IRIN-West Africa Update 329 for 1998.11.2

IRIN-West Africa Update 329 for 1998.11.2


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

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IRIN-WA Update 329 of Events in West Africa (Monday 2 November 1998)

GUINEA BISSAU: Warring parties agree to end conflict

The warring parties in Guinea Bissau reached an agreement yesterday (Sunday) to end a five-month conflict after three days of intense talks in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, news organisations reported.

The accord signed by Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the simultaneous deployment of a West African peacekeeping force along the Senegal border and in Guinea Bissau, the opening of a humanitarian corridor, and the re-opening of the airport and port still under rebel control. The accord also called for the formation of a government of national unity and the holding of legislative and presidential elections before March 1999.

The spokesman of the West African mediation committee, Gambian Foreign Minister Sedat Jobe, announced the breakthrough on Sunday after negotiations at the presidential palace of the Nigerian military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Previous talks during the two-day summit of West African leaders on 30-31 October in Abuja had failed to produce an accord.

The foreign minister of Guinea Bissau, Joao Cardoso, quoted by AFP, said: "It is an historic act... The two rivals realised that this was a war between brothers and sisters. It is an absurd war." Cardoso said ECOWAS, the West African regional body, had been asked to deploy its peacekeeping force before 30 November.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), joint mediators in previous talks, are expected to send a special envoy to Guinea Bissau, the BBC said.

Humanitarian sources said that reaction to the peace accord in the capital, Bissau, was "restrained".

The conflict began on 7 June, when Vieira sacked his former armed forces chief of staff, Ansumane Mane, for allegedly supplying weapons to separatists in Senegal's Casamance province.

Humanitarian situation remains a concern

Meanwhile, the Portuguese ambassador to Guinea Bissau, Francisco Henriques da Silva, quoted by the BBC, said Guinea Bissau was facing a serious food shortage. "The situation in humanitarian terms is very, very serious in Guinea Bissau... When the stocks run out, the situation will be much more serious than it is now - even if there is peace by then." He said warehouses in Guinea Bissau were almost empty, while ships could not dock in the port.

A UN humanitarian report said the food supply situation in Guinea Bissau was not dramatic as the ongoing harvest had provided an additional input to the food basket. However, the report said the needs of 70,000 to 80,000 internally displaced people had become increasingly urgent because they were crammed in Prabis and Cumura, just outside Bissau, and lacked food, water and sanitation.

In a related development, the UN reported that the 1998 harvest in Guinea Bissau was expected to be good because of the heavy rains and additional manpower supplied by the displaced populations.

Refugee boat docks in Dakar

The Senegalese authorities allowed a fishing boat carrying about 160 refugees fleeing the fighting in Guinea Bissau to dock in the port of Dakar yesterday. UNHCR in Dakar told IRIN today that the authorities provided disembarking passengers with food, water and medical treatment. The source added that most passengers had been integrated into host families, while those who wanted to could approach UNHCR for assistance.

The authorities were earlier reported to have refused the boat permission to dock, the BBC said.

Refugees in neighbouring countries

A UN humanitarian report dated 29 October said border camps in the Senegalese towns of Salikenie and Mpack had registered a higher number of refugees since the resumption of fighting in mid-October. All Guinea Bissau refugees in Senegal are registered at the main camp of Thies, 50 km east of Dakar. As of 22 October, the centre in Thies had registered 761 persons.

Meanwhile, 428 Guinea Bissau refugees have been residing in the island state of Cape Verde, while there are 445 refugees in The Gambia. Most have been received by host families, while others have headed towards Dakar. UNHCR reported a further 2,000 Guinea Bissau refugees in Guinea.

SENEGAL: EU grant for Casamance

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) announced that it would provide a US $500,000 grant for the war-affected population in Casamance, AFP reported, quoting an EU press release. It said the funds would be used to rehabilitate rural areas, adding that at least 200 villages have been affected by fighting over the past year between government forces and rebels. The EU would also be launching a mine awareness campaign.

The separatist Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) has been waging a 16-year campaign against Senegal in its bid for a sovereign state.

WEST AFRICA: Leaders sign conflict resolution treaty, launch cheque

Leaders attending the two-day ECOWAS summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on Friday and Saturday signed a conflict resolution treaty, launched the ECOWAS travellers' cheque and adopted a three-year moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms, news agencies reported.

The conflict resolution treaty would put in place a regional mechanism to look into conflict prevention, management and resolution, as well as peacekeeping and security.

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS travellers' cheque went into circulation with immediate effect paving the way for greater economic integration in the region, PANA reported. However, the outgoing ECOWAS chairman, Nigeria's General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in his opening address to the summit, said that despite the ratification of the protocol on free movement of people and goods in the subregion, cross-border movement remained a problem with too "many check-points, harassment and extortions" by border officials, the agency said.

The leaders also adopted a three-year moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms in the subregion as part of an effort to promote peace and stability in the region. According to PANA, the moratorium seemed to indicate that West African leaders felt the indiscriminate circulation of small arms and similar weapons of destruction contributed to fueling armed conflicts in the subregion.

