IRIN-WA Update 333 for 1998.11.6

IRIN-WA Update 333 for 1998.11.6


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa tel: +225 21 73 54 fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: irin-wa

IRIN-WA Update 333 of Events in West Africa (Friday 6 November 1998)

SIERRA LEONE: Newly formed contact group supports reconciliation

A British Foreign Affairs official in London told IRIN today that the newly formed Sierra Leone Contact Group had convened yesterday (Thursday) to discuss strengthening the reconciliation process in the West African state.

The source said the meeting had endorsed a twin approach using military action and diplomatic channels, as advocated by the West African regional body, ECOWAS, to bring the rebels to the negotiating table with the government. However, he stressed that any negotiations with the rebel fighters had to be based on pre-conditions that they would cease fighting, recognise the authority of the elected government and enter into dialogue with it. The meeting rejected any conditions set by the rebels before entering into peace talks.

At the meeting, the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Japan pledged financial support to ECOMOG. The source said the support would boost ECOMOG's efforts to bring about peace in Sierra Leone.

ECOMOG has been fighting remnant rebel fighters in northeastern Sierra Leone since it restored the country's constitutional government to power in February 1998.

The Sierra Leone Contact Group is chaired by the British government. The Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Francis Okelo, attended the meeting, as well as representatives of China, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, the United States, European Union (EU) and ECOWAS, the UN reported.

Former president jailed for 10 years

The High Court in Sierra Leone sentenced to death 15 people, including one woman, for their involvement with the military junta, and the former president of Sierra Leone, Joseph Momoh, to ten years in prison, news organisations reported yesterday. Five people were acquitted. Momoh was found guilty of conspiracy with the junta that overthrew the elected government in May last year. He was cleared of treason charges and escaped a death sentence.

Judge Sydney Warne, who passed the death sentences, told the defendants that they had 21 days within which to appeal against the sentence. According to Reuters, the condemned included Matilda King, a former deputy health minister, Manley Spain, justice minister and attorney-general, as well as health minister Bailor Leigh and deputy energy minister Hassan Bairie.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Solomon Berewa announced last week that another 50 civilians would soon be tried on similar charges.

At the London conference on Sierra Leone, the British Foreign office minister, Tony Lloyd, reiterated his government's opposition to the death penalty, the BBC reported.

Probe of business deals with junta announced

In a related development, state radio in Sierra Leone announced yesterday that a parliamentary sub-committee would be set up to investigate contracts signed between private businesses and the junta in power between May 1997 and February 1998, AFP reported. The report said several businessmen were expected to appear before the sub-committee to explain the nature of their business relationship with the junta.

Curfew in territorial waters

The Sierra Leonean government yesterday announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew barring foreign and local ships from entering or leaving the port of Freetown, according to news organisations. A military statement on state radio, quoted by Reuters, said: "This action by the defence headquarters has been taken for security reasons and any captain who decides to violate the order will be doing so at his own risk." The authorities did not give any explanation for the measure.

A humanitarian source told IRIN today that aid organisations had complained to the Sierra Leonean authorities a few weeks ago about the growing number of thefts and heightened insecurity in the Freetown port.

Meanwhile, local journalists said vehicles travelling at night from the interior to the capital, Freetown, were being blocked at military checkpoints and held till dawn, Reuters reported.

Child soldier recruitment on rise, UN says

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children, Olara Otunnu, said yesterday the recruitment and use of children in combat was on the rise. Speaking at a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, Otunnu said there was clear evidence that in Sierra Leone, the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) relied heavily on children. He added that despite the commitment by the "Civil Defence Force not to recruit and initiate children into their ranks, there was credible evidence that they continued to do so".

He called on NGOs to mobilise a major international campaign to stop the massive recruitment and use of children in warfare.

Hinga Norman, the head of the Sierra Leonean Civil Defence Force (CDF), had earlier assured the UN that children would not be recruited by the CDF to strengthen its forces.

It is estimated that there are some 3,000 child soldiers in Sierra Leone, mainly fighting with the RUF. Children are also used as human shields, cooks or porters.

GABON: President warns against violence

Campaigning for the Gabonese presidential elections started yesterday amid warnings by the incumbent to opposition parties not to stir up violence, news organisations reported. Reuters quoted President Omar Bongo in an address to nation as saying: "I must preserve the interests of the state until the end of my mandate and I will not let anyone put in question the unity and peace which the Gabonese have been building successfully over long years." He was referring to "certain political parties", according to AFP, who have reportedly said they would resort to violence if they were defeated in the forthcoming elections.

There are eight candidates: the incumbent Omar Bongo, leader of the Parti democratique gabonais (PDG); Paul Mba Abessole, leader of the Rassemblement national des bucherons (RNB); Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou, leader of the Parti social democratique (PSD); Jospeh-Adrien Mabicke and Martin Edzodzomo Ela, two independent candidates; Alain Egouand Nze, leader of a splinter of the RNB; Pierre-Andre Kombila, another breakaway party of the RNB; and Pierre Mamboundou, leader of the Union pour le socialisme au Gabon (USG), representing a coalition of five opposition groups.

The presidential election is slated for 6 December.

SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Legislative elections on Sunday

Voters in the two-island state of Sao Tome e Principe will be going to the polls on Sunday to choose a new parliament. Some 49,700 people are eligible to vote in the poll to elect 55 deputies to the national assembly. According to AFP, it is hoped that the election will put an end to "a crippling period of instability marked by antagonism between the left-leaning coalition government and President Miguel Trovoada".

Nine parties are running in Sunday's elections. Media reports said the favourite to win is the ruling Movimento de Libertacao de Sao Tome e Principe-Partido Social Democrata (MLSTP-PSD) led by the former president, Manuel Pinto da Costa. Its coalition partner, the Partido da Convergencia Democratica (PCD) is also expected to benefit from its image as a party of change. The ADI, which backs the president, is another main contender. The MLSTP-PSD has 27 seats in the current national assembly, and the PCD and ADI 14 each. [For detailed information, see separate IRIN-WA item issued today]

NIGERIA: "Progress" in talks on flow stations

The Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell, said talks today with the Ijaw militants to end the shut-in of part of its oil flow stations in southeastern Nigeria were progressing well, Reuters reported. "I think we're making progress in our talks with Ijaw leaders. But they have not vacated the flow stations," a company spokesman told Reuters in Lagos.

The seizure of oil flow stations by Ijaw militant youths, now in its fourth week, is part of an upsurge in violence in the region, where minorities are demanding a more equitable redistribution of resources.

Abidjan, 6 November 1998, 17:30 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, 9 Nov 1998 12:56:37 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-WA Update 333 for 1998.11.6 Message-Id: <>

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