IRIN-West Africa Update 330 for 1998.11.3

IRIN-West Africa Update 330 for 1998.11.3


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

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IRIN-WA Update 330 of Events in West Africa (Tuesday 3 November 1998)

GUINEA BISSAU: Peace accord hailed

Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane flew together in a French helicopter to the Gambian capital, Banjul, after signing the Abuja peace accord to end the civil war in Guinea Bissau, news organisations reported yesterday.

Vieira, quoted by Reuters on the peace accord, said: "The Abuja peace agreement is a victory for my people and I hope a definitive end to the conflict has now been achieved and will be honoured." He said it was too early for him to say whether he would be a candidate in the presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese news agency, Lusa, quoted the spokesman of the rebel group, Zamora Induta, as saying that the agreement had met his movement's main demands, including the formation of a government of national unity. Under the accord, the rebels will appoint the future government's ministers of defence, home affairs and veterans, the agency added.

The Guinea Bissau capital was calm yesterday with no signs of rejoicing, AFP reported. A diplomat in Bissau, quoted by the report, said people were "waiting before they believe in the accord... and those who fled would not come home until they are sure that peace is in sight".

International reaction

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, welcomed the announcement of the agreement and congratulated the West African regional body, ECOWAS, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), as well as the Nigerian and Gambian presidents "for their efforts in helping to achieve the successful conclusion to the negotiations".

Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama also applauded the accord on Monday and said: "We are very happy... We will do everything possible to help consolidate the peace".

Meanwhile, the chairman of Senegal's parliamentary defence committee, MBaye Jacques Diop, said the Abuja agreement would safeguard Senegal's interests. A leading Senegalese opposition figure, Madior Diouf, also welcomed the accord, but said both its military and political components had to be implemented. "It would be dangerous to demand the withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean soldiers before a democratic solution is put into operation," he added.

Under the agreement, a ceasefire would be maintained, Senegalese and Guinean (Conakry) troops withdrawn and replaced by a West African peacekeeping force, and elections held by March 1999.

The Nigerian military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, called on the international community to provide logistical support for the West African ECOMOG force which will be deployed to Guinea Bissau, AFP said, quoting a statement issued by his office yesterday.

Humanitarian aid

A UN humanitarian source in Dakar said the signing of the peace accord, which also provides for the re-opening of the port and airport, should facilitate and speed up the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Guinea Bissau. Meanwhile, WFP had not yet resumed its food distribution in the country and other humanitarian activities were limited in scope. WFP suspended its programmes on 18 October.

Meanwhile, the ICRC office in Dakar told IRIN today that it was currently conducting assessment missions around the country to re-evaluate needs in view of the large number of people displaced by the recent fighting. It added that an ICRC team had been turned back from the Senegalese border with Guinea Bissau at the weekend, but negotiations with the Senegalese authorities were still ongoing to allow the team into Guinea Bissau. Two teams had been kept in-country during the mid-October clashes, it said.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC) in Abidjan told IRIN today that its main focus during the conflict in Guinea Bissau was the implementation of emergency programmes in the management of water resources and community health services. The IFRC was in the process of building and rehabilitating 1,200 latrines in Guinea Bissau, while it launched a public campaign on hygiene and proper use of water. It added that its activities were conducted under the ICRC's umbrella.

NIGERIA: Oil closures enter fourth week

The seizure of several Nigerian oil facilities by protesting Ijaw youths entered the fourth week today with calls by their leaders to end the occupation going largely unheeded, news organisations reported.

A Shell official quoted by Reuters said: "The youths are still holding most of the facilities although some have been vacated." Meanwhile, AFP reported that the young protesters had only left two flow stations out of the 20 belonging to the Anglo-Dutch oil consortium, Shell. Shell's output is still being affected and the company has been unable to meet its crude export commitments.

On Sunday, the Ijaw umbrella body, the Federated Niger Delta Izon Communities (FNDIC), said it was ready to quit the occupied flow stations immediately after repeated calls by their leaders to respect the peace deal signed between the Ijaws and their rivals, the Itsekiris.

The Ijaws are demanding a separate local government in the oil city of Warri which would give them a voice in government and the allocation of resources.

SIERRA LEONE: Sankoh's defence costs too high

Sierra Leone said it cannot afford the fees of a British law firm to defend rebel leader Foday Sankoh in his appeal against his death sentence for treason, AFP reported today.

