IRIN-West Africa Update 334 for 1998.11.9

IRIN-West Africa Update 334 for 1998.11.9


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 334 of Events in West Africa (Saturday 6 to Monday 9 November 1998)

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG reports gains in east

West African ECOMOG troops have captured a string of towns in eastern Sierra Leone, killing some 500 rebels and sending thousands fleeing in two weeks of heavy fighting, Reuters reported on Saturday.

Quoting an unidentified ECOMOG officer, the agency said the heaviest fighting took place in Pendembu, "where more than 140 rebels died". The two-day battle involved warplanes, tanks and infantry, the officer said.

Sources at a church hospital in Segwema, near the Liberian border, and Daru military hospital were quoted as saying that together they had received more than 100 wounded rebels. Medical sources in the area put pro-government casualties at about 40 dead, Reuters said.

ECOMOG and its Kamajor allies have also taken rebel strongholds in Quiva, Negima and several other towns, the officer told Reuters. However, Sierra Leone's deputy defence minister, Hinga Norman, said that the rebel headquarters at Kailahun and the eastern town of Koindu were still in rebel hands.

ECOMOG launched an offensive in the east in August against remnants of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) allies, but it has come against stiff resistance.

Top junta supporters arrested in Guinea

Several members of Sierra Leone's ousted AFRC junta and their rebel RUF allies have been arrested in Guinea and will soon face a court martial in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean 'For Di People' reported on Friday.

The Freetown newspaper said those arrested included the former AFRC secretary of state, marine resources, Captain Paul Thomas. The officials, the paper said, "busted international sanctions" and shopped "extensively" for satellite and mobile communications and other "military gadgets".

Hundreds of students join lecturers in strike

Some 1,000 university students demonstrated on Friday in Freetown in support of a strike by their lecturers, Reuters reported.

They are demanding the cash-strapped government pay the 50 percent hike it promised in May. The students said if the government failed to honour its commitment there would be a nationwide demonstration. On average, Reuters said, lecturers are paid the equivalent of US $70 a month.

GUINEA BISSAU: People drift back to Bissau

Residents of Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, are slowly returning to their city badly damaged by five months of civil war, Reuters reported on Friday.

"There's a progressive return to normal," Reuters said quoting a French diplomat in the city. "It's not a return en masse." He said the city's main market had re-opened but banks and shops remained shut. He added that there had been "total calm" in the city since the agreement was signed.

At least 80,000 people fled the city seeking shelter in the nearby towns of Prabis and Cumura, and on Bijagos islands. An OCHA report says there was "significant movement" of returnees to Bissau from these locations, suggesting an increase in public confidence.

Humanitarian situation

An OCHA report on Thursday said the problem of access by road to Guinea Bissau had been a daily concern for humanitarian aid organisations over the past three weeks. Many humanitarian deliveries had been stopped at Wassadou, in Senegal, near the border with Guinea Bissau. The Missionary news agency, MISNA, also reported that Senegalese troops were blocking roads and obstructing aid deliveries.

Nevertheless, OCHA reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had received Senegalese government permission to move from Wassadou to Guinea Bissau.

MSF had also received authorisation to move 3.5 mt of essential medicines to Cacheu, some 80 km northwestern of Bissau. Approved passage is by air to Banjul, in The Gambia, and onward to Cacheu by small boat.

UNICEF reported poor sanitation in Safim but said it was working with NGOs to build latrines and improve wells. The UN agency also said it was delivering water to Bafata hospital, some 120 km east of the capital.

WFP started its food deliveries on 2 November to some 80,000 internally displaced people. It has given the ICRC food for 5,000 internally displaced in Bafata region and 7,600 in Cacheu region.

Joint commission to monitor Abuja accord

Guinea Bissau's warring parties have agreed to set up a joint commission to monitor the Abuja agreement signed on 1 November, the Portuguese news agency, Lusa, reported. It said establishment of the commission was approved on Wednesday by the Military Junta and the political bureau of the ruling Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). A diplomatic source quoted by Lusa said the planned joint commission was a "fundamental piece" in implementing the agreement.

Meanwhile, the bishop of Bissau, Settimmio Ferrazzetta, has said it was time to begin implementing the accord, MISNA reported. Expressing optimism in the agreement, he said: "The peace accord reached is the best possible."

WEST AFRICA: US envoy starts four-nation tour in Nigeria

US President Bill Clinton's special envoy for Africa, Jesse Jackson, began a four-nation tour of West Africa today, beginning with Nigeria, to try to promote stability and democracy in the region, a USIA press release said. Jackson is expected to visit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ghana later during this week.

The US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, said Jackson would visit Nigeria where he would "highlight the bold steps the government of Nigeria has taken on a transition to civilian rule, and emphasise the key role that Nigeria can play within the region and throughout Africa". Reuters quoted Jackson as saying that "the worst in Nigeria is behind us. That's why we see signs of daybreak and morning and the elections represent noontime". He also underlined the "importance of civil society to a successful democratic transition and in fostering national reconciliation".

The USIA release said the US envoy, while in Guinea, "hoped to facilitate a meeting" among the presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to discuss security and stability in the sub-region. Jackson said the meeting would focus on the "shared commitment to stop the fighting and to stop the flow of arms to the region". He added that the US government was "willing to facilitate talks between the factions" in Sierra Leone.

BURKINA FASO: No breakthrough in Ethiopia-Eritrea talks

An OAU-sponsored summit in Burkina Faso aimed at ending the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea ended yesterday (Sunday) without any final agreement as both sides stuck to their positions, news organisations reported.

The Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, repeated his position that Eritrea had illegally occupied part of Ethiopia and should withdraw its troops, while Eritrean President Isayas Aferwerki demanded that the area be put under neutral control until the location of the border was settled, a Reuters report quoting sources close to the talks said.

The two leaders did not hold face-to-face talks. The Burkina Faso president and current OAU chairman, Blaise Compaore, said Meles and Aferwerki promised to study draft proposals worked out by the mediators and was waiting to hear their views.

OAU mediators are expected to meet the leaders of the two countries again before the end of the year. The border war broke out in May.

SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Ruling party in lead

The ruling party in the twin islands of Sao Tome e Principe has apparently won an absolute majority in yesterday's legislative elections, news organisations reported.

AFP quoted the national election commission chief, Adelino da Costa, as saying that according to early results, the Movimento de Libertacao de Sao Tome e Principe-Partido Social Democrata (MLSTP-PSD), was "leading the vote with 30 deputies" out of a total of 55. Costa said the ballot counting was closed in five of the seven electoral districts on Sunday.

The polls were initially delayed by heavy rains and logistical problems.

MAURITANIA: Annan in talks on Western Sahara

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived yesterday in Nouakchott for a one-day visit to consult with Mauritanian authorities on how to bring about a peaceful solution to the Western Sahara issue, news organisations reported. Mauritania used to share control of Western Sahara with Morocco but pulled out after attacks by the Polisario Front. According to PANA, it hosts some 15,000 refugees from Western Sahara.

A referendum under which Western Sahara would choose to be either part of Morocco or an independent state, as advocated by the Polisario Front, has been postponed once again. Initially scheduled in 1992, the referendum has been postponed several times because of a dispute over how to count those who would be eligible to vote. The Polisario has insisted that only people who were originally from the former Spanish colony should participate in the referendum, while Morocco contends that all Saharan tribes should participate.

Abidjan, 9 November 1998, 19:00 gmt


Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 19:11:14 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> X-Sender: To: Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 334 for 1998.11.9 Message-Id: <>

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