Meanwhile, leaders at the summit called on the international community to support Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Mali and Niger in their efforts to provide additional troops to the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, in Sierra Leone.

The summit also elected the Togolese head of state, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, as the new chairman.

South African President Nelson Mandela made a special appearance at the summit to bid farewell to fellow heads of state as he prepares to step down from power next year.

Nigeria: US$ 1 billion recovered, paper says

Nigeria has recovered US$ 1 billion dollars the late military ruler, General Sani Abacha, and his closest aides deposited in Western banks, AFP reported quoting the 'Vanguard' newspaper.

According to the paper, US$ 750 million were recovered from Abacha's foreign account and US$ 250 million from his closest aide, former National Security Adviser Ismaila Gwarzo. Gwarzo was arrested a few months ago but later released.

Abacha's fortune was estimated at between US$ 3 billion to US$ 6 billion, an AP dispatch said. The Abacha family ran businesses ranging form aluminum smelting, banking, construction to petroleum.

General Abdulsalami Abdulbakar, the current military ruler who recently announced the recovery of an unspecified amount of the money, said it was made possible with the cooperation of some countries and the international financial bodies.

Militant Ijaws agree to quit oil installations

Armed Ijaw youths holding 20 flow stations run by two giant oil firms in the troubled Niger Delta have agreed to end their occupation and begin talks with the government, AFP reported today.

The militants, represented by the Federated Niger Delta Izon Communities (FNDIC), said yesterday they would immediately leave the sites run by Royal/Dutch Shell and the American company, Chevron. FNDIC also said they would re-open waterways in the delta seized on 8 October.

The youths seized 15 Shell and five Chevron installations some three weeks ago, protesting the lack of development in their areas. Their action held back 650,000 barrels per day in crude oil exports.

LIBERIA: Government wants control of ECOMOG

Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan has said the West African intervention force in Liberia, ECOMOG, must come under its sovereign control, Reuters reported yesterday.

In an interview at the ECOWAS summit in Abuja, Captan said Liberia wanted the downsized 800-strong ECOMOG contingent to stay in Liberia but under the government's terms.

Control over the force had been a "hot issue" since 1997, when President Charles Taylor won the presidential elections, Reuters said. The force, mostly Nigerian, was once numbered 12,000. ECOMOG recently redeployed the force to Freetown.

The controversy between the two sides largely stems from differences over ECOMOG's role in restructuring and training a new national army for Liberia, as set out in the Abuja peace accord. Reuters, quoting regional analysts, said poor relations between ECOMOG and Monrovia were partly the reason for redeploying the force to Freetown.

"Our request is for capacity building and security assistance, and the keyword is assistance. We don't want ECOMOG to tell us how to restructure our army, They should ask us how we want it done," it quoted Captan as saying.

ECOMOG commanders have warned that if Liberia's new army is seen to be dominated by Taylor's former fighters, this could result in further fighting. According to the agency, they cite the outbreak of violence in September between government forces and former faction fighters loyal to Taylor's main rival, Roosevelt Johnson.

US says stability needed before posting ambassador

US State Department official Vicky Huddleston said in Monrovia that her country wanted stability and security in Liberia before Washington would post an ambassador the country, AFP reported, quoting Star Radio.

Huddlestone, who is the US deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, was in Liberia to assess its stability and security at the embassy, AFP said. The embassy was closed following a shooting within the compound on 19 September, when government soldiers pursued former faction leader Roosevelt Johnson, who took refuge in the US embassy.

Huddlestone reiterated a US demand that Liberia apologise and investigate the incident thoroughly.

"The involvement of the United Nations will make such investigation credible," AFP quoted her as saying.

Agency says US $500,000 needed to resettle IDPs

The Liberian Resettlement Agency has said it will need at least US$ 500,000 to resettle internally displaced people (IDP) and that the government needs to make this a priority, independent Star Radio reported on Friday.

The agency's head, Alexander Kulu, said he would still need additional money to cover the cost of rations and transport.

Last week, Taylor said he would order the agency to dismantle IDP centres in Monrovia and return its 75,000 inmates to their counties to grow food.

BURKINA FASO: Government plan to fight child labour

Burkina Faso has prepared a national plan to outlaw child labour especially in the rural areas, AFP reported on Friday.

The agency quoted the coordinator of the international programme for the abolition of child labour in francophone Africa, IPEC, as saying the first priority was to stamp out "the most intolerable working conditions".

The official, Jean-Maurice Derrien, said many children worked directly with agricultural pesticides or in mines cleaning gold. Other priorities are to end the practice of young girls working as domestics and boys forced to work in risky jobs in the metal and construction industries.

An IPEC survey of 2,000 child workers showed, it said, that some received little or no salary and received no medical care. Others suffered mental and physical abuse. The survey also found that 89 percent of the children worked more than six hours a day, and 94 percent of all child workers had no social protection.

Abidjan, 2 November 1998, 19:15 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, 2 Nov 1998 19:21:21 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 329 for 1998.11.2 Message-Id: <>

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