"The resources of government at the present time cannot accommodate these demands," it quoted Attorney General Solomon Berewa as saying.

Akainyah and Company offered to defend Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), because the Sierra Leone Bar Association has refused to do so. Sankoh defended himself at his trial. Its fees are 2,750 pounds (US $4,600 dollars) a day, AFP said.

In a related development, a high court jury trying former President Joseph Momoh and 20 other senior officials for treason failed to reach a verdict on Monday, Reuters reported. An unidentified senior court official told Reuters said the 12-member jury was "continuing to meet".

Momoh and the other accused pleaded not guilty at their trial three months ago. They are accused of collaborating with the ousted military government, whose remnants are still fighting the government of President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

NIGER: Government clamps down on media

The authorities in Niger last week temporarily banned all relays of international broadcasters on private Niger stations, news reports said.

Daouda Diallo, the president of Niger's media authority, Le Conseil superieur de la communication (CSC), said the ban would remain effective until international broadcasters signed contracts with the government, AFP reported. He was quoted as saying that this "regularisation" would make it possible to establish who would be held legally responsible in the event of legal action.

Another possibility mooted was for the private stations to preview the content of the bulletins before re-broadcasting them. The measure, Diallo said, would mean that directors of radio stations would then be held legally responsible.

The two Niger private FM broadcasters singled out for restriction, Anfani and R et M, broadast news from Voice of America, Radio Deutsche Welle and the BBC, AFP said.

The owners of the radio stations have accused the CSC of "muzzling" the media.

New press cards introduced

The CSC also renewed its warning to newspaper editors and journalists last week that they must obtain new press cards by the end of October or face closure, news organisations reported. Newspapers whose editors do not hold the new press cards would face suspension, Diallo announced last week.

To qualify for a press card, journalists must have five years' experience or hold a degree in journalism. Most local journalist do not meet these requirements, the weekly, 'Camel Express', said.

Publishers found guilty of defamation

The publishers of two Nigerien newspapers were found guilty of defamation by a court in the capital, Niamey, last week, AFP reported. The pro-opposition weekly newspapers, 'La Tribune du Peuple' and 'Le Citoyen', published allegations of "trafficking" involving Niger's consul in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the report said, quoting state television. The foreign ministry had denied the allegations.

The publishers received suspended six-month gaol terms, while the newspapers were fined CFA 100,000 (FF 1,000) and CFA three million (FF 30,000) in damages, according to Niger television.

Media watchdog appeals to president

The international press watchdog, Reporters sans frontieres (RSF), meanwhile, wrote to Niger President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara last week calling on him not to implement the CSC measures. RSF said the implementation would result in the closure of a number of independent publications and hamper the freedom of expression and information.

RSF also asked the president to review the penalties in the defamation case. It said the amount damages would lead to the closure of the newspapers. It also pointed out that the papers had published the foreign ministry's rebuttal.

Union orders teachers back to work

Niger's main teachers' union, Le Syndicat national des enseignants du Niger (SNEN) has ordered its members to end a two-week old strike over the payment of wage arrears, AFP reported yesterday.

In a statement, the union said it had received "complete" satisfaction and primary and secondary teachers had to resume work by tomorrow (Wednesday).

The teachers were demanding the payment of back pay from May through to August. Union leaders however warned that an uninterrupted school year depended on receiving "regular and proper" salaries. Despite government promises to pay salaries on a regular basis, September's salaries remain outstanding.

BENIN: US trains soldiers for crisis response

United States Army Special Forces began training some 600 Benin soldiers on Monday, as part of a US military programme called the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), AFP reported.

The programme, run by the US European Command, aimed to "prepare both African and US soldiers for possible operations in Africa", AFP said, quoting the US embassy in Cotonou.

The first phase of the three-year programme will cost US $2.5 million and run for seven weeks. Training will involve theory and field practice. This will consist mostly of peacekeeping simulations and other humanitarian activities.

According to the agency, critics of the US initiative question the use of Special Forces from Fort Bragg, who specialise in counter-insurgency and psychological operations, to train African troops as peacekeepers.

Abidjan, 3 November 1998, 19:30 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: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 09:35:44 +0000 (GMT) From: IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 330 for 1998.11.3 Message-Id: <>

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