigeria's military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, visiting Europe and the United States, has been told that Nigeria would be re-admitted to the Commonwealth once the country had returned to democracy.

News agencies quoted Commonwealth Secretary General Emeka Anyaoku as saying Nigeria would be re-admitted once an elected government was in place. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1995 after the execution of the writer, Ken Saro Wiwa, and eight other activists under the hardline regime of Abubakar's late predecessor, General Sani Abacha.

After meeting the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and Anyaoku in London, Abubakar also met President Bill Clinton during a stop-over in Washington on his way to the 53rd session of the UN General Assembly. "They had a friendly and open discussion across a range of issues, including the progress that has been made on the transition to democratic civilian rule," a White House statement said after yesterday's (Wednesday) meeting. AFP quoted a senior US official as saying Washington wanted more information on current conditions before lifting sanctions, which were also imposed in 1995.

At least 23 killed in southern Nigerian land clash

Clashes between ethnic rivals in southern Nigeria over land believed to contain oil have killed at least 23 people, news agencies reported today (Thursday). They cited news reports saying the clashes between Ijaws and Ilajes were concentrated in the Apata district on the fringe of Nigeria's oil-rich region where more than two million barrels of crude per day are produced. Analysts recalled that ownership of oil-rich lands ensured the wealth of local inhabitants through royalties and other pay-outs by the big oil companies.

Belgium minister will not resign over death of Nigerian

Belgium's interior minister yesterday accepted responsibility for the death of a Nigerian woman in police custody but he would not resign over the incident, Reuters reported yesterday. The woman, Semira Adamu, 20, died on Tuesday after police sought to muffle her screams with a cushion as she was dragged aboard a Nigerian-bound flight in handcuffs and leg irons. The incident sparked anti-government protests and demonstrators forced their way into the Senate building, calling the interior minister, Louis Tobback, an assassin.

Adamu arrived in Belgium in March and applied for asylum on the ground that she was being forced to marry a 68-year-old man. Her application was turned down.

Nigeria may revoke oil contract

The Nigerian government has said it will consider revoking a US$ 200-million contract awarded to the French oil company, Total, news reports said today. The managing director of the northern Kaduna refinery, Morrison Tamuno, recommended the action, citing dissatisfaction about the quality of repairs being carried out by Total.

The refinery has been shut down since last year, and work should have been completed,the reports said. It is one of four plants in Nigeria, three of which are not currently working. The contract was awarded under the Abacha regime without consulting refinery officials, Tamuno said. In a statement carried by AFP, Total said it had been contracted in April by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to assist repairing the refinery and insisted it would be able to complete the job on time and within budget.

Nigeria signs toxic waste agreement

Nigeria has signed an international agreement banning the shipment and importation of toxic waste. A national radio broadcast quoting the minister of health, Debo Adeyemi, said the agreement had been signed in The Netherlands. He said the issue would be raised by Nigeria at the current UN General Assembly session so that it could be included in the UN Charter.

GUINEA: Lawyers seek release of mutineers

Lawyers defending army mutineers before Guinea's state security court have asked it to free all 88 defendants, AFP reported yesterday. In a dispatch from the Guinean capital, Conakry, it said that 35 defence lawyers appeared in court this week to declare that the state had failed to present evidence against the defendants, all of whom had pleaded not guilty in connection with a 1996 mutiny.

Earlier this month, the prosecutor, Lieutenant-Colonel Sama Panival Bangoura, sought death sentences for five of the accused, who were charged with murder during the course of the uprising in February 1996, when some 3,000 soldiers demanding improved pay and living conditions mutinied. Official reports at the time cited over 50 deaths and 300 injured in an incident which shook President Lansana Conte's government.

New election body

The government of Guinea has announced the formation of a Higher Council on Electoral Affairs to oversee the presidential election scheduled to be held by December, media reports said today. A government statement said it would replace the Independent Electoral Commission with the aim of organising a "transparent" election.

BENIN: International help sought after floods

At least five people have died in recent days in the north and northwest of Benin following floods brought on by torrential rains, AFP reported today. In a report quoting government officials, it said more than 2,500 people had been left homeless and that 20,000 tonnes grain had been destroyed.

It said at least three of the victims had succumbed to cholera and two of them, both children, had drowned. Rural Development Minister Saka Saley, in a meeting with ambassadors from donor nations and UN agencies, appealed for assistance. The areas worst hit included Banikoara and Kandi some 500 km northwest of the capital, Cotonou.

CAMEROON: Presidency warns against corruption

The office of President Paul Biya of Cameroon has warned that it will keep vigilant against corrupt officials who have "tarnished the good image" of the country's administration. In a dispatch yesterday, AFP quoted the presidential cabinet director, Edgar Alain Mebe, as saying: "Some high officials of this country are often duped by people claiming they are acting on behalf of the highest state authorities." He said officials had to check the credentials of people claiming they have the authority of the presidency.

Mebe's statement follows the publication this week of the annual report of the corruption watchdog, Transparency International, which listed Cameroon as the most corrupt country in the world this year ahead of Paraguay and Honduras. Transparency International, which recently participated in a UNDP-OECD conference on corruption around the world, said Cameroon had replaced Nigeria, the nation topping the list last year as the "corruption world champion".

SIERRA LEONE: Camp deaths rise

A Sierra Leone ministry of health assessment team said yesterday that it was concerned at civilian deaths at Masingbi refugee camp in northern Sierra Leone. Humanitarian sources in the capital, Freetown, told IRIN today that although the mortality rate among some 30,000 people in the camp had dropped steadily in June, July and August, it had now started to rise again.

Aid agencies said they had encountered "significant difficulties" in delivering adequate supplies to the camp.

MALI: National democracy forum

President Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali has announced the establishment of a national democracy forum "to find the ways and means of consolidating Malian democracy", AFP reported. In remarks on the country's 38th independence anniversary on Tuesday, Konare said the forum would look into the financing of political parties and opposition concerns about the country's electoral procedures.

The overall aim, he added, was to seek national reconciliation, and fight poverty, corruption and insecurity. AFP said the move was interested as a fresh overture of opposition parties which boycotted the last elections.

Abidjan, 24 September, 1998 18:30


[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: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 18:56:55 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 302, 98.9.24 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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